Welcome To Fort Point.
Ask a surfer where the most amazing places to surf in the world are and you’ll get a lot of opinions. Surfers would most likely include places like Pipeline on Oahu or Uluwatu in Indonesia. But, there is a hidden gem in Northern California that is different from any other wave. It’s called Fort Point in San Francisco, found just under the historic Golden Gate Bridge.
Getting to the spot isn't too difficult. Coming from the Northside of the Golden Gate take your first right on Merchant Road, then go down and stay on Lincoln Road until you get to Long Avenue. From there, follow the road until you get to the water. Coming from the south, go to Crissy Field and then simply follow the road (Mason St.) toward the Golden Gate which leads you to Long Avenue.
The reason why this surf break is so amazing, especially to California locals, is because of two reasons: The location under one of the country’s most iconic spots and the way the wave breaks. For most surf spots in California, looking out towards the ocean traditionally includes views of glassy, endless water on the horizon which is one of the most peaceful aspects of the sport. At Fort Point, the view is a little different. The majestic Golden Gate towering above you while surfing makes for a much different and more memorable experience. Paddling on your board directly under a massive bridge will feel surreal every time. Since you aren't on a beach that faces the open ocean, the swell has to wrap, around 90 degrees, to the inside of the cove. When the wave is really pumping, the left wave can be glassy, fast, and pitchy on the inside. Despite it's novelty, the wave can be incredibly dangerous. When the ocean swell is pulling in and the tide is pushing out there can be strong rips and currents that can get up to seven knots! Another precarious aspect to navigate is caused by the rocks along the shore as the only way to get in and out of the water is by walking down steep and slippery boulders. The entrance into the lineup, the bottom of the seafloor, and the sharp edges that line this spot on the bay are definitely a factor that is important to consider. On a big day, getting eaten up by the rocks wouldn’t be a pretty sight or a pleasant experience.
Here’s some tips to help you have one of the best surf sessions of your life.
Be patient. Fort Point is a novelty wave. Most of the time, it looks like a calm, flat bay, perfect for kayaking and paddle boarding. But, when the largest of West swells rolls in and the swell period gets above ten seconds... the break turns on. When this happens, don’t tell anyone, Maybe your close friends but even then, limit the news. The lineup at fort point can only fit so many surfers, many of which are respected locals who've been enjoying this novelty of a spot for years.
Pack up the right gear. Fort Point usually only breaks in the fall or winter which means a warm and durable wetsuit is a must. I have found that the e6 e-bomb from Ripcurl keeps you the warmest, yet is not too restrictive. Next are booties, not only to keep your feet warm but to also help you stick to the slippery rocks when walking to the water. An optional item is a closed jug of warm water. When the water temperature is around 50 degrees, and the outside temperature is only in the 40’s, it is always nice to end your morning with a warm shower. The last item is a beach chair. Whether you want to study the break before you paddle out or watch the show after once your done, having a comfortable place to sit is an awesome addition to really enjoy the novelty of surfing such an incredible place.
Be respectful. Most surf spots in California are welcoming and easy for beginners to learn on. Fort Point is not one of these spots. The locals that usually surf here are people who wait year-round for this wave to break. Because it is so uncommon, people will do whatever they want to catch the best waves. Yelling, pushing, and dropping into someone's wave is not uncommon. The most important thing to surfing Fort Point is to be generous with your waves and simply be respectful. The San Francisco natives will appreciate your patience and respect. Know your boundaries and you'll be rewarded.
Because of how special this wave can be, bring food in the car for you and your friends to enjoy and really soak in the moment without feeling rushed to get on with your day. Why just leave right after you get out of the water? Pull out your Voyager beach chair and talk up the stories of the great waves you caught. Bringing a chair like the Voyager provides a comfortable seat to take pictures of this incredible spot too, especially if you're the "photo-type."
So, in conclusion, wait till the right swell, head over to Fort Point in San Francisco and you might just have one of the best surf sessions of your life.