Surfing Wine Country

Living in a major metropolitan area as crowded as San Francisco, you’ll find that some people will become easily agitated. Think about traffic if you have a long commute to and from work. You’re not entirely in the best mood if someone is in your way. Imagine if you were in the water trying to surf? There’s a reason why surfers are so much in tune with nature. We avoid the crowds and we grimace when we see groups of non-locals and beginner surfers taking over our beaches. The only way to cure this, find unexplored beach breaks.

My adventure up north was quite the experience. Most people wouldn’t think about surfing in San Francisco and wouldn’t bother to think that you could surf in Sonoma County, Wine Country. Here it is on a map below.

Sonoma County has an old town feel with lots of farm land and diverse geography spanning from the coast to wine country. My adventure starts on the Russian River hanging with good friends on a nice sunny Saturday.

The Russian River was settled by the Russian American Company by Ivan Aleksandrovich Kuskov in 1817 and provided fresh fish such as sturgeon and salmon as long as 5′ – Wikipedia

The 1800s are long gone and after more 200 years, the river is still abundant, salmon, seals are still part of the ecosystem and so are the “real locals”,  Great White Sharks. Many surfers have warned me not to surf Sonoma County. However, I wanderlust to find the perfect wave. Onward! (Sonoma County surfer bitten by shark)

Russian Rivermouth

I make my way towards the coast and reach the river mouth. I heard this is called the “McDonald’s drive thru for Whiteys”. I assess and find no swell.

Driving along I notice a surf shop,  Kool City Surf Shop. Steve was awesome and told me he was originally from San Francisco. He gave me the drop on where I should go, Salmon Creek Beach. Nervously, thinking about the fresh salmon and feeding grounds for Whitey, I said farewell.

The first surf shop I see in miles means I am getting close

Goat Rock Beach

Fog, coastline and arches
A sandy beach leads into a cove with rocky crags

Flat at Goat Rock Beach at 10:15am nothing exciting, but still nice. I head south as Steve instructed down Highway 1 for another 20 minutes.


Driving on Highway 1, the first sign of swell is when I see another surfer on a cliff checking out the break. I feel a rush of excitement as I look to the horizon.

Finally, I’ve arrived.

It’s 12:10pm,  the last time I checked it was between 82-84 degrees with the sun in full force. Quite the day to go surfing, San Francisco weather is around 65 degrees on average. This is Glorious. Studying the waves and timing the sets, I was surprised by what I see. Consistent sets with small barrels coming in, a line up and families enjoying the beach. Pretty Groovy. I knew this was going to be epic! 

Paddling out, the water felt like it was 56-59 degrees, pretty cold as in all surf spots in NorCal. I suggest wearing at least a 4/3mm, I felt fine.


The first thing I noticed in the line up were the animals. Instead of the usual seagulls at my local break there were these Brown Pelicans flying in groups that came very close to the water, sometimes 3-4″ away trying to catch their next meal. It was breathtaking. Another moment, I had dolphins right beside me as I was in awe. I fumbled my camera and wished I was fast enough to capture them on film, but they quickly submerged underwater.


The locals surfers were experienced and there were only a handful of them. Everyone seemed to be in the zone and happy to be out.

It took me about 20 minutes and a few wipeouts to get a grasp on timing and the angles of the break. The waves had a lot more force when they came in, not like Santa Cruz where the waves are longer and don’t barrel as quickly. I was able to find my rhythm and ride a few sets all the way in.

Overall, Sonoma County has solid surf. If you’re interested in exploring, here is a list of all the beaches in Sonoma County State Park. Definitely a great place to spend the weekend with a variety of activities and sites to see. If you’re interested in learning more click here. I will definitely be coming back.


The drive home provided plenty to reflect upon. One thing is true, I was a bit skeptical and afraid of the shark stories I heard. It was an amazing trip and I’m stoked that I went. Don’t let anything discourage you, go see it for yourself. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post. Let me know if you have tips, suggestions, feedback or questions. If you enjoyed this blog posts sign up and receive updates on my next adventure.

In my next post, we’re going back to the basics. See you in the line up!


3 Replies to “Surfing Wine Country”

  1. I’ve grown up surfing in Sonoma county so its really interesting to get the perspective of an newcomer with an interest in exploring the area. I’ve never heard that the Russian River mouth was considered “McDonald’s drive thru for Whiteys”.In this article:, A local in my area mentions his experience with a great white at the river mouth. This said person also happens to have had 4 total encounters with great whites throughout his experience surfing Sonoma county. I always find it interesting how infamous Sonoma County is for having shark laden waters. Glad you gave it a chance.

    1. Hey there, thanks for the comment. My exp. surfing Sonoma County was memorable. There’s so much wildlife in the water. I remember seeing blue nose dolphins popping up to me to say hello. It was a similar exp. I had many times surfing at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. That’s so insane how that surfer had 4 encounters with great whites. Dillion Beach, Stinson are located in the Iron Triangle and from what I’ve been told is a prime hunting ground for great whites heading to the Farralon Islands close to Point Reyes.

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