Pacifica is fine for newbies and Santa Cruz is great if you have the time for a drive, but for serious local riders the broad, ever-changing wave field of Ocean Beach can't be beat. It can be tough to paddle out, but once you do, the feeling of freedom is like nothing else. Unlike other surf destinations, Ocean Beach doesn't have a sweet spot; depending on the day, any part might be going off. Because its riptides — the surface currents that carry riders away from the shore — change all the time, no one can predict which area will be the best place to start. That challenge is part of the appeal. Other waters may be more contained, but Ocean Beach's wildness means you're less likely to be piled on top of other surfers. That wildness comes at a price, though: Surfing at Ocean Beach can be dangerous, and first-timers should start elsewhere.
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