With its upscale hotels and eateries and sleepy backwater setting, the central Californian town of Half Moon Bay has long been a favored destination for weekend holidaymakers. Starting in the late 1990s, however, the town became famous for a another reason—namely, the infamous big wave spot Mavericks. Originally surfed by Jeff Clark (whose dog Maverick would watch from the cliff), “Mavs” is now considered the pinnacle of the big wave experience, and with every big swell a who’s who of heavy wave hellmen descend on the town to test their mettle against the best the ocean has to throw at them. But Mavericks isn’t the only wave in the region—after all, Half Moon Bay is a short 15-minute drive from San Francisco. Below we have put together a list of the five best waves in the Half Moon Bay region—so grab your thickest wetsuit and biggest board and get ready to charge!
1) Mavericks: Some say this deep water reef peak is the heaviest wave in the world, and they can certainly make a good case for their argument. The right is as heavy as you want it to be—getting bowlier and thicker the deeper you take off—while the left is always a freakshow, and is only tested by a few psychos willing to risk their bodies and boards for a shot at its illusive barrel. Breaking from 20-80 feet on the face, Mavericks has been paddled up to around the 60-foot mark, and only recently lost its stranglehold on the “world’s biggest paddle-in wave” title to other behemoths like Jaws and Cortes Bank.
2) Ocean Beach: Located in the heart of San Francisco, Ocean Beach is the de facto training ground for Mavericks. An expanse of beach break that stretches for a number of miles, “OB” is one of the most fickle waves in California, suffering from adverse winds 320 days per year. But when it’s clean, Ocean Beach can range from rippable head high peaks to triple-overhead+ offshore bombs, making it one of the most difficult waves in the world to score, let alone surf.
3) Potato Patch: Another big wave spot just north of Half Moon Bay in the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, Potato Patch is a mythical offshore bombie that is rumored to break on only the largest of swells.
4) Princeton Breakwater: Just north of Half Moon Bay, on the south side of a jetty, a peak and a beach break are commonly surfable in the more pedestrian head high+ range, making this a great spot to check when the waves are small and you aren’t looking to test fate.
5) Francis Beach: Also known as Half Moon Bay State Beach, this beach break starts to get good once the waves are well overhead, and can handle up into the double overhead+ range.