A pro surfer’s favorite season is winter. That makes it a great season for a gawker, too.
During winter and spring in northern California, storms toss the ocean and waves grow large as they approach land, drawing crowds who are looking for the thrill of catching a pro surf the monster waves. The most well-known winter competition is at the invitation-only Mavericks, 50 miles north of Santa Cruz near Half Moon Bay. Alternatively, almost any day of the week, impromptu gawking is possible at Santa Cruz’s Steamer Lane or Pleasure Point.
The cliffs that overlook Steamer Lane, off West Cliff Drive near Lighthouse Point, offer a built-in viewing stadium. There’s usually some sort of competition, so the water may be crowded with boards.
On the east side of Santa Cruz, you can look out from the beach at Pleasure Point, with access off East Cliff Drive at 35th Avenue. This neighborhood served as backdrop for Chasing Mavericks (the movie map is here), and it is home to wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill.
Photo: Steve Corey
Photo: Shalom Jacobovitz
Hero Photo: Stuart Chambers