5 Silver Linings of Spring Surfing

Spring Surfing Santa Cruz

Spring might be my least favorite season for surfing, but there are plenty of redeeming qualities. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice.

Spring is probably my least favorite season for surfing in Northern California. The wind blows strong and often from the northwest, the surf size starts to trend downwards, foggy days become the norm, and to cap it all off, the water can get even colder than the winter due to the pesky ocean upwelling that contributes to the Bay Area fog. However, spring surfing isn’t all that bad. As the seasons change and so do my surf habits, I’ve been doing some self-reflecting on what spring surfing means to me. Turns out, there are some pretty awesome aspects to riding waves in the spring that, while they might not change my opinion that spring is the worst season, are worth appreciating and give me something to look forward to.

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1. The Joy of Wave Hunting

Spring is an opportunity to search for waves in places I don’t normally surf. Without the consistent awesomeness of winter waves at my local Ocean Beach, suddenly there’s more reason to take some extra time to check the local novelty wave or drive down the coast in search of somewhere else to surf. Sure, OB can provide me with plenty of days during the winter where I want to seek a more sheltered break, but the warmer weather and extra sunlight certainly do a lot to get me out there and on the search for new waves.

Santa Cruz Spring Break

Spring surfing doesn’t have to mean small waves, Just messier ones. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice.

2. At Least There’s Still Swell

When it comes to wave size, while spring may not be winter, at least it isn’t summer. Spring might not have the massive spikes of long-period northwest swell that hammer the West Coast during the winter. But the season is no slouch. The same northwest winds that cause the onshores whip up a decent bit of windswell, too. As long as you’re able to find some cover from the breeze, you should still be able to find waves, unlike the long flat spells that often plague the later summer months in Northern California.


3. Lower Expectations Can Mean More Fun

I’ve done a bit of thinking in the past about expectations and surfing, and the conclusion that I’ve come to is that there’s a pretty strong correlation between expectations before the session and amount of fun had during the session. In general, the higher the expectations, the less fun had. Even if the waves are actually good. In the winter, the waves tend to be better, and so expectations go up, and as spring comes around, general expectations drop drastically. I stop checking the forecast so religiously and just go surfing when the tide’s right and there’s swell in the water. So instead of disappointment when the waves aren’t as good as I’d hoped they’d be, if the waves actually are decent, I’m beyond stoked.

Fort Point Spring Surfing

The local “novelty” wave. Photo: WS.

4. Spring Surfing Often Means Waking up Earlier

Living in San Francisco has spoiled me. All winter my routine has been wake up around eight a.m., check the cams, make breakfast and get to writing while keeping an eye on the conditions at Ocean Beach. When you live only a few miles from a beach with a surf cam, especially one as fickle as OB, there’s no reason to head to the beach unless the waves look good. When the perfect combo of wind, tide, and swell hits, I strike. Nice, but a little slow-moving and waves are a constant distraction throughout the day.

Spring surfing necessitates a different type of commitment. With afternoon winds a near-certainty, especially the closer we get to summer, mornings are often the only time to get a session in the books with cleaner conditions. And while waking up early can be a pain, there’s something special about waking up at first light, sneaking around the kitchen to make coffee and toast while my housemates are asleep, and slipping out before work to pull on neoprene and rub the sleep out of my eyes with salt water. Then I get home and get to work free of surfing distractions and with a bit of fun already clocked for the day. And if the tides are wrong in the morning, there’s now a whole after-work session to look forward to that didn’t exist this winter.

Slackline by the beach

Slacklining can be a great way to get your flow on when the waves are flat. Photo: Tim Mossholder//Unsplash.

5. An Opportunity to Try New Things

In the winter, a lot of my time and effort is spent surfing. A lot of the reason why I surf is the joy and meaning that I get from improving, so when the winter swells are rolling through, I want to be in the water. Spring lets me take my foot off the gas, slow down, and remind myself that I’m also surfing for fun. And if the wind is howling or the waves are flat, then I’ve got an extra hour or two to do something I wouldn’t have time for if I was surfing. This spring, I’m getting back into slacklining. The past couple of weeks as spring conditions have really set in, I’ve been heading to the park instead of the beach after work, finding my flow on a line tied between two trees rather than a piece of foam and resin floating on the water.

To be fair, these are just my personal reasons for (secretly) loving spring surfing, and I’m sure there’s a million other reasons out there. As a remote-working writer, I often have the luxury to get in the water in the middle of the day and pick and choose when I want to surf, whereas for a 9-5 office worker (if those even exist anymore in our strange new world) spring means being able to surf sometime other than the mornings now that daylight savings is over. Maybe spring surfing is your favorite time of year? It sure isn’t mine, but there’s still plenty to love about it.


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