Fort Bragg is a sleepy little ex-logging town located in Mendocino County on the Northern California coast, not too far from the famous gigantic Redwood trees of Avenue of the Giants. Fort Bragg’s coastline is littered with cove after cove and headland after headland making you think that around the next point will be the perfect setup with pumping waves, but this just isn’t the case. Most of the beaches are sand bottom and seem to struggle to hold banks. However, there are a few places that hold big waves in some pretty sketchy spots. Towing-in would be more appropriate if you were wanting to tackle some of these waves.
Almost every beach in the area seemed to be completely deserted and the only ones occupying the line-up were sea lions. I surfed two spots, one was called Pudding Creek and the other Virgin Beach. There are plenty of other spots that would be surf-able with jet ski assistance. There was so much water moving at some of these breaks it was impossible to paddle out. Pudding Creek is a small cove with a little creek running out through the middle of it into the ocean. I spent most of my time paddling against the current here and it was hard going in the solid waves. I caught a few average waves and was pretty over it. The last wave I paddled into was looking good and I thought I was in for a decent barrel. I pulled in and raced as fast as I could to try and make it out but I was clipped at the end and copped a beating. As I popped up gasping for air I realized I had creased my board pretty bad so I headed in with my tail between my legs. There was never a lack of swell in Fort Bragg while I was there but it did lack decent banks and the water was on the cold side of the scale. Putting on a wetsuit and dealing with the cold water for crap waves wasn't very appealing.
The best waves I surfed were at Virgin Beach which seemed to handle the swell better than the other beaches in the area. There were some decent lefts breaking at the south end of the beach and reeling all the way across into a rip about 100 meters away at the northern end of the beach. I surfed here for the next couple days with only two guys in the water on one of the days. The waves would work from high tide until there wasn’t enough water on the bank and it would start shutting down across the whole beach.
I was stoked to get some fun waves and hang out with the sea lions in the surf. The water was extremely blue and the coastline rugged and beautiful. I'm almost certain that the waves around here would make for some epic sessions in uncrowded line ups. If you don't mind cold water and Surfline's 9 out of 10 shark danger rating for Fort Bragg, then maybe you should consider an adventurous road trip along the Northern California coast. Pack a thick wetsuit (5/4 mm for winter, 4/3 for summer) and a raincoat.
Read about our road trip down the Northern California coast!
By: Jamie Nicholson
Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more