Surf Life On The North Coast
Story and Photos By Sean Jansen
The surf scene in Humboldt County is much different than any other county in the state of California. There is so much more that goes into a surf, than in a daily check that takes place, like in a county like Orange in southern California. The water is colder, the ocean is angrier and the sea life is much more abundant and a little less friendly than that of our southern counties. If you desire to set foot in our sub 50-degree water and take a chance with our less than friendly sea life, you need to be prepared and respectful and if you have that in mind, you might score and have a great time.
The temperature is the first thing that scares travelers from entering the waters in Humboldt County. The yearly average temperature is around 53 degrees Fahrenheit. The winter water temps can drop to a chilly 46 degrees and the summer temps can rise to 57. Summer months accompanied with strong north winds and thick fog, as well as any other month of the year, require a five-millimeter wetsuit with booties and a hood. It’s unfortunate that wetsuit prices are less than favorable. However, if you want to get in the water up here there isn’t much of a choice. If you choose not to purchase one, the only other option you have is an express ride straight to the hospital, with a treatment for hypothermia. I’ll let you decide.
Second, are the conditions. The ocean up here is very moody and can be rather unforgiving. People have lost their lives from drowning as well as the sea life. But I don’t want to scare you. You can find absolute freedom if you desire. The lineups, on average, are really free from crowds, unlike those south of Santa Barbara. But you have to be on your forecasting. You have to
know where to go when the wind is out of a certain direction, or when the tide is either low or high and decide where will allow the most opportunity to take place.
Though there are multiple breaks here in Humboldt County, there are some that only break certain times of the year on certain swells and tides. Some require low tide and north winds, while others require south winds and high tide while neither like the opposite of what I described. So you also have to be clued into swell, tides, wind, swell period, and wave height.
As I have said, I have no desire to scare you, however I just feel the need to raise caution flags when needed, for your safety could be on the line when attempting our waves if you approach them at the wrong place and time. The sea could be rather angry at the wrong time of year and the sea life is also a threat. Sharks up here are on average, and are sighted annually. So if you stay away from river mouths and are knowledgeable about the conditions on a daily basis, I can see you having a giant smile on your face and really enjoying the sport that much of us take pleasure in.