First part: Doran Park and surroundings

Sonoma County is not one of the most famous surf spots in the world, but it does have its fair share of quality waves. Most of the beaches are easily accessible from Santa Rosa or Sebastopol, just head west on Highway 12 and turn right onto Highway 1 after passing through the town of Bodega.

The closest beach to Santa Rosa is Doran Beach in Doran Park. This beach has the worst swell of the whole year except on certain days with high tide and a swell that comes from the right direction. Doran Beach is almost totally protected from the usual northwestern swell by Bodega Head and the reef by Seal Rock (also known as Bodega Rock).

Doran usually needs at least a ten foot swell to get chest high waves. The best time to visit Doran is at high tide, after a rain, with good surf everywhere. Some people prefer Doran at low tide, which almost always has barrels with a bigger swell, but I’ve only seen one day that he actually had long quality barrel rides, when the swell was rising up to 17 feet outside. In general, Doran withstands high tide better and provides plenty of fun waves throughout the year once the rains begin to fall. I surfed a lot when I was younger and spent a lot of time learning to surf on this beach. I never worry about sharks on this beach because it is very sheltered and paddling is never far away.

Sometimes a long, soft wave breaks in the northernmost component of Doran Beach, near the rock jetty. This requires big swell and super low tide, but it could be a really fun wave for longboarders when everything else is too big for surfing.

The biggest, best, and craziest wave I’ve ever seen with my own eyes is located about a mile from Doran Park south of Bodega Head. This wave should be surfed more frequently but it is feared by the inhabitants of the area for the potentiality of giant white sharks that cross the perimeter of the island. The island is called Seal Rock and it has thousands of seals that camp every night. There is a beautiful reef that stretches west to the island’s sea and forms a giant slab tube when the big surf hits. The paddle is a quarter mile from Bodega Head, through a deep channel. I’ve seen a video of people riding this wave using a jet ski, and if I could afford one, it would be there all the time. Note that the bottom of the reef is rocky, so wear a helmet if you’re planning on tackling some giant waves.

If you are planning a vacation in or around Bodega Bay and want to research places to stay, there are many vacation rentals such as that can be found on vacation rental websites, and there are also hotels such as the Inn at the Tides.

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