California Novelties You'll Probably Never Surf!

There’s nothing more anti-depressive than a wave with character!

We’re talking quirky wedges and odd refractions. Peculiar points with stunning backdrops and nooks protected by the angriest of storms. Novelty waves, the funkiest of ocean grooves!

Some waves have more personality than others, but what quantifies a wave to be worthy of the novel title? We asked Mason Ho to find out.

“I’m not positive what novelty exactly means and I’m too lazy to look it up but I’m guessing it means something special, weird and fun. I’d say you need a few factors to make a novelty wave. It has to be a wave that the average person wouldn’t notice if its directly in front of them. Or maybe a wave forms up where there usually isn’t a wave to surf. My personal favourite is when there is a huge cliff or some sort of overhang directly above the wave I’m riding.”

By Mason’s definition, Stab gives you California’s most novel surf spots.

Lake Tahoe (as seen above)
When California’s mountains are white with snow and the ocean is victory-at-sea, Lake Tahoe is a viking’s valhalla, a winter wonderland for those willing to don a five mil wetsuit.

Lake Tahoe’s north shore is California’s only freshwater surf spot and arguably the Golden State’s most novel surfing experience. Water temps hover around a chilly 40 degrees (Fahrenheit), and the wave only breaks in 60 to 70 mph wind, which does wonders for keeping the crowds down. Still, on the ten days a year that Lake Tahoe is short-boardable, (eighty on the foamie claims the locals), suited and booted wave junkies are getting their kicks.

The lovely Ivy Miller went to college in a log cabin here and sprinkled a few surf sessions between snowboarding and studies. “There’s definitely a group that’s dedicated. It’s really cool having people out there and being like OK, we’re all crazy,” she said in an interview with NPR. If there’s one concurrent trend about novelty waves, they get surfing on the news.

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Always stunning, always crowded, rarely decent. Photo: Chach Files 

Fort Point
The only surf spot under a national landmark, Fort Point comes to mind any time novelty waves and TransWorld Surf (the video game) are mentioned. When Ocean Beach is maxed out and the tide is filling in, Fort Point offers a sloping slalom course between rocks and Frisco locals.

While it very much is a tourist destination, this ride isn’t Disneyland. Over the years, surfers have been drawn to Fort Point, only to be swept into the shipping lane with the outgoing tide. Not does the river-like current make surfing here difficult. There’s no beach, just some slippery boulders that make for a tricky exit and entry. Some advice, wear booties and check a tide book.

Tijuana Slough/Boca Rio
If you ever want to prove the absurdity of Trump’s proposed wall between Mexico and the United States, paddle out at Tijuana Sloughs. Just don’t taste the water or have any open wounds, this is where TJ’s sewage flows like sangria at a bottomless brunch.

The wave itself varies. On massive winter swells, the Slough breaks on an outer sandbar and offers long lefts and rights. Most of the time however, the Boca Rio thumps close to shore. Both novelties lie in the ability to surf into another country and back before anyone notices.

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Jake Marshall and the refraction leap. Photo: Clayton Burns

Princeton Breakwater
Tell someone you’re headed to Half Moon Bay to surf and they’ll assume you’re braving Mavs. But little do they know, there’s a jetty bounce perfect for punting airs. Can be pretty crowded with beginners but there’s a wooden mini ramp across the street to wait out the surf school shift change.

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A bacterial tunnel. Photo: Chris Sardelis

Long Beach
In 1942, the Navy built a two-mile long breakwater to protect the Pacific Fleet as a precautionary measure during World War II. Long Beach, which was known as the Waikiki of Southern California, became a stagnate cesspool of despair. Occasionally, on the biggest storms of the year, defiant waves sneak past the breakwater and light up the Long Beach Peninsula with chest-high tubes. It’s like a middle finger from mother nature to the American war machine.

This wave, but bigger, longer and with a blessing from the sea.

Once-In-A-While’s
Possibly the longest wave in California. As the name suggests, Once-In-A-While’s is a rarely breaking section of reef that stretches from outside Pleasure Point to The Hook on the east side of Santa Cruz. Rip Curl pit boss Matthew Myers, says he’s made it from start to finish.

“On the most magical days you can connect a wave from the top of Pleasure Point- from First peak to Second peak, through Once In A Whiles, then onto 38th and if you’re really lucky into The Hook. I did that once a long time ago on a huge swell riding a 6’10, and it is still to this day, the best ride of my life.”

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Not worth your bother. Photo: Chris Sardelis

Esther’s Oil Island
Perhaps the hardest wave to score in California as it has only broken a few times in the past few decades. Esther’s is located 1.5 miles out to sea and is next to an oil derrick from which it derives its name. The wave breaks over a sandbar created from the outflow of Anaheim Bay. On low tides, it can be as shallow as knee deep. Local folklore has it that Esther’s was first surfed by Robert August and Bill Furry in the 1950s. The pair paddled out from the tip of the Anaheim Jetty on longboards and proceeded to ride rights that stretched all the way to Surfside. They called the wave “Perfects”. It's only broke a few times. So don't get your hopes up, you'll likely never surf this wave.

This one wave on Lost Coast that will remain nameless.
Somewhere along the Lost Coast, lies an untouched A-Frame that requires a nine-mile trek and a canister of bear repellent to get too. Those who’ve surfed it will tell you with wild and all-telling eyes about the six hour trudge through deep sand and the difficulty of scurrying over boulders at high tide, but how truly alive they felt, as they slept under the vastness of the constellations with one eye/ear cocked for the approach of a curious grizzly.