Andy Falk
Coldwell Banker Realty

Stinson Beach and Bolinas

Bolinas – Smiles all around

Bolinas is a cool little beach town in West Marin, just north of Stinson Beach and across the channel from the ultra-exclusive, gated Seadrift community. Decades ago, I’m talking about before I started surfing even, locals took down the sign from Highway One to Bolinas. The county would then put replacement signs up, only to have the locals tear them down. I don’t think they even try anymore. It doesn’t help though, everybody knows how to find Bo, and everybody surfs it.

During the summer, Bolinas is a mecca for people learning to surf. The waves are slow and easy, making it an ideal spot for lessons. Several people and companies teach surfing at Bolinas. It’s not unusual to see a pack of 20 beginners on soft-top boards on the inside of the channel, paddling onto little waves. When we get long period south swells in the summer and big north swells in the winter the waves can get respectable in size. Waves coming down from the north need to wrap around Duxbury Reef to get to shore, which depletes much of their height and energy. Because of the reef and the beach’s southern exposure, the waves never get over about 8 feet at Bo.

There are several spots to surf at Bolinas. The middle of the channel is usually the best wave and has the most energy. North of the channel, the Patch has to be the slowest wave on the planet. The waves have a real Waikiki vibe, but the water and air are 20-30 degrees cooler. What I like best about Bolinas is the variety of people in the water. There are old people like me, and even older people in their 60’s and 70’s in the line-up. I once was surfing in the Channel, and three ladies in their mid-60’s were out catching waves on paddle boards. One of them was quite good and caught a few waves I had my eyes on. Paddleboarders have an advantage over surfers because they can get on waves sooner, so I had to settle for a few of the woman’s leftovers.

Nowadays when you go to Bolinas, the ratio of women to men is probably 40/60, which is quite remarkable. There used to be very few female surfers in the water if any, whereas now women are common. In the past 10 years, the female surfing population has really exploded. There are lots of young ladies in the water who are in their teens, 20’s and 30’s.  At Bolinas on any given day, you will find every generation of surfer represented.

Like Waikiki, Bolinas is the home of the party wave! The wave isn’t steep, making it easy for two or more people to ride at once. A long, slow and easy wave, it’s not usual when you’re at the Patch to see several people hop onto the same wave. I always encourage beginners to drop in on my waves. At most surf spots the person on the wave first has ‘priority’, but the real priority is having fun out at Bolinas (or anywhere)! It’s fun sharing user-friendly waves and helping people get stoked catching waves. Usually, beginners just wipe out anyway and I continue surfing past them. Dylan Graves, a surfing videographer who is sponsored by Vans recently made a video about queer surfers, ( much of which was filmed at Bolinas. At the end, his interview subject says she’d like to see more party waves in the future, to which Dylan responds, “Amen to that. We could all benefit from that.”

If you are looking for a high performance, competitive wave, don’t come to Bolinas. If you are looking for mellow place to chill and be happy in the water with like-minded surfers, then Bolinas is the place for you.