Part One – Doran Park and Surrounding Area
Sonoma County is not one of the most famous places for surfing in the world, but it has its fair share of quality waves. Most beaches are easy to access from Santa Rosa or Sebastopol, just head west on highway 12 and make a right turn on highway 1 after passing through the town of Bodega.
The closest beach to Santa Rosa is Doran Beach at Doran Park. This beach has the worst surf all year except for certain days with high tide and a swell coming from the proper direction. Doran Beach is almost totally protected from the usual north-western swell by Bodega Head and the reef out by Seal Rock (also known as Bodega Rock).
Doran usually takes at least a ten foot swell to get chest-head high waves. The best time to check out Doran is at high tide, after a rain, with a good pumping swell everywhere else. Some people prefer Doran at low tide, which almost always has barrels with larger swell, but I have only seen one day that actually had quality long barrel rides, when the swell was jacking up to 17 feet outside. Usually Doran will sustain high tide better and provides a lot of fun waves throughout the year once the rains start to fall. I surfed it a lot when I was younger and I spent a lot of time learning how to surf at this beach. I never worry about sharks at this beach because it is so protected and the paddle is never very far.
Sometimes a long mushy wave breaks on the northern-most component of Doran Beach near the rock jetty. This requires a huge swell and super-low tide, but could potentially be a very fun wave for longboarders when everything else is too big to surf.
The biggest, best, and most crazy wave I have seen with my own eyes is located within a mile of Doran Park due south of Bodega Head. This wave should be surfed more often but is feared by the inhabitants of the area by the potentiality of giant white sharks cruising the perimeter of the island. The island is called Seal Rock, and has thousands of seals setting up camp every night. There is a beautiful reef that stretches west out to sea of the island and sets up a giant slab tube when the large swells hit. The paddle is about a quarter of a mile from Bodega Head, across a deep channel. I have seen some video with people surfing this wave using a jet ski, and if I could afford one I would be out there all the time. Be advised, the bottom of the reef is rocky, so wear a helmet if you are thinking about taking on some giant swells.
If you are planning a vacation to Bodega Bay or the surrounding area and want to investigate places to stay, there are many vacation rentals such as http://luxurybodega.com that can be found on vacation rental websites, and there are also hotels such as the Inn at the Tides.