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Top Ten Extreme Places to Ride Suntan Waves


Suntan.com has brought you extreme places to get a suntan, now here is a list of places to ride extreme waves by California’s very own CA suntan:


1.    Sitka, AK – “The Wall” 


Did you ever think of surfing extreme waves in Alaska? This picturesque village is often considered Alaska’s most beautiful seaside town. Sitka sits in the heart of the largest, most temperate rainforest in the world and the Tongass National Forest. We are talking GORGEOUS as far as scenery goes! Sitka is just west of British Columbia & is perched on the Gulf of Alaska. It is approximately 100 miles from Juneau. I do suggest flying directly into Sitka, if possible. Travelling from Juneau out to the coast is challenging because of all the islands and the channels!

The Wall is the place to surf in Alaska with the extinct volcano, Mt. Edgecomb, looming stately across the sound. The biggest waves are from April to October. Beware, though! The weather here, while mild in the winter, is extremely unpredictable. Even though it may seem “grey” out, it is still wise to make sure you have your sunscreen on for protection from the sun. A couple other handy tips are that there is public transportation available to get you around fairly easily and depending on your cell phone carrier, you may or may not get service this far north.

Another cool thing about this area is you can take a 7-day Extreme wave adventure with Alaska Sailing Charters. Prices run from $1,500 - $2,100 per person for this fun in the sun, wave-tailored excursion. Strictly for the person who is all about extreme sun & sea activities, you can surf, kite surf, wind surf, surf kayak, whale watch & observe wildlife. This is uncrowded, unspoiled North America at her best! This would more than likely be a life-changing vacation.

The last reason I picked Sitka for my list is because the largest tsunami ever recorded happened a mere 100+ miles further up the coast. Whoa!!! This extreme wave was 1,720 feet high & was caused by a glacier falling into the ocean after an 8.3 magnitude earthquake back in the late 1950’s. 


2.    San Mateo County - Half Moon Bay, CA – “Maverick’s”


Maverick’s is more than qualified to adorn this particular list! Sometimes referred to as a huge water avalanche, this extreme wave spot has quite a history. Located by Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, California, big wave riders call Maverick’s the “Mount Everest” of surfing. According to those brave enough to tackle its unpredictability, when all of the conditions are right, these monster waves are intense….catapulting surfers with a force that totally surprises. With most surfers coming out of the water at Maverick’s with their eyes wide, this extreme spot can get waves as tall as 80 feet and is not for the faint of heart. If you are an onlooker, just watching these waves from the cliffs above is absolutely awe-inspiring! Several TV Programs & Movies have been filmed on this beach, including “Waves of Adventure in the Red Triangle”, “High Noon at Low Tide” & “Powerlines Surf-Spots”.

This heaven on earth for big wave surfers and sun worshipers gets its name from a white German shepherd that loved to swim and follow its owner and his surf friends out into the dangerous conditions. With sometimes as much as ½ mile of a surfing wave, Maverick’s is the ultimate big wave surf spot NOT in Hawaii. The killer surf is here is largely helped by the jagged rocky reef on the uneven ocean floor.

For approximately 15 years, the first surfer known to ever attempt Maverick’s was nearly the only surfer to surf Maverick’s. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that this thrill-seeking spot became known to the big wave surfers in Hawaii and other places. There have been several deaths and injuries here, one of the most infamous happened in 1999, the death of Mark Foo, a big wave rider from Hawaii. 

Just a note: there is a not ton to do in Half Moon Bay, though the downtown area is worth walking through. There’s anywhere to stay from a hostel to campgrounds to several hotels. Parking is ideally in the lot nearby and there are also wave runners running from Pillar Point Harbor.

My thoughts? I’ll leave this extreme wave to the pros and experts! Where’s the beach? I’ll just enjoy the views and soak up the sun!


3.    Newport Beach, CA – “The Wedge”


The Wedge is a classic spot on the most southern end of the Balboa Peninsula and is known as the best body-surfing beach in the world. From May 1st to October 31st boards of any kind are not allowed in the water except for early morning or late evening. When there is a south swell, the extreme waves formed here are the result of a wave that reflects off the man-made improvements on the jetty. This forms two waves that “wedge” together. Known as the “meat grinder” by some locals, these waves can get anywhere from 6 – 20 feet on average. On a scale of 1-10, most die-hards will give this spot an 8 or 9 and should only be attempted by an experienced swimmer. The Wedge has what is known to be “beach break” waves and these types of waves are extremely shallow! Spinal cord injuries are unfortunately common in this spot, with surfers being tossed from the wave and slapped onto the sandy bottom below. The waves breaking are here are spectacular & just incredible to watch, particularly in summer and fall when there are intense tropical storms and hurricanes helping with the turbulence. There is usually a moderate crowd. Don’t forget that the Wedge was featured in what most consider to be the best surfing movie ever made, Bruce Brown’s “The Endless Summer”.

As far as local accommodations, understand that there are few economical places to stay in Newport Beach! The town is (mostly!) comprised of wealthy locals & rich vacationers. Corona del Mar State Beach is a great family beach nearby, perfect for sun tanning and is home of the world famous Annual Sand Castle Contest held every October. My favorite spot to grab a bite is Mutt Lynch’s on Oceanfront. Killer vibe, “pub-style” food and a hopping night crowd. A hot spot with the locals; if you stop in, make sure to try the “Scatter Platter”….yum!


4.    Southern CA – The Cortes Bank

Extreme is just one word I would definitely use for this incredible surf and scuba spot off the California coast. Yes! That’s right….off the coast! Cortes is a seamount or chain of underwater mountain peaks approximately 100 miles west of San Diego. Waves are so big at Cortes Bank that they show up on radar!  This is very deep water and very fast. Think pure, ocean swell that with the perfect conditions just wrecks havoc and lets loose on this reef. 

For years, sailors have of course, known of this dangerous spot. In 1855, a clipper ship Bishop shipwrecked at one of the most “shallow” spots, now appropriately named, Bishop Rock. When the tides are right, the peaks here may be a mere 6 feet below the surface. The reef is wild, unsheltered and unprotected from any other island. With the bank being over 100 miles from the mainland, this wonder goes largely untouched. There are 2 or 3-day scuba trips that are available to but these are for advanced divers comfortable with open ocean diving. June is the best month to go. If you are the type with a queasy stomach and you tend to get seasick, this may not be the trip for you. Even when the boat is anchored for the dive, getting in and out can be a chore! The wildlife here is amazing and with the visibility of this sun-kissed, azure blue water being 50 – 100 feet, it’s easy to explore. Sea lions, abalone, moray eels, giant black sea bass, sharks, lobster and rock scallops all abound in this magnificent ocean showcase. Did someone say “lobster”? The specimens of the California Spiny Lobsters that regularly get caught are between 8 and 12 pounds! A note about diving…due to the strong currents and swells, divers can feel the “surge” underwater up to 100 feet!


This big wave spot is a total thrill-zone for surfers. Only a tight inner-circle of well-known watermen ever regularly go take on these extreme waves. The currents here are highly unpredictable and the fog rolls in at odd times. Catching a wave out here consists of having someone fearless on a jet ski tow you fast enough to catch a wave. Mike Parsons, one of the original pioneers in big wave surfing, successfully rode a 66-foot wave in 2001 and won $66,000 from Billabong for his victory. To top that, in early 2008, he was photographed riding an even larger one, estimated at over 70 feet. That feat put him in the record books for officially riding the biggest wave ever recorded. All in all, I think Cortes Bank should hold its place as an absolute epic big wave spot, since some of the biggest waves in the world have been witnessed here.


5.    Oahu, Hawaii – North Shore – “Pipeline”


One of the world’s most iconic, epic and challenging surf spots, The Pipe is known as the absolute, hands down, best “left turn” in surfing. Pipeline at full strength is a challenge even for pros. These extreme waves break off of shallow reefs. Rides on these are not for beginners and even if you are good enough to ride, chances are you’ll get shut out by the locals. Always crowded with hopeful surfers, there is a definite pecking order for the choice waves. The vibe for this Mecca is “RESPECT”. Some say The Pipe is hands down the home of the biggest, hollowest, most perfectly-formed barrels and this perfection has been photographed over and over, throughout the years. The summer months are mild and ideal for swimming. In the winter, the surf gets rough and the surfers rejoice, especially when waves get 20 feet or more. As this is the beautiful and tranquil North Shore of Oahu, sunbathing here almost all year round is divine. June through September there tends to be Stinging Limu (Seaweed) that gets washed in by the tide. If you are unfortunate enough to have to deal with this, treat it just like you would a jellyfish sting. Meat tenderizer and vinegar work well for relieving the burn. Ehukai (“Reddish-tinged Water”) Beach is nice with lifeguards, picnic tables, grassy & shaded areas. There is a 25-stall parking lot along the highway.

My favorite place to get fresh, local seafood is Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp, a mere 6-7 miles up state highway 83. The Coconut Shrimp is off the hook delicious! If you want to head inland, but still want to enjoy the sun, I really like going to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, which from Pipeline is only 25 minutes away, to the south. The first time I visited, I was 14 and there with my family. This farm facility is a great information center about pineapple and filled with the history of Dole. There are assorted, moderately priced tours worth checking out about the plantation. I remember my family really enjoying the Pineapple Express, the train that runs through and tours the property. Every week, the on-site store sells more than 3,500 fresh, Hawaiian-grown, sun-kissed pineapples for visitors to eat or to take back home. If you have never been to Hawaii and eaten a pineapple that had not left Hawaii, you know what I’m talking about. They are sweet golden juicy bits of heaven, in of themselves a reason to venture to the islands.


6.    Maui, Hawaii – Hookipa – “Jaws”


This “secret” spot is known by the locals as Pe’ahi, Hawaiian for “beckon”. I’ve also heard that it means “fan” or “fan-shaped” and sure, enough, if you look out from the bluff to the waves, they seem to be a fan-like shape in the distance. This is a secluded bay, hard to get to with cliffs, sugar cane and pineapple fields all around. Not an ideal sunbathing beach at all, only perfect for surfing in the sun, if you are a pro. Jaws is located off the historical Hana Highway on the north shore of Maui. The reef is located about ½ miles offshore, in a triangular shape, sticking out into the ocean. This formation is optimal for magnifying the incoming swell energy. The 60-foot monster waves that form here in the winter (between December & February) are very infrequent but known for their supreme formation quality. There are no lifeguards at this beach and it takes a longer time for emergency personnel to get out here so precautions are a must! This spot is strictly for tow-in surfing and launching areas for jet-skis are Maliki Gulch or Kahalui Harbor. Keep in mind there is an unspoken rule about Jaws and it is suggested that it is surfed by invite only and that a veteran, such as pioneers Laird Hamilton or Dave Kalama must ask you to join the party. If you are catching some of the sun’s warm rays and enjoying the surfing talents below, be sure to use care at the bluffs as they tend to become overcrowded by onlookers and photographers and are a place prone to accidents. As far as accommodations go you are best off looking for something in nearby Haiku. There used to be a beautiful oceanfront estate available to rent 1-bedroom studios (gorgeous and only $150/night with a 5-night stay) called Poli Kamai, but on last check the property is not available for short term rentals because it is now up for sale. Anyone got $3.75 million?


7.    San Diego, CA (La Jolla) – “Blacks Beach”


Blacks Beach in La Jolla, California is extreme on so many different levels. The terrain, the scenery and the waves! Dedicated surfers must bring their hiking shoes and their commitment to this jewel of a spot. The beach is accessible, hiking 10-15 minutes from the cliffs above, but it is steep and treacherous. Part of Blacks Beach has also been a well-known nudist beach for decades, even though all nudist beaches in the county were banned in 1976. The city has made a “nude line” and set up a couple of signs, so typically, the nudists stay to the north end. These slightly different worshippers of sun and sea have actually been calling Blacks “home” longer than the surfers! An offshore, deepwater canyon that invites and amplifies any western swell makes this spot the location of the best beach breaks in the county. Epic waves in the winter months can be 15+ feet high. The vibe here is pretty competitive and the area can get crowded. For advanced surfers only! Also, when you are down on the beach, watch for falling boulders from up above. At times, the crumbling cliffs come tumbling down, so heads up. There is one more thing to mention in regards to extreme and Blacks Beach. On the northern end, up on the cliffs is a unique place where for $150 a person & 20-30 minutes you can have the experience of “flying” over some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the United States. Hang Gliding and Parasailing are available at Torrey Pines Gliderport. I have not done this yet but I definitely plan on it. The Gliderport even has its own restaurant so you can grab a bite while watching gliders soar in the sun! As far as other iconic places here, I think the coolest spot to grab fresh local seafood is El Pescador Fish Market on Pearl Street. They have a large selection of grilled fish sandwiches available & the combination of grilled seafood, fresh sandwich toppings served on warm torta bread is heaven on a plate after a long and exhilarating day in the sun. On a personal note, I adore La Jolla!  It’s a sun lover’s paradise and has countless fun things to do and places to explore.


8.    Lincoln City, OR – Nelscott Reef


A ½ mile offshore of Central Oregon is rocky Nelscott Reef, another place for gnarly and extreme waves. This is near Lincoln City and another tow-in surf spot, so it is for experienced professionals only! The waves here in the fall and winter get 20-30 feet and have been as monstrous as 50+ feet. When conditions are just right these are clean, world class, tubular waves! Since 2005, the reef is home of the Nelscott Tow-In Reef Classic, the only tow-in surf contest in North America. Since 1995, local surfer John Forse tried to get the local crowd to help him conquer Nelscott once he discovered the reef conditions were right for tow-in surfing, but no one would help or team up with him. Finally in 2003, he got the help of big wave surfer pioneers Peter Mel & Adam Relogle and rode his epic waves. The area is typically not crowded with people but because of it being offshore there is a huge shark consideration. Surfers have been bitten and attacked by Great Whites nearby, in this part of the Pacific. The locals can be “surly” in this part of the surf world. Respect is critical. This is a rural part of Oregon but there is great beach access with D River State Park just to the north. Some amenities offered there are restrooms and WiFi access. One should still be able to park along the side of the road on 3rd Street, off of Hwy 101. It is predictably windy here, as Lincoln City is the Kite Capital of the World.  Reasonable accommodations abound nearby; however, for the posh surfer in you try the ultra-plush Westin Salishan Lodge and Golf Resort down in Gleneden Beach (One of the nicest places to stay on the west coast!) or the Inn at Spanish Head right in town on the 101.  


9.    Pebble Beach, CA - Ghost Tree


R.I.P. Ghost Tree. This was a surfing haven for only pros and experts. As of March 2009, this super big wave spot has been “shut down” due to a ban on personal watercraft (jet skis) in this part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This was a tow-in surf destination and jets skis were critical to catch the 30-70+ waves here. Personal Watercraft has actually been banned here since 1992 and withstood a Federal lawsuit from manufacturers. The law eventually became outdated and obsolete when cleaner, quieter 3 & 4-seat passenger models emerged. “Mavericks” was an exception to this ban. Peter Davi, a well-known surfer tragically drowned here in December of 2007, during the biggest Ghost Tree had ever gotten. Waves this day were 60 feet or higher! Pescadero Point (Pebble Beach, Monterey & Pacific Grove) is one of the most beautifully scenic spots on the California coast, in my opinion, and definitely a must see. Park at Ghost Cypress Park and take in the multi-million dollar view as well as the mind blowing estates on 17-mile Drive. With the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Course is nearby as well as Monterey Bay Aquarium, this area is optimal for sun in the sun.


10.    San Diego (Mission Beach, CA) – Wave House


I couldn’t resist with this one! This hot spot not only has extreme waves, but killer eats and music, as well. A 40,000 beach-lifestyle playhouse, Wave House San Diego is one of five  40,000 sq. ft. beach-lifestyle playhouses and this one is perfectly situated in Mission Beach. Back in 2006, this sun and fun venue became a true hot music haven when MTV’s True Request Live infiltrated for a week and big name acts such as James Blunt, Ashlee Simpson & Busta Rhymes rocked the stages while obliging pro surfers came in and “rode” the highlight at Wave House; the Flow Barrel Wave Machine. A local from La Jolla, Tom Lochtefeld, who is the mastermind behind the cutting-edge concept, decided to bring the sun, surf and party that California has to offer to everyone around the world that wanted to experience it. Isn’t that great? The are other 3 Wave Houses are located in the very exotic locales of Durban, Singapore, Santiago and Zaragoza. For $15.00 an hour plus a one-time registration fee, this total thrill can be yours. They have specials on package pricing for the wave machines. The bar menu is typical, the drinks flowing but the true key is the atmosphere. Palapas, sun chairs & hammocks abound this beach pleasure hub. With an Olympic-sized plunge pool, wave machines and the facilities needed to cater for just about any size crowd; this would be the place to throw your kid’s next birthday party! Extremely cool extreme waves!

There are extreme waves all over the world, but these were some of my favorite spots in the United States. In your opinion, did I leave any extreme wave venues out? Which is your favorite and why? Tell us…Email the Suntan Crew!


-CA suntan

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