The chilly air, frigid water and unruly waves make San Francisco’s Ocean Beach an unlikely candidate for a major surf competition, but those challenges are exactly what has 34 of the world’s top boarders headed to town this week.
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Rip Curl Pro Search organizers chose Ocean Beach for the penultimate event in surfing’s world championship because of the challenge and surprise San Francisco’s unpredictable waves pose competitors.
“Past locations, you can identify the guys who are going to flourish in certain conditions,’’ said Brooke Farris, international events coordinator for Rip Curl. “Out here it can be anyone’s because you don’t know what you’re going to get from day to day.”
The event, the 10th out of 11 stops on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour, kicks off Tuesday with 34 of the world’s top surfers and two wild-card competitors. The competition will last a total of 27½ hours, but organizers have a 12-day window for the event to find the best waves.
Previous stops on the tour, which crowns the world champion, have included Australia’s Gold Coast, Rio de Janeiro and French Polynesia. After San Francisco, the tour makes its last stop in Hawaii.
San Francisco may not have a beach scene as vibrant as Peniche, Portugal, but local surfers agree Ocean Beach is the place for an unusual surf.
“It’s one of the crazier beach breaks I know of,” said Derek Raymond, 25, of San Francisco. “Ocean Beach has teeth.”
Waves come from all directions, with heights that range from 2 feet to 12 feet, and surfers have to paddle farther into the water to get to them, Farris said. Comparatively, the professionals faced waves ranging from 6 feet to 8 feet, crashing into the beach, at their last stop in Portugal, she said.
One competitor, Dillon Perillo, said he likes the juxtaposition of city lights and ocean surf Ocean Beach offers.
“I just think the city of San Francisco is really cool. It’s a lot different from a lot of places you surf,” said Perillo, a wild-card entrant, which means his scores will not count.
Aside from The City’s frigid water temperatures and riptides, San Francisco and surfing’s biggest competition are unlikely bedfellows for another reason.
San Francisco’s surf community fancies itself somewhat less commercial than the Pro Search competition, which is rife with corporate sponsors and expected to draw thousands of spectators.
“I guess San Francisco considers itself more an underground surf scene,” said David Murton, 49, of Sausalito.