San Francisco's selection as the home of the 2011 Rip Curl Pro Search surfing competition delighted surf enthusiasts throughout the Bay Area. Ocean Beach has long been a holy site among surfers. (One of the finest journalistic takes on surf culture was a 1992 New Yorker story about OB.) But the city's brisk climate and Ocean Beach's reputation for strenuous going -- the break can be challenging for veterans and forbidding to novices -- means San Francisco has never attained surf-town status similar to that of Santa Cruz or San Diego.
Of course, things are slightly different out at Ocean Beach, which, loosely construed as the final blocks of the Outer Richmond and Outer Sunset, has a feel in some ways more akin to that of a California surf town than of San Francisco as a whole. Never did this seem truer than on the first few days of the contest earlier this week, as a prolonged Indian summer and fortuitous winds and swells made OB seem like -- well, like one of those warm and sunny places people usually go surfing.
The contest itself has been a blast to watch. The spectacle of Ocean Beach's powerful waves matched with the best surfers in the world held an audience rapt along the shoreline Wednesday. Kelly Slater, 39, wrapped up this year's world title -- only to have his victory later called into question -- and extended his remarkably long-lived dominance of the sport.