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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Photos: For Rip Curl Pro Search, Ocean Beach Has Its Day in the Sun

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Ocean Beach on Wednesday, the last day of the Rip Curl Pro Search contest
  • Ocean Beach on Wednesday, the last day of the Rip Curl Pro Search contest

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.

Almost as fun to watch as the pros was the amateur sideshow happening off-peak: Swarms of recreational surfers -- many of them extremely talented -- ventured into the waters on either side of the main event pavilion to take advantage of the good waves. Then there was the competition atmosphere itself: Photographers and fans lined up along the beach, bracketed to the north by vistas of Cliff House and the Marin Headlands, and to the south by the Peninsula's dramatic shoreline.

Today Ocean Beach was fogged in again, as though to help its residents keep their dirty little secrets: The weather isn't really that bad. The restaurants are good and inexpensive. In a city that prides itself on distinctive neighborhoods, this curious enclave of surfers, Chinese, and Russians has one of the last great neighborhood feels. So head on back to Ocean Beach some time when the weather's good -- just please don't drive the rents up.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post erroneously stated that Kelly Slater won Rip Curl Search and that the contest ended Wednesday. Slater was announced the world champion based on points Wednesday in the Association of Surfing Professionals tour, and the Search contest will continue on days to be determined prior to November 12.

Photos by Peter Jamison

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