A few years ago Shawn Hartje invited me and a large group of surfers and kayakers to camp at the Point Reyes Wildcat campground and surf Double Point. Shawn emailed a few photos he took of Double Point which looked decent but was too far and high up the cliff to get a good perspective. I recalled my sea kayak trip 25 years earlier and was really interested to go back. My only concern was the logistics of hiking the camping and paddling gear 5+ miles. My first recon was to mountain bike in to Wildcat from Five Brooks about 1 month before the trip. Itâs a gradual 1300 foot climb up the Stewart trail but somewhat steep coming down to Wildcat campground. Needless to say the scenery is pretty spectacular on a clear day.
The map lists the distance as 6.7 miles from Five Brooks to Wildcat, then another 1.1 miles to Alamere Falls, just north of Double Point. Shawn hiked in from Five Brooks using a jogging stroller with 300lbs of gear, food and drink. I bagged the trip because of bad weather. They were not able to surf Double Point because of the big surf and lack of beach to launch at Alamere Falls. But they did get one day of good breach break in front of Wildcat.
Last spring I did a river kayak trip with Shawn and he told me he was going to reserve Wildcat again for late summer and hope for a south swell. As it turned out one of the better south swells of the summer hit that weekend, but only two kayakers were able to go and I was not one of them. Norwood Scott and Scott Kazmar said it was good overhead surf but a little spooky because of the heavy fog and thick kelp in late summer. They also had a raccoon raid their camp and steal a lot of food. They hiked into Wildcat from Palo Marin which is 5.5 miles and relatively flat. I got some more gear preparing for this trip but something came up with the kids so I was not able to go again.
After board surfing Palo Marin a few times and seeing how close Double Point appeared, I pulled it up on Google Maps for a better look. According to the map the distance by water is less than 2 miles from the Palo Marin beach access. I told my brother with the right swell we should try to paddle in with wave skies, surf it and paddle out. After an early wet start to winter here in Northern California, January has been very dry and now warm. When I saw this big swell on the charts and the nice weather forecast I knew it was time to give it a try. They only question was if it would be possible to get off the beach at Palo Marin in this size swell for the two mile paddle north to Double Point.
Saturday morning Ed picked me up at 6am and we drove to Bolinas. The waning moon was setting as it was starting to get light at Palo Marin. The waves were breaking two to three hundred yards offshore on sets with multiple breaks in between. On the cliff above it looked possible to get outside between sets but we were not so sure when we got down to the beach and watch another set roll through. We both decided to paddle with a camel back full of water and an energy bar for the long day ahead. We planned to walk Â¼ to Â½ mile down the beach before it cliffed out and then we would have to paddle. The tide was low and rising and the surf was 10 feet plus on sets. We decided to just paddle right from the trail down since there was a clear route during the lull and we couldnât be washed into the cliff from here. Fortunately the paddle out during the lull was uneventful, I barely got my head wet. We could see multiple inside rock shelves breaking on the paddle to Double Point. The Point Reyes buoy was 9 feet at 17 seconds from about 290 degrees. There was a small secondary wind swell on top and a light head wind from the north. It was less than one hour before we were close enough to see the right off the north end and a possible left on the south end. Neither looked that great from a distance. I jumped on the first 8 to 10 foot right and surfed about 150 yards toward the north end of the cove, Ed caught a wave right after me. The north end of the cove was easy to land and get out. We took the camel backs off, drank some water, ate an energy bar and watch the conditions for about 10 minutes. The right peeled some off the point, backed off some and peeling again but was somewhat irregular and mushy but glassy, consistent and running one to two hundred yards into the cove. The wave didnât break outside unless it was a few feet over head and some waves were approaching double overhead.
I paddled out and caught multiple waves in the 8 to 12 foot range before Ed decided to join me. Just as Ed was reaching the far outside a wave approaching triple overhead arrived. Ed took off but I wasnât far enough out. I turned and paddled in as an 8 foot wall of white on top of the swell bared down. I was able to stay upright to avoid a trashing and get off the wave as it backed off inside before the reform. We paddled back out got a few more 8 to 12 foots before a second much larger set approached. Ed scored another nice ride and I got the one right after as the waves closed out across the cove but backed off toward the inside. Paddling back out a third set possible bigger caught us inside. We both rolled under the first wave and got trashed, rolled up and paddled toward shore as the large wall of white water thrust us inside. Ed and I were both being pushed toward the rocky south end of the cove. The safest spot was probably the middle of the cove where the water was recycling back out to sea. We decided to end the surf session but someone had to retrieve the camelbacks.
I paddled in as Ed waited for a lull to paddle out beyond the break. The short hour or so session was fun but the larger set pummeling was making the paddle home appear more strenuous than we wanted it to be. I retrieved the camel backs, waited for a lull and joined Ed on the far outside. The forecast was for the wind to increase from the north for a tail wind home, but the wind was almost dead calm. We thought about surfing some of the rocky shelves coming in but didnât want to get caught by any more clean-up sets. When we got close to the trail up the cliff, I caught a wave way outside and rode a shoulder for over two hundred yards then straighten out as it close for the last one hundred yards to the beach. A handful of surfs on the cliff said it was one of the better waves they saw come through. I was lucky to slide right into it after paddling two miles south non-stop from Double Point. I might be worth another attempt with a smaller swell and low to medium tide.
Point Reyes aerial photos
Point Reyes Map