A Stroll Through San Franciscos Ocean Beach

A Stroll Through San Francisco's Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach

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Ocean Beach from Sutro Garden. CC BY 2.0
Source: Flickr: sadsnaps

Sunny San Francisco?

Through conversations with people who have never been to San
Francisco, it seems that people have the notion that the city falls into the
“Sunny California All-Year ‘Round” label, where people lounge on the beach and
wade in calm warm waters of the Pacific.

While this can be somewhat true, San Francisco’s
Ocean Beach
is known by residents to be cold, foggy, and gray. But regardless of how hot or how cold it is
outside, the ocean itself is too cold for comfort. The reason for this is due to the replacement
of the extremely cold water below the ocean’s surface with the surface water
that recedes from the beach, which also known as upwelling. The temperature of the waters at Ocean Beach is an average of 47°F (8°C). Because of the cold temperatures of the water
mixed with heavy rip currents, it is unfortunate to report that many people have
been swept away, drowned, or died from hypothermia. Because of
this, and the fact that no lifeguards are on duty, many people avoid taking a

Warning Sign

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Rip Currents. CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: Flickr: candiedwomanire

But just because it’s not recommended for the average person to swim there, it doesn’t mean it is not allowed. Because of the high waves and strong rip currents, many people can be found surfing, windboarding, and kite surfing, and it is recognized as one of California’s most attractive spots for such water sports. Local residents can be found on the shore hosting small bonfire parties, exercising their dogs on- and off-leash, jogging, playing Frisbee golf, cleaning up litter, eating at restaurants off of Great Highway, biking, and much more. September and October seem to be the sunniest months that draw many people to the beach for sunbathing and walks on the shoreline.

Ocean Beach Sunset

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Ocean Beach Sunset. CC BY 2.0
Source: Flickr: kevinkrejci

The Outside Lands

Before the mid-late 1800’s, Ocean Beach was bordered by sand dunes
and had very little roads or transportation.
But because of the California Gold Rush, San
Francisco had an influx of residents and decided that
“The Outside Lands” could be used to expand the city. Development of the steam railroad gave people
an opportunity to head west into The Outside Lands, now known as the Richmond
and Sunset districts, and turn it into inhabitable land. In the early 1870’s, Golden
Gate Park and
additional roads were engineered, which brought thousands of people
westward. In 1884, “Gravity Railroad”
roller coaster was the first amusement ride at the Playland at the Beach
amusement park near the Ocean Beach Pavilion which was used for concerts,
dancing, and partying. One of the most popular treats, the “It’s It” ice cream sandwich, was made and sold at the Playland and is still a popular dessert in the Bay Area. Then the
additions of the Cliff House in 1863 and the Sutro-Baths in 1896 drew in
thousands of tourists, and in turn, made The Outside Lands a popular San
Francisco resort. The ruins of Sutro Baths continue to
draw in tourists to Ocean Beach

Sutro Bath Ruins

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Ruins of Sutro Baths. CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: Flickr: nerdcoregirl

On another interesting note, 20 ships were shipwrecked on Ocean Beach between 1850-1926. The most popular one is the King Philip
clipper ship, which was shipwrecked on Ocean Beach in 1878. Since then, the ruins of the shipwreck
infrequently emerge from the sand and can be seen just offshore. If you want to be the next person to capture
the King Philip, head down the beach directly west from Ortega
Street and be lucky enough to go when the tide is
extremely low to see the hull of the King Philip sticking out of the sand. The last sighting of the King Philip was in
May 2007.

For maps and visitor information, please see: http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/ocean-beach.html