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Ocean Beach at sunrise
Aerial view of the Ocean Beach neighborhood at Taraval Street
Ocean Beach looking north, with the Cliff House and Seal Rock visible at the top

Ocean Beach is a beach that runs along the west coast of San Francisco, California, United States, at the Pacific Ocean. It is adjacent to Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District and the Sunset District. The Great Highway runs alongside of the beach, and the Cliff House and the site of the former Sutro Baths sits at the northern end. The beach is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and operated by the National Park Service.

The beach throughout the late spring and summer is almost always enveloped in San Francisco's characteristic foggy weather leaving average temperatures there at 50 - 55 °F (9 - 12 °C), thus scaring away many tourists and beach goers. Conversely, the beach is popular with surfers, campers and bonfire parties. More beach-friendly weather occurs in late fall and early spring, when the fog dissipates.

The water at Ocean Beach is noteworthy for its strong currents and fierce waves, which makes it popular among many serious surfers. The water is also quite cold, due to a process known as upwelling, in which frigid water from below the ocean surface rises up to replace the surface water that moves away from the beach as a result of the Coriolis effect. The rapid rip currents and cold water make the ocean dangerous for casual swimmers or even for those who simply want to set foot in it, and many swimmers have been swept away and drowned as a result. Nevertheless, this still attracts many surfers, making it one of the bay area's top surfing spots.

Surfers and other swimmers have died at Ocean Beach; as of May 2006, the most recent death is documented here [1] with the next-previous death taking place in January 2006 [2]. Prior to that, it had been about four years since anyone died at Ocean Beach. In 1998, a record seven people lost their lives here[3].

The Ocean Beach surfing community is equipped with four of their own surf shops, several popular beach-themed cafes, as well as scores of local surfers devoted to its cold water and dangerous break.

Seal Rock is a prominent local feature of the area.

Third Eye Blind's "Motorcycle Driveby" was written about this beach.



The shipwreck of The King Philip in May 2007

Due in part to its sometimes inhospitable weather (high winds, cold weather and fog) the area was largely undeveloped throughout most of San Francisco's early history as it was known as the "Outside Lands". Development finally came in the late-19th century with a steam railroad was in place by 1884 to bring people to the first amusement ride at the City’s ocean side — a "Gravity Railroad" roller coaster, and to the Ocean Beach Pavilion for concerts and dancing. By 1890 there were trolley lines to Ocean Beach: the Ferries and Cliff House Railroad, the Park & Ocean Railroad and the Sutro Railroad that encouraged commercial amusement development as a trolley park. [1] The Cliff House, which opened in 1863, and Sutro Baths, which opened in 1896, drew thousands of visitors. [2]

Following a brief stint as a refugee camp after the 1906 earthquake, the area was touted as a resort, as a small amusement park, Playland at the Beach, was built where Cabrillo and Balboa streets now stands. Major development occurred in the 1920s and 1930s with the construction of the Great Highway, the Sunset District and the Richmond District that extended right up to the beach. After the destruction of the Sutro Baths in the 1960s, the neighborhood lost its resort appeal as the amusement park was also torn down in 1972 and replaced by apartment blocks and a supermarket in the 1990s.

On Jan. 25, 1878, the King Philip, a three-masted clipper ship drifted onto Ocean Beach and foundered. From time to time, the wreckage of the ship still emerges from the sands just offshore, most recently re-appearing in May 2007. Prior to that, its last appearances were in 1980 [4], 1983 [5], and 1984 [6].

San Francisco Ocean Beach during sunset, October 2007. Photo from northern end of beach adjacent from Golden Gate Park. The Seal Rock and Cliff House are visible in the distance on the right.

See also


  1. ^ Amusing America, San Francisco Public Library online exhibit, Sept 2006. Accessed 7 August 2007.
  2. ^ Beldner, Ray Public Art: Playland Revisited. Access 7 August 2007.

External links

Coordinates: 37°45′34″N 122°30′39″W / 37.75944°N 122.51083°W / 37.75944; -122.51083



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