I’ve been on many beaches, possibly upwards of hundreds. As a surfer and avid traveler, my bare feet have padded across so many sandy dunes that it’s hard to remember them all. However, I’ve never been as mystified or enchanted by any beach like I am by “The Beach,” which has been my backyard in San Francisco for almost three years.
Ocean Beach, San Francisco…aka The Beach. To most of the city, it’s a lifeless land of wind, fog, and quiet, over-paved streets. In a city known for its dynamism and vibrant culture, why would one want to live in a neighborhood that has the worst weather in an already tempermental California urban climate, with what seems to be nothing going on?
As a proud Beach resident, I am always reminding people of the unexplored joys of The Beach. While my neighborhood is technically called the Outer Sunset, I think that the neighborhood is so dominated by The Beach that its entire identity is eclipsed by it. With the hills jutting up from the Beach, almost every household has a view of the Pacific. You need to get over a dozen blocks away from The Beach to avoid getting sand blown into your house. The onshore winds likewise blow the sound of the pounding surf up the hills into open windows. The Beach is everywhere, and amidst the cool cafes, parks, and cultural vibes, it’s the best and most definitive part of the area.
The Beach fluctuates between extremes. It can epitomize California surfing and beach-going perfection, with waves that are worthy of surfing magazine covers and glorious, sunny days that bring the crowds out to sunbathe en masse. It can also be home to some of the most unfriendly and punishing waves on the planet, and when shrouded in wind and fog it is one of the most aggressively uninviting places imaginable. Its bi-polarity is a big part of what makes it so intriguing, and representative of our city as a whole. We’re renowned for being a progressive hub of social harmony, and regularly live up to that reputation. However we are also home to a despicable and well-documented sex trade, and our neighborhoods on a micro-level are noticeably homogenous, just to name a few of our many black eyes in the city. The human creation that is San Francisco mirrors the complexity and energy of the natural creation that is our Western border, Ocean Beach.
Those who choose to live out here revel in the Beach’s tempestuous personality. It takes a special breed to like living out here, and those that do, love it. Possibly because on a personal level, they too wrestle with the extremes that rock and roll our beloved Ocean Beach. Who knows. What I do know, is that I love it out here.