Good friend and former radio colleague Damon Bruce recently had a book published titled The Great Book of San Francisco Bay Area Sports Lists, which is a great read if you're a fan of sports, Northern California, and especially both. Within the book are sections with contributions from guest writers, and they all provide great lists to read, ponder and question. One of those posts is headlined, "Ten Most Extreme Outdoor Destinations by Cyrus Saatsaz". Below is the complete text of the section. You can find Damon's book on Amazon, it's a great gift idea for Father's Day and an entertaining, casual read for the Northern California sports fan.
Note: Host of one of the nation’s longest running radio shows that deals exclusively with Action Sports, Cyrus Saatsaz was engulfed in the outdoor scene years before the X-Games brought the fringe into our living room. You can catch Cyrus chatting with a “who’s who” list of extreme athletes on his show, “The Extreme Scene” as well as working as an action-sports freelance writer. My man Cyrus lives life like a Mountain Dew commercial, and is more qualified to write this than anyone I’ve ever met. As he says: In short, Northern California is home to anything and everything for the outdoor enthusiast. It’s one of the many reasons why San Francisco’s populace is considered one of the healthiest in the country, and why real estate prices never seem to drop. Surf? World class. Snow? A vast collection of resorts to choose from. Skate? The Mecca lies within. Trails? Hundreds, if not thousands, of miles worth of terrain. There’s something for everyone; beginner to advanced, fun or challenging, relaxing or straight extreme. Northern California has it all. And here are ten of the reasons why Northern California is considered the top destination for extreme outdoor enthusiasts.
10. Fort Point. There are very few places in the world where you feel like living in the land of giants. The Golden Gate Bridge looms massively-large above, mammoth container ships cruise by, and meanwhile you’re trying to avoid a huge rock protruding the middle of an amazing left that can peel forever. The locals here can be downright nasty and mean, but if you can handle yourself, and the feeling that you’re an ant surrounded by elephants, Fort Point can be an exciting adventure with gratifying results.
9. Bicycle Trip Bike Park. Located across the street from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, this savvy bike park allows BMXers to practice all sorts of tricks, maneuvers and aerials within safe confines. Residents and tourists alike are dazzled daily by the insane stunts pulled from the BMX daredevils.
8. Mt. Tam. If your idea of having to take a boat or ferry to an island just to hike or mountain bike doesn’t sound appealing, then a short distance away in Marin County lies Mt. Tam. Home to over 60 miles of hiking and bicycle trails, not to mention breathtaking views, Mt. Tam is both beautiful and challenging. And outdoor-lovers dream.
7. Mavericks. One of the top big-wave destinations in the world would rank higher on this list, except only the most advanced of surfers can actually catch and ride these gigantic and very dangerous waves. Jeff Clark first discovered Mavericks and surfed it alone for 15 years before other surfers finally believed him and saw for themselves what Northern California’s natural wonder had to offer. The Mavericks Surf Contest is held annually (unless ideal conditions fail to present themselves), and you can visit Jeff at his surf shop in Half Moon Bay, located just inland from the legendary big-wave surf location.
6. Angel Island. Once used as an immigration station, Angel Island today is home to over 13 miles of foot trails, and 8 miles of spectacular bike trails. Angel Island offers a wide array of difficulty levels, and is considered a favorite of many mountain bikers. Plus the views of San Francisco are sensational.
5. Ocean Beach. A stretch of land measuring approximately 3.5 miles in length, one must never worry about crowds when surfing San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Rather, one must worry about nasty rip currents, cold weather, and shore breaks. This is not the spot for the novice surfer. If, however, you desire a challenging spot with no one around you to crowd your space, Ocean Beach is the place for you. And the waves, while heavy and large most of the time, can be amazingly perfect under the right conditions.
4. Squaw Valley USA. All Alexander Cushing, who opened Squaw Valley USA in 1949, had to present to the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1955 was “the idea of a California valley with an annual snowfall of 450 inches, and a downhill event with areas that had never even been schussed successfully." Cushing’s words were enough for the committee, and in 1960 Squaw Valley USA was home not just to the Winter Olympics, but also the first televised Winter Olympics. Yes, Squaw Valley is that good. Wide, vast terrain. Steep, crazy drops. Amazing quality of snow. And history. One of the top snowboard and ski destinations in the world.
3. Downtown San Francisco. The “Mecca” for skateboarders, the entire downtown area of the city is, in essence, one enormous skate park. A concrete jungle of steps, rails, jumps and kickers. Novices beware; the steep hills of San Francisco are not for you. This is the ultimate destination for the core skater, and home of Thrasher Magazine. Update: The crackdown is on in San Francisco.
2. Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Out of all the Lake Tahoe destinations, Kirkwood Mountain Resort offers hands-down the best snow. Coupled with smaller crowds and extremely challenging runs (there are plenty of blues and greens as well), Kirkwood is numero uno among Tahoe’s class of ski resorts. Because of the topography of the region, snow here falls heavier and is drier, thus creating the kind of powder snowboarders and skiers dream of. It’s a little out of the way, but remains the top destination when looking for overall quality of snow and terrain.
1. Santa Cruz. During the summer the weather is outstanding. And after the morning marine layers burn away, even the winter can provide sunshine and warmth for everyone. Yet the weather isn’t the reason why Santa Cruz tops the list of the most extreme outdoor destinations. It’s the world-class surf. In fact, the city of Santa Cruz is embattled to this day with Huntington Beach, CA over the label “Surf City” because of the quality of surf, and the numerous different breaks surfers can choose from. If you want some of the most ridiculously perfect waves, you can go to the west side and surf Steamer’s Lane, or head east and ride the appropriately-named Pleasure Point. The local temperament isn’t what one should be worried about when you’re in the water: It’s trying to actually catch waves. The locals are just that good, so much so that the challenge is simply paddling hard enough to get proper positioning. And if you’re a beginner, Cowell’s is one of the premier beginner spots, with long, gentle waves anyone can catch.