Ralphs is one of the few boat-in spots in San Diego. Ralphs is also one of longest and highest quality waves in the region, offering tapered right hand walls. It is a bit of a mission to get out there, and you certainly can't expect to be alone—on a good weekend expect 20- 30 boats anchored near the lineup. Don't let the crowd bum you out though because Ralph's really is worth a visit.
What Makes It Great
Ralphs is great for two reasons: 1) the quality of the wave, and 2) the adventure required to get a surf.
You will get out there and forget you are two miles from one of the largest cities in California. Ralph's is also unique because it is the mouth of port of entry for any Naval ships coming into San Diego, so lookout for aircraft carriers. Looking up at a aircraft carrier from sea level will seriously blow your mind.
In terms of the surf, expect long rides that peel along the base of a cliff. The wave allows for multiple turns and even the odd barrel section. Ralph's is known as a south swell spot, but it's rumored that with enough west in any swell it can get good. Mid-tide is best, and try to get out there at odd times to avoid the crowd. Avoid going out there with south wind as it will be blown out. Fall is the best season for Ralphs as we still get south swells and there is generally a minimal amount of wind.
Author note: By no means is Ralphs the only “boat-in” spot in this region. Don’t be afraid to go “around the corner,” for some winter time classics.
Who is Going to Love It
Drunk fisherman, rich locals, normal surfers with rich, boat-owning friends. In all seriousness if you can hitch a ride out to Ralph's, do it! It is a fun diversion from the normal cycle of surfing. You'll have fun whether you’re fishing, surfing, or drinking a few beers in the channel. Ralph's also suits many different styles of surfers, and longboards and short boards will all find a place in the lineup. It is not a wave that is dangerous or sketchy so beginners can snag a few turns as well.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Do your best to not step on land! There are a few military installations out here, and they don’t like surfers getting in the way. There is a hefty fine and if you are really ignorant, you could find yourself having a longer-than-desired talk with Homeland Security. I’ve never heard of a shark attack out there but this is one of the only places in California I have had a no-joke shark interaction.
Launching the boat from Shelter Island is your closest entry. It is only a mile or two from the slip, so give yourself about twenty minutes before you are snagging waves at one of the best waves in San Diego.