Gravels is the most northern section of the more consistent Salt Creek surf area and is generally considered to be more of a bodyboard spot…or at least most of the Salt Creek surfers wish they could herd the spongers into a semi-contained area over that way.
The wave at gravels is one of those classic deep-water-to-shallow-water set ups where the waves get a near clear shot at the beach. Basically the wave is semi-shorebreak at the best of times and breaking almost, if not directly on the sand on the average days. You can actually get a little lefthand section if the swell mix is correct but Gravels is usually considered a right. The wave is a borderline closeout but it can throw a decent hollow section when you have some swell in the water. I am not sure how it originally got the name gravels but it definitely fits…a few of the times I have tried to surf it over the years have left me with a bunch of grit in my ears and some sanded off patches of skin.
As I mentioned in the Salt Creek overview this is where a lot of surfmag covers have been shot…the lighting is good, the water is blue and clear (but not necessarily clean), and the high cliffs knock down a lot of the wind. It is also a short easy swim to set up some in-the-barrel water shots.
Gravels is at its best on a decent W swell or a good swell combo. It can work, and even work well, on a SW swell but it doesn’t really click like it does on the other better directions. Even when the wave is humming along expect it to be a fast, hollow section that is better suited for bodyboarding and bodysurfing. That being said some of the deepest barrels I have ever seen at Gravels where by a couple of little kids on 9’0” longboards…go figure.
Best swell direction: W (270-280) and a combo of SW (190-210) and W swell. It likes short-period W windswells when they have enough power.
Best Wind: NE-E, light-moderate winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand, with some larger particulate…lets just call it gravel for arguments sake.
Best Season: Fall, Winter, and early Spring
Crowds: Moderate…but it can turn into bodyboard chaos when you get a decent swell on the weekend.