I'll be the first to admit it, I never thought I would go night surfing. I always had this inkling that the night is when all the scary monsters come out and see what's floating around for dinner. But when we began our quest to surf 100 days in a row, between managing work schedules, timing the tides and keeping track of the sunrises and sunsets...it all became a little much and we quickly realized that sometimes surfing good waves would mean night surfing (to be fair it was really early morning surfing, think 3-4am). Over 3-4 months, I would estimate we went out 20+ times in total darkness. Sometimes surfing until sunrise, sometimes heading home just as other surfers came. Here are some key points I learned, some of them the hard way.
A while back, I heard of some crazy surfers in Pleasure Point wearing glow sticks so they could night surf, one of our friends even said once they went to go night surf, but saw so many glow sticks in the water that they turned back - too busy. At the time, I thought that was pretty silly, I mean who needs to surf in the dark? After going out in the dark the first time or two, we realized it would be really great to be able to keep track of each other, and to be able to see when one person is on a wave and the other is paddling out. Not to mention, the spot we were surfing mostly attracted a handful of folks before daylight hours, and we at least wanted to be visible to them so we didn't get nailed on the paddle back out.
After using disposable glow sticks a couple times, I really wanted to stop throwing away that glowy toxic goo, so we invested in some LED waterproof dive lights that we just clipped onto our front zippers - they are also much brighter, last a very long time, and we can turn them off and on as needed. We dubbed our group, wait for it....the glow stick gang.
As a pro, everyone in the water quickly came to recognize when we were out in the water from our lights, in pitch black we'd hear people yelling hello to us! There are also a couple cons to consider... I did wonder if lights attract sharks (ice fishermen tie glow lights onto their lures to bait fish so..), but there are so many lights reflecting off the water down near the harbor already that it didn't bother me too much, and if I got freaked out for a sec I just covered my light or turned it off while I was waiting for waves. And another possible downside, when you see glowing green lights lapping waves on the surfline cam...you know that the waves are good and that night surfing is a thing there, so more people may join you. We were not exactly in a secret spot so this wasn't a huge deal either. I would say the biggest risk is getting made fun of, although people overall seemed oddly impressed by our lights.
I can't say if it is true of every location, but one of the main reasons we ended up surfing super early is because the wind usually dies down, and regardless of the tide the waves usually range from ok to amazing. It is also a super mellow place, with a nice sandy bottom, in a quiet little bay. The place we picked is also pretty shallow, has very small surf, is in town, and it's somewhere we surf so often that we could catch waves in our sleep (or the dark).
It's extremely important that you pick a spot you're super comfortable at, and that you know the waves, your ability level and are cool with accepting all the risks that your area may present to you. I would also recommend always going with a friend, even in the mellowest breaks, you never know when you might need a little help (plus you can spot waves for each other, they come real quick in the dark).
To be honest, this was my biggest concern. I never 100% got over the idea that sharks may be lurking (as they always might be), but the dark really did accentuate that vibe at times. One thing I did to ease my fears, warranted or not, was to watch the movie Saving Jaws, it really helped me see sharks in a new light, and I realized how brainwashed I had been by the media and their portrayal of bloodthirsty monsters looking to eat people. Humans kill more than 100,000,000 sharks a year, and they are set to go extinct in the next 20 years if we continue at this rate. Shark fin soup in China is a huge problem, and often sharks are caught by accident by fishing vessels - who usually just kill them or cut off their fins to sell, and leave them to die (completely brutal and terrible). I highly recommend watching Saving Jaws, it will leave you with a new respect and maybe even love for these apex predators, and how we need them to keep living life as we know it.
All the shark goodness aside, I still got nervous sometimes. I created a mantra for myself that I recited when I was nervous. It goes like this, "We are creatures of the night, and we are meant to co-exist peacefully together." Long, I know, but it reminded me that I also belonged there, and we could all peacefully coexist under the stars in the sea, together. Once I forgot to recite that mantra and I had what I like to call the Sea Badger Experience.
What happened was my surf partner let out a ear piercing squeal, to which I asked what happened!? He said, it was a sea otter! I laughed. A cute little otter scared him, haha. But then, the otter popped up a foot away from me and HONKED SO LOUD incessantly, getting closer and closer. It. Was. Terrifying. I thought it was going to attack me, and I barely caught a wave on my belly to get away while it chased me to shore. I know now that it was pupping season, and it was probably trying to keep us away from a nearby baby we didn't know about. Still.
All the creature stories aside, I truly believe in trusting your instincts. There were a couple times that I called it quits rather early, because I just had a really weird vibe. Once I felt something bump my surfboard, and I was done. Once I just felt really weird, and we went in after about 20 mins. If you aren't feeling it, listen to your gut and get outta there. There are always more waves, more days/nights to surf, and more fun to be had.
Overall, night surfing gave us some of the best waves of the 100 days, and I can't count the times we rode our bikes back just as the sun was rising talking about all the waves we caught and how good it was! There is something so primal about floating in the water, under the moon and stars, watching for shadows on the horizon. It's incredibly peaceful in my experience. Just play it conservatively, follow your instincts, and do what you're comfortable with.