If you’re looking for the best destinations to surf in California, you’ve come to the right place. From the northern beaches of San Francisco to the southern shores of San Diego, there are plenty of great spots to catch some waves. In this article, Tavik will share our top picks for the best places to surf in California.
California Surfing Conditions
California offers year-round surfing opportunities. It is one of the most popular surfing spots in the world and also has the oldest surf spot in the US.
Since 1885, California waves have been ridden. California surfing can be divided up between the three coasts: North Coast and Central Coast.
The South Coast (also known as SoCal) runs from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. The Central Coast runs from Santa Cruz to Ventura County. The North Coast runs from the Oregon border to San Francisco.
The North Coast is the most remote and sparsely populated area. The conditions can sometimes be chaotic.
Best Time to Surf in California
California has many great surfing spots. You’ll find amazing waves and breaks wherever you go, no matter what time of year you visit. Sometimes, you may just need a thicker suit.
The Southern Coast boasts the best waves all year, with consistent and high-quality waves. Winter and fall are the best months for the best waves. But, it’s possible to have great waves at any time of the year.
Surfing Gear You’ll Need in California
Although California is very warm all year, surfing will still require you to wear a wetsuit. The south coast’s temperature ranges between 55 and 65 degrees in winter and summer.
Surfing in cold water below 65 degrees Celsius without a wetsuit is dangerous and you will not last long.
A wet suit is essential for surfing. To keep your body warm, you may need a wetsuit hood and wetsuit booties. California offers a wide range of gear that you can rent, but it is also possible to bring your own equipment and board.
Best Places to Surf in California
1. Best California Surf Spots Beginners:
Asilomar State Beach
Monterey County’s Asilomar State Beach is another location that has marine life. This calm beach has safe surf and plenty of waves to make it a great place to spend some time in the water.
You should expect northeast wind, southwest wind, low tide, and low tide to provide optimal conditions. For all your needs, visit Route One Surfboards or On The Beach Surf Shop.
Mavericks in Half Moon Bay
Mavericks, Half Moon Bay is the best place to go to ride big waves in Northern California. Jeff Clark, a big-wave surfer, is well-known for surfing Mavericks in the 1990s. The first surf contest was held in the area in 1999. It continues to attract surfers who can ride waves up to 60 feet high. Can you say cowabunga, dude?
This surfing spot offers you a great opportunity to push your limits. Mavericks has consistent surf with the best conditions for winter. You should aim to surf with west-northwest winds and east offshore winds.
Pismo State Beach
Surfing in California can not be lacking the name of Pismo. Pismo is a great place to explore the Central Coast. This popular spot in the south county is less than 15 miles away from San Luis Obispo’s green hills. It is also well-known for its small-town charm and walkable beaches.
Pismo Beach has consistent surf. However, it is best to visit during winter. For the best ride, look for northwest swells and northeast winds. To stock up on more gear, stop by Pancho’s Surf Shop and Pismo Beach Surf Shop.
Cardiff Reef, Encinitas
This beautiful SoCal location is known simply as ‘Cardiff’. It produces consistent, smooth waves all year. The flat, shallow Cardiff Reef produces waves of all sizes. Even if you are an amateur, those tiny peaks will help to balance you and teach you the basics. The pipe is a nearby break that’s reliable and less crowded.
Oceanside Pier, San Diego
The Oceanside Pier is one of the best surfing beaches in California. It offers a reliable beach break year-round, with great waves on both ends of the point. Bring a longboard if you are surfing at high tide. The waves can be mushy. Low tide can bring biggish barrels.
Palos Verdes’ The Cove, Los Angeles County
Between Haggerty’s Bay and Lunada Bay, the Cove appears. This is a left-hand longboard wave that’s slow and reminiscent of San Onofre. The rollers are very slow and not steep. It was once 10 to 12 feet high, but it is now only 6-8 feet. It is possible to ride a quarter-mile, but it is not very interesting. The Best Season to surf is winter break in the western swell.
The ideal Spots is The Cove, Portuguese Bend. There is nothing to be worried about Currents and Rips
Nevertheless, it was a long, exhausting climb down the steep cliff to reach the beach. This was a popular spot for old-timers who surf.
Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles County
South Bay has located approximately 13 miles south of Santa Monica. When it comes to waves, this is a typical beach break, with good spots offering rights and lefts depending upon which side you’re on. Waves as high as 4 to 5 feet, and sometimes 6 to 7 feet.
Winter is the best time to do this. It can break on occasion during summer, but generally, it doesn’t. This place has the most popular surf spots in California, including the Redondo Breakwater, Pier Avenue and 22nd St.Currents and Rips are not a problem. There is one thing to take note of is that all beaches in South Bay are identical.
2. Best Spots for Expert Surfers
Newport Beach, located in Orange County is well-known for its luxurious lifestyle and abundance of surfing opportunities.
You can test your limits in these waters by getting on your surfboard and paddling out to the many surf areas such as The Wedge, 56th Street or Santa Ana River Jetties.
Best conditions are found with a southeast-southwest wind and a northeast offshore breeze. Surfside Sports or The Frog House Surf Shop are great places to stock up on equipment.
La Jolla‘s rich surfing history dates back to 1937, when Woody Brown, a legendary surfer, first attempted this famous reef break. Windansea Beach in the city offers unpredictability, with waves that can range from 2-10 feet.
The best waves are found during the summer when there is a southwest swell. This spot is ideal for experienced surfers. If you are just beginning, it may be a better choice to hit the calmer waves at La Jolla Shores.
Dana Point, Doheny Beach
Hobie Alter, who invent the foam-and-fiberglass surfing board manufacturing process, opened Doheny Beach’s first surf shop in 1954. It is considered the first Californian beach town and the first state beach. The Beach Boys sing its praises in Surfin’ USA.
The rock bottom creates deep, glassy breaks within 3-4 feet of the face. The jetty protects the shore from larger swells. This is the best place to learn surfing in California and a relaxed location for bonafide shredders.
Blacks Beach, San Diego
This is Torrey Pines City Beach, La Jolla. Here the Submarine Canyon creates the most insane swells in San Diego. These waves are hollow and curl with incredible speed and force.
Surfers are looking for tube spots in SoCal. This is where they can ride inside the barrel of breaking waves, completely encased within water. Although the swells are at their best in winter, it is almost always packed.
This destination is of the top of best beaches to surf in California.
Brooks Street Beach, Orange County
The beach is at the end of Oak Street, Laguna Beach. This is a great beach break that has good left-hand waves up to 10-12 feet. These waves can be surfed up to 14 feet high, but they start to close at around 14 feet. Along with lots of backwash, the wave wall up inside and breaks all along. It is quite straightforward to take off. It is best to eat in the summer.
You can take off by the little reef on your left side, where there are rocks. When the surf is larger, rocks will appear farther out.
About the Currents and Rips, when the surf is running, there will be a strong rip at the north end of the surfing area.
Somethings to note such as great surfing, hot doggers love this beach and the nearest surf spot to Yokahama Bay, Hawaii.
Seal Beach, Orange County
This well-known beach is six miles south of Long Beach. This is a well-shaped, pier-surf break that can provide waves up to 10 feet. All spots offer fast and excellent surfing. Expect a steep take-off with lots of backwashes. It is good all year, but it is best to go in the summer.
It is able to pick up north, south, and western swells. There are some spots there including 13th Street, Pier, South reef jetty, and Another jetty created a new spot for surfing.
However, there are some things you should note. Most pier breaks allow you to surf in the pier. At Seal Beach, you can surf away from it. Warm water from the power station made it pleasant to surf, but the bottom was often covered in jellyfish and there were many stings.
Seal Beach does not pick up onshore wind as badly as many other places in Southern California. The population is growing and it is quite large.
Redondo Breakwater, Los Angeles County
South Bay is located next to Palos Verdes. This is a great beach break that offers surf of up to 10 feet. You will find a left-hand slide as well as a steep take-off. It is important to get in quickly.
The wave will eventually line up on you at the end. If you don’t make it out quickly, you will be wiped out. You will also experience a huge backwash. Winter is the best time in the year to enjoy surfing.
There are two impressive spots for surfing Sapphire St and Torrance St. You should note the strong rip at the breakwater’s north side. Ultimately, this is an excellent surfing experience.
3. Best place for all
The iconic Steamer Lane is located in Santa Cruz. It allows you to ride the waves of the Pacific with wildlife such as seals or sea otters. Surfers used to look for big waves along the “lane”, where steamships would arrive at the wharf. The area is still popular with surfers who are eager to shred the gnar, even though steamers have long since gone.
For experienced surfers, Steamer Lane is divided into four zones: The Point, Middle Peak, The Slot and Indicators. Cowell Beach is a safer option for beginners. You’re sure to have a blast, no matter what season it is. To get ready, stop by O’Neill Surf Shop or Cowell’s Beach Surf Shop.
Rincon Point is nestled between Ventura County and Santa Barbara County. It offers authentic surfing experiences. Rincon Point was named in The Beach Boy’s 1962 classic song “Surfin Safari”, and even featured in the original 1962 Beach Boy hit.
Three great surfing spots are available at this spot: Indicator, Rivermouth, or The Cove. You’ll find well-formed waves here and long rides. You can make the most out of your trip by going to low tide in winter when the swells are from the northwest and west.
San Onofre State Beach
San Onofre State Beach is located in San Clemente and offers a relaxed atmosphere that draws many longboarders. Kolohe Andino, Red Bull’s founder, is from this area. He has roots in San Clemente.
San Onofre State Beach has gentle waves as well as a variety of wave breaks such as Old Man’s, Dog Patch and Trestles Beach. Surfing roots of the beach go back to the 1920s when the camp was run by a fishing and surfing camp.
Summer south swells at the northern end of the beach produce the best waves. Old Man’s has gentle-rolling peaks while The Point offers more powerful waves.
Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach Pier, also known as Surf City USA is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. The Vans US Open of Surfing is held in Huntington. It attracts over 300 top-level surfers to the beach for nine days.
You’re in for a treat if you want to feel the waves firsthand. Huntington’s Pier helps to fight the ocean wind, making for a longer ride. You will also find waves from 3 to 12 feet on the beach. Look for winds from the northeast to get the best ride. Shane Beschen and Kelly Slater are among the top surfers in the region. Laird Hamilton and Jack O’Neill are also local pro surfers.
The international surfing hotspot of San Diego County is home to exceptional swells in the winter months. The Beach Boys even gave the beach a mention in their 1963 hit “Surfin’ USA.”
Swami’s is located at the southern end of Encinitas. It welcomes all levels of surfers, but experienced longboarders and short-boarders will benefit the most from its high-performance waves. This spot is ideal for surfers who prefer to ride in the west at lower tides. Before you hang 10, stop by Hansen Surfboards or Concept Surf Shop before you go.
Trestles, San Clemente
Trestles actually refer to a group of five mild reef breaks: Cottons, Uppers, Middles, Lowers, and Churches.
Lower Trestles has the best A-frame waves. This means that the wave breaks evenly from its middle. You can also drop it from left or right. The rocky bottom and winds create waves that break offshore and cruise to the beach.
It’s difficult to find. From the trailhead on Cristianitos Road near the San Diego Freeway, you can park your car and walk down an asphalt path to Trestles.
Expect to see some taunting graffiti by locals with phrases like “no kooks”, which basically means “no amateurs” on the trek to the beach.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Los Angeles
The long pointbreak at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, also known as Surfrider Beach, is a highlight of the state beach. The beach can be divided into three sections: the first, second, and third. These points are used to distinguish beginners from experts. The first point is popular with novices and longboarders.
These waves are smooth and rideable throughout the year. They are also regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world.
There are many great places to surf in California. The best place to surf depends on your level of experience, the type of waves you want to ride, and the time of year. Hopefully, our guide can help you choose the most suitable place for surf experience. Thank you for reading.