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The Best Surfing Spots In California

surfers at California beach

California surfing is world-famous and for good reason! With over 800 miles of Pacific coastline, the Golden State offers endless sunshine, year-round waves, and surfing for all levels. Come and experience the best surfing in California! It is an addiction for many Californians and people who visit from all over the world to ride the waves made famous by Kelly Slater, Kolohe Andino, Peter Mel, and many more. Surfing is even considered the official sport of the state and September 20th is known as “California Surfing Day”.

Follow in the footsteps of the Beach Boys and cruise up and down the West Coast riding waves in the state. We put together a list of some of the most iconic beach breaks and biggest waves for you. Rent a roadsurfer in Los Angeles and explore the best spots for surfing in California on a road trip!

Author: Annika Ziehen

Photo: Aldo Heubel

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The 7 Best Beaches for Surfing in California

1. Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Surfrider Beach is the birthplace of Malibu surf culture and has been an insanely popular spot since the 1950s. First, Second and Third Point offer world-class waves for advanced surfers.

The beach is considered the first World Surfing Reserve and even though it is no longer an insider tip, a visit here is a must when surfing in California.

After you’ve dried off, you can learn all about the surfing history of the region at the nearby Malibu Lagoon Museum.

Campground: Malibu Creek State Park Campground

2. Trestles, San Clemente

Park your roadsurfer at the San Onofre State Beach parking lot and take your board for a short hike to Trestles.

Trestles is home to several surf spots, most commonly Lower Trestles, a world-class spot.

The waves are unbelievably good, especially between December and May, and attract surfers from all over the world. If you want to keep up here, bring your shortboard and your best skills.

Beginners are better off hitting the water at Middles, Church or Cottons.

Campsite: San Mateo Campground

3. Windansea Beach, La Jolla

The break in La Jolla has been known in the surf scene since 1937 and is one of the most popular in San Diego County. At Windansea Beach the reef break is reliable and consistent throughout the entire year. The waves and water are easily comparable to Hawaii.

Surfing at Windansea does require some experience as the waves can be anywhere from 2- 10 feet. Even if you’re not surfing, it’s worth a visit to admire the famous Surf Shack.

Campground: Campland on the Bay

4. Swami’s, Encinitas

Encinitas is considered one of the best surf spots in the world and Swami’s is a real gem.

Even when the conditions are only ‘okay’, the breaks at Swami’s are above average and you’re guaranteed a few good rides. You don’t have to be a pro to surf here, but you should at least have moderate skills to fully enjoy the point break.

Unfortunately, it is always crowded, so you should follow the rules of the locals in order not to violate the prevailing surfing etiquette.

Campground: South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

5. Huntington Beach

Surfing history was and still is made at Huntington Beach. The “Surf City USA” is home to the Vans US Open of Surfing and the International Surfing Museum.

Follow in the footsteps of legends like Andy Irons and Kelly Slater and experience some of the best waves in California. If you want to buy your own board, head to Jack’s Surfboards, the most famous shop for surfers since 1957.

Campsite: Bolsa Chica Campground

6. Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur

Big Sur is not only scenically beautiful, but also a great spot for surfing away from the crowds in California.

Sand Dollar Beach is one of the longest and most beautiful beaches in Big Sur. The swell comes from all directions and even if the waves are not the best in California, the setting makes up for it. The water is turquoise blue and you have a great view of the Santa Lucia Mountains. In addition, the beach is big enough to offer both longboarders and shortboarders wave opportunities.

There’s plenty to do for non-surfers too, with small tide pools to splash around in and lots of wildlife to observe.

Campground: Plaskett Creek Campground

7. Mavericks, Half Moon Bay

If you are looking for the biggest waves, routinely reaching over 30 feet high, Half Moon Bay is the place to be. The waves were named Mavericks after the dog of a famous local surfer, Jeff Clark. They became more famous through the film “Chasing Mavericks”.

If you’re not afraid of sharks or cold water, visit Mavericks between November and March, when the best surfers in the world hold an informal ‘big wave contest’ here.

Campsite: Francis Beach Campground

Tips for your surf vacation in California

California surfing is insanely popular and the state is a great vacation destination for all surfers, whether beginner or pro. Most impressive is you can surf in California all year round.

During the summer months, there are many easy beach breaks for beginners, while in the winter, advanced surfers can look forward to rough water and waves that offer a real challenge.

No matter when or where you want to surf in California, we recommend a wetsuit. Unfortunately, the water doesn’t get much warmer than 70°F in Southern California, even in the summer!

Depending on the beach, you should check beforehand whether the waves are suitable for you and whether you can adapt to the prevailing surfing etiquette. If you want to avoid the crowds at the most popular beaches, it’s best to go between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm, when there are fewer people in the water.

You can rent a board from the many surf schools and shops along the coast. If you want to spend your whole vacation in the water, it might be worth investing in your own board – you’ll have plenty of room for you and your board in your roadsurfer.

Explore more beautiful beaches in California here!

↠ The most beautiful beaches in California

If you’re planning a longer surf trip and want to learn how to ride the best waves, then a surf camp is recommended. TheCaliCamp Surf Camp, for example, offers stays from 4 nights up to a whole month. You’ll get to know the best beaches as well as insider tips for surfing in California straight from the locals’ mouth

At the Endless Summer Surf Camp near San Clemente, both beginners and advanced surfers can get on the board. You’ll not only learn the best techniques but also surf photography.

If you’re taking a road trip with kids in California, the iSurf Camps are ideal. Professional instructors for all ages and experience levels are on hand to help kids, and kids can enjoy playing on the beach all day long. There are different camps to choose from, with both half and full-day programs.

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