Top Surf Spots: Where to Surf in California

where to surf in california

Welcome to the sunny shores of California, where the surf is always up! If you’re an avid surfer or simply looking to catch your first wave, the Golden State is the ultimate destination. With its diverse coastline and world-renowned breaks, California offers a plethora of surf spots for every skill level.

From the iconic Windansea Beach in La Jolla to the legendary Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, there’s a perfect wave waiting for you. So grab your board, wax up, and let’s dive into the must-visit surf destinations California has to offer.

Surfing in California is a dream come true for any wave enthusiast. Discover the best surf spots along the sun-kissed coast and experience the thrill of riding the Pacific’s mighty swells. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, the diversity of California’s surf spots guarantees an unforgettable adventure.

Key Takeaways:

  • California offers a variety of surf spots for all skill levels.
  • Windansea Beach in La Jolla is a classic reef break with unpredictable conditions.
  • Swami’s in Encinitas offers high-performance waves and stunning ocean views.
  • Trestles in San Clemente is a series of point breaks suitable for both advanced and beginner surfers.
  • The Wedge in Newport Beach is known for its massive and powerful waves.

Windansea Beach, La Jolla

Surfing in Southern California wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Windansea Beach in La Jolla. This famous surf spot is a classic reef break that has become a Mecca for experienced surfers. With a rich surfing history dating back to 1937 when Woody Brown first tackled the waves, Windansea Beach offers a thrilling experience for those looking for sizable waves ranging from 2 to 10 feet.

However, it’s important to note that the conditions at Windansea Beach can be unpredictable, making it best suited for skilled surfers. The reef bottom and the powerful surf require confidence and expertise. If you’re a beginner, don’t worry – there’s a more suitable spot nearby. Head over to La Jolla Shores, a calmer beach that provides a welcoming environment for those who are new to the sport.

Windansea Beach, La Jolla

If you’re seeking an authentic surfing experience at one of the most famous surf beaches in California, Windansea Beach is a must-visit. Soak up the sun, catch some waves, and immerse yourself in the vibrant surfing culture of Southern California.

Swami’s, Encinitas

Swami’s in Encinitas is a popular surfing location in California, known for its high-performance waves and breathtaking scenery. This classic right point break is a must-visit for surfers looking to experience one of the top surfing destinations in California.

Swami's, Encinitas

Swami’s gets its name from the golden, lotus-shaped towers of the Self-Realization Fellowship that overlook the beach. This iconic landmark adds to the charm and allure of the surf spot. Intermediate surfers and above will find the waves at Swami’s to be challenging and thrilling, offering an exciting ride.

Surfers at Swami’s can enjoy a unique perspective on the waves, with beautiful gardens surrounding the area. This adds a touch of tranquility to the surfing experience, making it a perfect destination for those seeking both thrill and relaxation.

The best time to surf at Swami’s is during larger western swells at lower tides. This is when the waves are at their peak, providing an optimal surfing experience. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Swami’s in Encinitas should be on your list of top surf spots to explore in California.

Trestles: A Surfer’s Paradise in San Clemente

When it comes to epic surf spots in California, Trestles at San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente is an absolute gem. Named after the railroad bridge that stretches over San Mateo Creek, Trestles is renowned for its stunning waves and picturesque setting.

Located in the heart of Southern California, Trestles offers a series of point breaks that attract surfers from all over the world. Known as one of the mainland’s best surf spots, it has become a beloved destination for both advanced and beginner surfers alike.

For experienced surfers, Trestles provides prime breaks that deliver exhilarating rides and challenging waves. The powerful swells create an ideal playground for those seeking an adrenaline rush on their boards.

But Trestles isn’t just for the pros. Beginners and novice surfers can also enjoy the more gentle stretches along the state beach. Whether you’re perfecting your skills or catching your very first wave, Trestles offers a welcoming atmosphere for surfers of all levels.

Why Choose Trestles?

  • The breathtaking beauty of the surrounding area, with its rugged cliffs and pristine sandy beach, makes Trestles a surfer’s paradise.
  • The consistency of the waves at Trestles is unparalleled, ensuring that surfers can find quality rides throughout the year.
  • Trestles attracts a diverse community of surfers, creating a vibrant and inclusive surfing culture.
  • The convenience of San Clemente, with its laid-back coastal vibes and surf-friendly atmosphere, adds to the allure of Trestles.

So whether you’re an experienced wave rider looking for a challenge or a beginner searching for a friendly spot to hone your skills, Trestles in San Clemente is a must-visit surf destination on the Southern California coast.

Trestles, San Clemente surf spot

The Wedge, Newport Beach

The Wedge in Newport Beach, located in Southern California, is a renowned surf spot famous for its massive, powerful waves. This unique bodysurfing and bodyboarding wave forms during south swells when waves refract off the rock jetty and collide with a second incoming wave, creating a thrilling and exhilarating display of nature’s power.

The Wedge, Newport Beach

Due to its extreme conditions and the sheer force of the waves, The Wedge is considered highly challenging and is best observed from the safety of shore rather than attempted by surfers. This iconic surf break attracts experienced bodysurfers and bodyboarders who are seeking an adrenaline rush and a chance to ride the monstrous waves.

Key Features of The Wedge:

  • Massive and powerful waves
  • Bodysurfing and bodyboarding paradise
  • Forms during south swells
  • Rock jetty assists wave formation
  • Challenging and extreme conditions

Whether you’re a passionate surfer or simply a spectator enthralled by the beauty and power of the ocean, witnessing The Wedge’s incredible waves is an unforgettable experience. Soak in the awe-inspiring sights from the shore, capturing the energy and excitement of this world-famous surf break in the heart of Newport Beach, California.

Huntington Beach Pier: Surf City’s Iconic Surf Spot

Huntington Beach Pier, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the most iconic surf spots in California. With its century-old pedigree and rich surfing history, it has become a hub for American surfing culture. This legendary pier has witnessed countless thrilling rides and has hosted significant surfing events over the years.

When you visit Huntington Beach Pier, you have the opportunity to surf in the same waters where famous champions like Andy Irons and Kelly Slater triumphed. On any given day, you can paddle out and catch some of the best waves in California, as this surf spot offers excellent conditions for all skill levels.

Whether you’re a beginner eager to learn or an experienced rider looking for a challenge, Huntington Beach Pier has something for everyone. The long sandy beach and consistent waves make it an ideal destination to improve your skills or simply enjoy a day riding the waves.

In addition to its exceptional surf, the area around the pier is bustling with surf shops, including the renowned Jack’s Surfboards and Huntington Surf & Sport. So, whether you’re in need of new gear or looking to browse the latest surf fashion trends, you’ll find plenty of options to explore.

So pack your board and head to Huntington Beach Pier, where the best waves in California await. Discover why this historic surf spot continues to be a must-visit destination for surfers from around the world.

Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Surfrider Beach at Malibu Lagoon State Beach is one of the top surf hotspots in California. This iconic right cobblestone point break holds a special place in the history of surfing, playing a pivotal role in the cultural mainstreaming of the sport. It was even recognized as the first World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition, a testament to its significance and natural beauty.

Located in the beautiful coastal town of Malibu, Surfrider Beach offers experienced surfers virtually perfect waves to ride. The combination of its cobblestone bottom and prevailing swell direction creates a challenging and exciting surfing experience. Aspiring surfers from all over the world flock to this renowned surf spot to test their skills and catch some of the best waves in California.

Surfrider Beach, Malibu

If you’re a beginner surfer, it’s best to save your experience at Surfrider Beach for later, as the powerful waves and complex breaks can be quite intimidating. However, witnessing the skilled surfers navigating the waves can be an awe-inspiring sight and a valuable source of inspiration for novice riders.

Rincon Point, Carpinteria

Rincon Point, also known as the “Queen of the Coast,” is considered America’s gold-standard point break. Straddling the border of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, this surfing spot offers well-formed waves and the opportunity for long rides. Winter swells provide the best conditions, and watching the action from U.S. 101 is a popular pastime for surf enthusiasts.

Rincon Point, Carpinteria

Why Rincon Point is a top surf break in California

  • Consistent and well-formed waves
  • Opportunity for long rides
  • Winter swells create ideal conditions
  • Spectacular views from U.S. 101

Pismo Beach Pier, Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach Pier is a classic surf spot located in the charming beach town of Pismo Beach. Whether you’re a beginner looking to catch your first wave or an experienced surfer seeking some fun rides, this iconic pier offers waves suitable for surfers of all levels.

One of the great things about Pismo Beach Pier is the consistent surf it offers, particularly during the winter months. This makes it an ideal spot to visit if you’re planning a surfing trip to California. The waves here are known for their accessibility and suitability for beginners, making it one of the top beginner-friendly surf spots in California.

Surrounding the Pismo Beach Pier is a vibrant surf culture that has attracted surfers from all over the world. In fact, the World Surf League Qualifying Series Pismo Beach Open is hosted here, showcasing some of the best talent in the surfing world.

So, when is the best time to surf at Pismo Beach Pier? The winter months offer the most consistent surf conditions, but you can find good waves throughout the year. It’s always a good idea to check local surf reports and forecasts for the most up-to-date information before heading out.

Pismo Beach Pier

  • Beginner-friendly surf spot
  • Consistent surf, especially in winter
  • Hosts the World Surf League Qualifying Series Pismo Beach Open

Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove

Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove is a hidden gem among California’s coastal surfing spots. This picturesque beach offers a serene and inviting atmosphere, making it an excellent choice for both beginner surfers and those looking for a relaxed surfing experience.

What sets Asilomar State Beach apart is its consistent surf conditions. The beach-break waves are typically gentle and manageable, providing an ideal environment for beginners to gain confidence and improve their skills. Even more experienced surfers can find enjoyment riding these mellow waves.

While Asilomar State Beach is generally known for its mellow surf, it’s important to stay updated on the conditions. Occasionally, the waves can surprise even the most experienced surfers, producing pumping waves that provide a thrilling ride.

After a satisfying session in the water, head over to Phoebe’s Café at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, where you can refuel and relax. Enjoy a delicious meal or a hot drink while taking in the stunning views of the beach and Pacific Ocean.

Whether you’re a beginner or simply seeking a tranquil surfing experience, Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove is an excellent choice. Its beginner-friendly waves and breathtaking natural beauty make it one of California’s premier coastal surfing spots.

Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz

Located beneath majestic cliffs that form a natural amphitheater, Steamer Lane is an iconic surf spot that attracts wave riders from around the world. Situated in Santa Cruz, California, Steamer Lane offers a variety of breaks, making it a top choice among surfers seeking diverse wave conditions.

One of the highlights of Steamer Lane is the opportunity to watch the action from the cliffs. The elevated vantage point provides a stunning view of surfers carving through the waves, showcasing their skills and style. It’s a perfect spot to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean.

If you’re interested in learning more about the rich surfing culture of Santa Cruz, make sure to visit the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, located near Steamer Lane. The museum offers a fascinating journey through the history of surfing in the area, showcasing vintage surfboards, memorabilia, and engaging exhibits.

It’s important to note that Steamer Lane can be challenging and is best suited for experienced surfers. The waves can be powerful and unpredictable, requiring advanced skills to navigate. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended to admire the surfers from the shores and focus on honing your skills at other surf spots suitable for your level.

Mavericks, Half Moon Bay

Mavericks in Half Moon Bay is renowned for its colossal waves, making it one of the most challenging surf spots in the world. This iconic California surf break rose to fame in the 1990s and is known for its awe-inspiring waves that can tower anywhere from 25 to 60 feet in height. The sheer power and size of Mavericks attract experienced surfers from around the globe, seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush and a chance to conquer nature’s colossal force.

Located near Mavericks, Surfer’s Beach provides a more welcoming environment for beginners and those seeking a less intimidating surf experience. With smaller waves and a gentler atmosphere, Surfer’s Beach offers an ideal setting for newcomers to hone their skills and build confidence on their surfboards.

Mavericks is intrinsically connected with Jeff Clark’s Mavericks Surf Company. Jeff Clark, a local legend, was the first to discover and surf Mavericks, cementing its status as an iconic surf spot in Half Moon Bay. Today, Mavericks continues to captivate the surfing world with its relentless and massive waves that attract spectators and thrill-seeking surfers alike.


What are some of the best surf spots in California?

Some of the best surf spots in California include Windansea Beach in La Jolla, Swami’s in Encinitas, Trestles in San Clemente, The Wedge in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, Surfrider Beach at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Rincon Point in Carpinteria, Pismo Beach Pier in Pismo Beach, Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, and Mavericks in Half Moon Bay.

Where can I find beginner-friendly surf spots in California?

Some beginner-friendly surf spots in California include La Jolla Shores in La Jolla, Trestles in San Clemente, Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, Pismo Beach Pier in Pismo Beach, and Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove.

What are some popular surfing locations in Southern California?

Some popular surfing locations in Southern California include Windansea Beach in La Jolla, Swami’s in Encinitas, Trestles in San Clemente, The Wedge in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, and Surfrider Beach at Malibu Lagoon State Beach.

Which surf spots in California offer the best waves?

Many surf spots in California offer great waves, but some that are known for their quality waves include Windansea Beach in La Jolla, Swami’s in Encinitas, Trestles in San Clemente, Surfrider Beach at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Rincon Point in Carpinteria, Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, and Mavericks in Half Moon Bay.

When is the best time to surf in California?

The best time to surf in California varies depending on the location and conditions. Generally, the fall and winter months tend to produce larger swells, while the summer months offer smaller, more consistent waves. It’s best to check local surf reports and forecasts to determine the ideal time for surfing in a specific area.

Which surf spots in California are famous for their history and cultural significance?

Windansea Beach in La Jolla, Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, and Surfrider Beach at Malibu Lagoon State Beach are all famous for their historical and cultural significance in the surfing world. These spots have hosted significant surfing events and have been instrumental in popularizing the sport.