At the suggestion of The Beach Boys, “Let’s go surfin’ now.” But where? Read on as Visit California recommends 11 of the state’s best surf spots for hanging 10–or spectating–this summer and beyond.
“With over 800 miles of coastline, from the secluded rugged beaches of Northern California to the sunny sandy shores of San Diego, California has perfect waves for every type of surfer,” says Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “The mainland surf culture and lifestyle was born in the Golden State and an integral aspect of everyday life across the state. In fact, surfing is California’s official sport, celebrated each year on Sept. 20, California Surfing Day.”
Note: Before heading out for a day of surfing, be sure to check conditions first.
Famous waves: Windansea Beach
After surfing pioneer Woody Brown first rode La Jolla‘s Windansea Beach–and thus it becoming one of the most popular spots in San Diego County–it was featured in Andy Warhol’s 1967 film, San Diego Surf. Today, the waves are most suitable for skilled surfers, as they can reach up to 10 feet. Novice on the board? Try La Jolla Shores instead. For more information, visit lajollabythesea.com.
For those with intermediate skills: Swami’s Beach
This classic right point break at Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area is most suitable for intermediate skill levels and up. If visiting at low tide, check out brittle stars, sea hares and octopuses in the tidepools. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
Most beautiful waves: Trestles (San Onofre State Beach)
To reach Trestles, surfers must hike from the San Onofre State Beach parking lot–but the trek is worth it. The waves are known as some of the most gorgeous you’ll see just about anywhere. Tip: Newbies should surrender the prime breaks to advanced surfers and seek more gentle stretches along the state beach. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
A beastly ride: The Wedge
The Wedge, which is a world-famous bodysurfing and bodyboarding wave, is infamous for being an animal of a ride. Those who want to witness the 30-ft.-high waves should note they are best observed from the safety of shore. For more information, visit www.visitnewportbeach.com.
Surf with the pros: Huntington Beach Pier
The pier at Huntington State Beach is one of Southern California’s most iconic surf spots. The likes of George Freeth and Duke Kahanomoku hit its waves a century ago, while, today, it is the site of the US Open of Surfing. Though the waters have seen Andy Irons and Kelly Slater in more recent years, beginners can feel at ease at Huntington Beach Pier, depending on the day. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
A true classic: Pismo Beach Pier
Found in the classic beach town of Pismo Beach, this California surf spot is often suitable for newbies, though it has presented enough of a challenge to competitors at the World Surf League Qualifying Series. For more information, visit www.experiencepismobeach.com.
Mostly mellow: Asilomar State Beach
Before busting out the board, it is a good idea to check conditions at Asilomar State Beach in Monterey County. Most of the time, it presents pretty mellow conditions, but the waves can definitely ramp up. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
Spectator’s paradise: Steamer Lane
Steamer Lane is best for those who have solid surf skills. Otherwise, the cliffs overlooking this Santa Cruz surf spot form a natural amphitheater for admiring all the action on the four breaks down below. For more information, visit www.santacruz.org.
Bigger is better: Mavericks
Half Moon Bay
Mavericks is considered the most famous wave on the mainland, becoming a surf mecca as it can rise to whopping 80-ft. faces when conditions are just right. Can’t hang with this big boy? The nearby Surfer’s Beach is great for beginners. For more information, visit www.visithalfmoonbay.org.
Gidget-approved: Surfrider Beach
This right cobblestone point break at Malibu Lagoon State Beach was honored as the first World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition. This California surf spot is near perfect (and not for beginners), and it even has solidified its place in pop culture, thanks to Gidget. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
The gold standard: Rincon Point
Surf historian Matt Warshaw dubbed this California surf spot as “America’s gold-standard point break.” If you’re driving on U.S. 101 and see a crowded lineup at Rincon, bordering Ventura and Santa Barbara, pull off to watch the aquatic action. For more information, visit santabarbaraca.com.