Top 10 Best Surf Spots in California | Surf Beaches in California

Finding the ‘perfect’ wave has been a lifelong mission for many dedicated souls. While we can’t promise you’ll ever find that pristine barrel with offshore winds in 75-degree water with a perfect sunset backdrop, we can point you in the right direction. When it comes to California, there’s no shortage of amazing waves, and we’ve taken the time to compile the best of the bunch. Here are the top surf spots in California. Enjoy!

List of Top Surf Spots in California

1. Black’s Beach, San Diego

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Starting from the south, San Diego’s Black’s Beach is the region’s most sought-after and feared beach break. The wave is fast, hollow, and unforgiving. When the swells roll in, most experienced shortboarders head to Blacks. Besides the waves, the only other potential dangers are the descent down to the beach which is a narrow and winding dirt ‘trail’ that leads you down wooden planks and other objects more suited for obstacle courses and the potential long-term trauma of getting a glimpse of the old souls who still use this patch of sand as a nudist beach. Other than that, the waves are incredible.

2. Lower Trestles, San Clemente

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Trestles are one of the few California breaks that made it onto the classic “Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer” video game (along with international standouts like Hawaii’s Pipeline and Tahiti’s Teahupo’o), so you know it’s legit. Located in San Clemente, just between the counties of San Diego and Orange, Lower Trestles (it’s a long beach with an ‘Upper’ section as well) is a common stop on the ASP World Tour. However, don’t be surprised if you see 200 people jostling for waves on a Monday morning. Work comes second to surf in these parts.

Read More: Top Beautiful Beaches In California

3. Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz

Known for its cold water and big waves, Steamer Lane is the most iconic spot in the Santa Cruz area. As the legend goes, it’s the place Jack O’Neill (founder of the world-famous O’Neill surf company) once called home and designed the first modern wetsuit. It gets crowded but the crowd tends to thin out once the bigger waves come in. If it gets too heavy, one of the best parts of Steamer Lane is just spectating from the rock that juts out into the break. Come wrapped up with a sweater and feel free to spend a few hours here. Once you get too cold, snuggle up in one of these Santa Cruz Vacation Rentals.

4. Rincon, Santa Barbara

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Seeing how the Beach Boys gave Rincon a shoutout in ‘Surfin Safari,’ it definitely deserves a spot on the list of California’s best places to surf. Located just south of Santa Barbara, Rincon is a beautiful spot that wraps around a quiet neighborhood. While it looks calm and pretty from the parking lot above, it’s a place where you need to be aggressive to get a beautiful wave, while also knowing the etiquette. Rincon is a place that is highly affected by tides, so, if possible, bring your entire quiver and hang out for the day. As the waves change, use the most fitting board.

5. Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Those willing to paddle out in San Francisco are brave souls, and they’re truly a breed separate from the rest of us in Southern California. Before the sun even rises, you’ll find San Francisco executives gearing up and paddling out at Ocean Beach to clear their heads before a day of work. Ocean Beach is a classic wave just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, and with a good swell it can easily get up to 20-foot waves barreling towards the shore.

Also Read: The Most Cleanest Beaches In California

6. Malibu, Los Angeles

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For those who are relatively new to the surfing game, Malibu’s Surfrider Beach is a place the whole family can enjoy. Here you’ll find smaller waves perfect for longboarding that doesn’t require a daunting paddle-out. There’s a great stretch of beach for sprawling and sunbathing once you get tired, and you may even you have the opportunity to spot some celebrities. For tips on where to stay from hostels and couches to 5-star resorts and beach bungalows, check out vacation rentals in Malibu.

7. The Wedge, Newport

Located in beautiful Newport Beach at the extreme east of the Balboa Peninsula, the Wedge is a powerful wave more popular with bodyboarders than surfers due to its shallowness. Falls that smack you on the ocean floor can be unforgiving, so only head to the wedge if you consider yourself at least intermediate.

8. Swami’s, Encinitas

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North County San Diego is home to a seven-mile stretch of unimpeded beach that has dozens of perfect beach breaks. Much like Malibu, these beaches are mostly calm and excellent for learners. Paddle out on a longboard, a mid-sized fun board, a stand-up paddleboard, or a shortboard. The people are friendly, and 101 is filled with old-timey diners, cafes, restaurants, and burrito joints that make for perfect post-session refueling.

9. Mavericks, Half Moon Bay

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For about 99% of people, Mavericks is a spectator spot. Widely known as have the largest waves in the world, we recommend visiting this Northern California gem to witness what human beings are capable of — from a distance. Depending on the swell, waves here can get up to 70 feet. For reference, seven feet is considered large for most surfers. Be safe and have fun!

Don’t Miss: Best Beaches in Northern California

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