Credit: Austin Neill / Unsplash
Credit: Austin Neill / Unsplash

9 Beaches to Catch a Wave in Southern California

Cowabunga! It’s Time to Grab Your Board and Hit These Iconic Surf Spots

There is much more to surfing than paddling out and simply catching a wave. It’s an art that thrives off of culture, connection and community. Best California Surf Spots

In 1907, surfing was introduced to Southern California by a man named George Freeth, who is now considered the “father of surfing.” The first wave he caught was in Redondo Beach, and since then, SoCal has become one of the top surfing destinations in the world. From the dreamy waters of Malibu to the shores of La Jolla, here are nine of the best spots to catch a wave in Southern California. 


El Porto Beach, El Segundo

Credit: Pedro Szekely

El Porto is known for being a great beginner to intermediate surf spot. You can expect a fast and powerful break with swells hitting anywhere from 3 to 1 feet. Not to mention, the soft and sandy bottom makes this Los Angeles beach a fun and safe place to shred! However, the weekends at El Porto can be very crowded, and the same goes for weekdays during peak season. We suggest paddling out for a morning session and being mindful of the other surfers around you!

Best California Surf Spots

Sunset Beach, Pacific Palisades

Credit: Milan A / Pixabay

Thanks to its consistent waves and convenient parking, Sunset Beach is a surfing hotspot for Los Angeles locals. The waves aren’t massive, so it’s ideal for beginners who are trying to get acquainted with the basics. Since the vibe at this beach is friendly and laid back, you won’t encounter any kooks who are possessive of their turf. And just when you think Sunset Beach couldn’t get any better, the wildlife in these waters—pelicans, seals and schools of dolphins—will sometimes pop out to say hello.



Malibu Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Credit: Bertrand Bouchez / Unsplash

This legendary break is the mecca of surfing in Southern California and is one of the most famous surf spots on the mainland. If you are looking for more of a challenging wave to ride, then Surfrider Beach is the place for you! It doesn’t matter if you like to lounge on a longboard or rip it with a shortboard; all that matters is you cruise through by the end of summer or early fall when the waves are crushing.

Best California Surf Spots

Silver Strand State Beach, Oxnard 

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With its various breaks and gnarly barrels, Silver Strand is definitely a place for the pros. The mile-long stretch is split into three sections: The Jetty, The Bowl and La Jenelle. If you are new to the surf scene, the outskirts have smaller waves with swells that typically stay around 3-5 feet, while the middle section has much harder sandbar waves. Since it is such a popular place for locals to surf, there is some truth to legends of localism, so just remember to be respectful.



San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente

Credit: James Lee / Unsplash

“San O” or “Old Man’s Beach” is a safe haven for most surfers and beach lovers. Many OC residents consider this beach their favorite surfing location because of its solid waves, beautiful bluffs and wetlands. As one of California’s most-visited state parks, San Onofre State Beach is ideal for beginning surfers with an average swell hitting 3-4 feet year round. You can even make a weekend out of it and camp out with your favorite kooks!

Best California Surf Spots

Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington Beach

Credit: Regular Daddy / Wikimedia

Not only is “Surf City” home to some of the most experienced surfers, it’s also a great place to learn how to catch a wave. With its gentle break, sandy bottom and mild water temperatures, the conditions are ideal for any beginner. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to surfing, Corky Carroll’s Surf School will teach you the basics. Or you can even skip the board and opt for some body surfing like a true HB local! 



The Wedge, Newport Beach 

Credit: Jenna Anderson / Unsplash

This Newport Beach break is unlike any other and should be approached with caution. What makes this break so challenging is the way incoming waves rebound off the jetty, making it double in size before crashing onto the sand. But don’t fear the fun–although the typical swell reaches 5-10 feet, there are still some smaller days where you can paddle out and give it a shot. You can also just choose to sit on the shoreline and watch the pros!

Best California Surf Spots

Doheny State Beach, Dana Point

Credit: Corey Seeman

Located right off of Pacific Coast Highway, Doheny State Beach is known for being the best place to learn how to surf in Southern California (hence why they have one of the most popular surf schools in SoCal). Girl in the Curl offers surf lessons for the ladies with expert instruction year-round. All their teachers are trained in CPR, first aid and water safety and are ready to help you fall in love with the salty sport. 



La Jolla Shores area 

Credit: Frank McKenna / Unsplash

From Sunset Cliffs just south of I-5 to Torrey Pines or Scripps, La Jolla is a surf spot with endless possibilities for all levels! Beginners can hang loose at Torrey Pines with 1-2 foot waves and typically calm winds. But if you are a more experienced surfer looking to shred, then try out Black’s Beach, which is known to be one of the best breaks in San Diego. Wherever you choose to ride, you won’t be disappointed by the crystal clear water and scenic views!


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