10 Best Surf Spots In California

It's not hard to find the 10 best surf spots in California. You'll need to travel to where the largest waves are and the smaller the beach crowd, the better. Many surfers like to scout waves earlier in the morning when there's no one around. In addition, while there are plenty of places to surf along the California Coast, not all areas are safe, nor do they provide the best possible swells.

  1. San Clemente. Located along the beaches of Orange County, California, San Clemente is home to some of the best waves throughout the year. Since so many surf enthusiasts frequent here, it draws more than just wave-riders to this location. It's also home to four premier surfing magazines and three surfboard manufacturers and shapers.
  2. Ocean Beach. This beachfront area of San Diego is one of the ten best surf spots in California for all ages, and skill levels. If you're looking for consistent waves in the three to five foot range, this is your place to surf. When swells are at their best, you can expect them to rise up to 10 feet, become barrel-like with steeper sections.
  3. Rincon. One of the classic point break locations in southern Santa Barbara County, Rincon has drawn avid surfers since the 1930s. It's also a location used in surfing documentaries over the years due to its wave-rich waters. Expected wave heights range from four to eight feet and if you're lucky, the three main sections of the swells will connect making for one long, exciting ride.
  4. Mavericks. Near Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point Harbor, this San Francisco surf spot has given up Hawaiian-style waves at an extraordinary 70 feet high. It's not a common occurrence, but when the waters swell around this area, it's easily one of the ten best surf spots in California. Wave-riders flock in the hundreds to grab their spot.
  5. Malibu. Malibu, California is home to more than one surf haven. Surfrider, Zuma and the Little Dume beaches are the most popular surf spots. They're known as some of the best surf locations since the 1920s. Malibu is also home to Hollywood's elite and if you hang around the local pier long enough, you may just catch a glimpse of one of your favorite stars too.
  6. Santa Cruz. Better known as "The Real Surf City" by local historians, Santa Cruz, California has the oldest recorded surfing history. It all began here in 1885, when the three Kawananakoa brothers -Jonah, David and Edward – rode the first waves along the California coast. Due to its curved coastline, Santa Cruz absorbs swells from all directions, creating a plethora of waves and making it one of the best surfing spots.
  7. Encinitas. Another top ten surf spot near San Diego, California, Encinitas features three different areas of worthy surfing. There's Cardiff Reef, Seaside and Swamis. Each offers up waves you can ride almost every day of the year. There's one drawback to this location and that's the crowds. It's such a popular surf hangout, many of the locals from San Diego drive here to ensure they get a few rides in.
  8. Oceanside Harbor. Just north of San Diego, you'll find the town of Oceanside. Featuring a harbor, pier and miles of sandy beaches, Oceanside offers consistent waves year-round. This particular surf spot has a pecking order; meaning if you're not a local to the area, you'll have to wait in line for your turn. The skill level is intermediate and it's suggested you bring along your short board.  
  9. Huntington Beach. Locals of 'HB' as it's nicknamed, call their type of surfing a religion, not just a sport. Home to the USA's surf team, Huntington Beach has been a draw to local surf enthusiasts since the 1920s. HB receives blowback from the local Santa Ana winds causing exceptional breaks for wave-riders.
  10. Sunset Cliffs. Another area of San Diego near Torrey Pines and Mission Bay, offers north by northwest swells that are consistent. The area has a reef bottom and waves can reach 5 to 8 feet on the right day. It's advised to bring your favorite board and be respectful of lineup rules.
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