10 best surfing spots in California
© Jimmy Wilson/Red Bull Content Pool
No matter where you choose to surf, you can't go wrong with any of these locations along California's coast.
Whether you're a local or you're planning a trip to the golden state, surfing on the Pacific is a must if you want to fully experience what this sunny state has to offer. So sign out of Netflix, throw on a wetsuit, and embrace your inner Bethany Hamilton for some of the gnarliest waves via these California surfing spots:
1. Steamer Lane
Located in Santa Cruz, the iconic Steamer Lane gives you the opportunity to ride the waves of the Pacific alongside wildlife like sea otters or seals. Back in the day, surfers would look for big waves in the "lane" where steamships would reach the wharf. Though the steamers are long gone, the area still attracts plenty of surfers ready to shred the gnar.
Steamer Lane is divided into four zones for experienced surfers: Indicators, Middle Peak, The Slot, and The Point. If you're new to the waves, opt for the tamer Cowell Beach. Whether you go for the winter or summer south swells, you're destined for a great time. Stop by Cowell's Beach Surf Shop or O'Neill Surf Shop to gear up.
2. Newport Beach
Located in Orange County, Newport Beach is known for its upscale lifestyle and abundant surfing opportunities. If you want to test your limits on these coastal waters, grab your surfboard and paddle out to one of Newport's many surfing areas like The Wedge, 56th Street, or the Santa Ana River Jetties. The best conditions occur with a south-southwest swell and a northeast offshore wind. If you need to stock up on gear, pop into The Frog House Surf Shop or Surfside Sports.
3. Asilomar State Beach
Another location with marine creatures is Monterey County's Asilomar State Beach. The mellow beach offers a safe and consistent surf along with plenty of beach-break waves for you to cash in some time on the water. For optimal conditions, look for a northeast swell, southwest wind, and low and mid tide. Hit up On The Beach Surf Shop or Route One Surfboards for your various needs.
4. Rincon Point
Nestled between Ventura and Santa Barbara County, Rincon Point offers genuine surfing experience. It was even name-dropped in The Beach Boy's 1962 classic song, "Surfin' Safari."
This surfing spot offers three great surfing locations in the form of The Cove, Rivermouth, and Indicator. Here you'll come across well-formed waves and the opportunity for long rides. To make the most of your visit, head out at low tide during the winter months when swells come from the west and northwest.
5. Mavericks in Half Moon Bay
If you want to surf the big waves of Northern California, head to Mavericks in Half Moon Bay. Big-wave surfer Jeff Clark is famous for surfing Mavericks before it gained popularity in the '90s. In 1999, the area held its first surfing contest, and to this day, it continues to attract surfers with waves ranging from 25 to 60 feet tall. Can you say cowabunga, dude?
Overall, this surfing location provides you with a sick opportunity to test your limits. Mavericks offers a consistent surf, with winter giving you the best opportunity to paddle out. Plan to hit the waves with east offshore winds and west-northwest swells.
6. San Onofre State Beach
Located in San Clemente, San Onofre State Beach offers a relaxing atmosphere that attracts many longboarders. Red Bull's own Kolohe Andino is from the area, with roots in San Clemente. San Onofre State Beach is home to gentle waves and a variety of wave breaks like The Point, Old Man's, Dog Patch, and Trestles Beach. The beach's surfing roots stem all the way back to the 1920s when a surfing and fishing camp was in place before Camp Pendleton was established.
The best waves occur during the summer south swells on the north end of the beach. Old Man's offers a series of gentle-rolling peaks, while The Point gives you gnarlier waves by comparison.
7. Pismo State Beach
Experience all the Central Coast has to offer with a trip to Pismo. Located less than 15 miles from the green hills of San Luis Obispo, this south county beach is a popular hub for local surfers. It's also known for its walkable beaches and small-town charm.
Pismo Beach offers a consistent surf, though visiting during winter is your best bet. Look for northeast winds and northwest swells for the ride of a lifetime. If you need more gear, head into Pancho's Surf Shop or Pismo Beach Surf Shop to stock up.
8. Huntington Beach Pier
Known as Surf City USA, Huntington Beach Pier is a popular location for tourists and locals alike. Huntington is home to the Vans US Open of Surfing, a nine-day surfing celebration that draws over 300 world-class athletes to the beach.
If you want to experience the waves yourself, you're in for a tubular treat. Huntington's pier helps fight off ocean wind and makes for a longer ride. The beach also offers consistent swells and is home to waves ranging from three to 12 feet. For the best ride, look for offshore winds from the northeast. Pro surfers with ties to the area include Shane Beschen, Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and Jack O'Neill.
9. Swami's Beach
This internationally known surfing hotspot is located within San Diego County and provides exceptionally good swells during the winter months. The beach even received a nod from The Beach Boys in its 1963 hit, "Surfin' USA."
Located at the southern end of Encinitas, Swami's welcomes surfers of all skill levels, though experienced short- and longboarders will get the most out of its high-performance waves. Larger western swells at lower tides are ideal at this surfing spot. Stop by Concept Surf Shop or Hansen Surfboards before you hang 10.
10. Windansea Beach
La Jolla has a rich surfing history that dates all the way back to 1937 when surfing legend Woody Brown first tackled this classic reef break. The city's Windansea Beach offers unpredictable conditions, producing waves that range anywhere from 2-10 feet. You'll find the biggest waves during summer at any tide when there are southwest swells. This spot is best suited for skilled surfers, so if you're just starting out, you may be better off hitting the calmer waves along La Jolla Shores.
Grab your crew, blast some Jack Johnson, and prepare for the ride of a lifetime.