Southern California is home to more surfers per capita than possibly anywhere else on the planet, with miles of world-class beachbreaks from Santa Barbara County to the Mexico border. A huge expanse of coastline, it takes about five hours to drive. Less sharky with warmer waters than up north, your biggest obstacle to a perfect day of surfing in SoCal might be traffic on the inland freeways, so use the coastal highways whenever possible, which are less congested. Despite the crowds, secluded areas can still be found. This coastline has been thoroughly explored, so there are no real secret spots, but some beaches are more difficult to access, which keeps fair-weather surfers away. At most beaches, localism is not as big an issue as it once was (mainly due to stricter law enforcement). That doesn’t mean the basic rules of surfer etiquette don’t apply, so mind your p’s and q’s. Renowned SoCal beaches include Rincon, home of a legendary and flawless right-point break, plus Malibu Beach, Huntington Beach (Surf City USA), Lower Trestles in Orange County, Black’s Beach in San Diego County, and in Santa Barbara, an approximately 14-mile stretch of private property known as “The Ranch”. The beaches at “The Ranch” are inaccessible (to most), but they offer up a paradise of waves so perfect that surfers will boat in to get to them, much to the chagrin of the wealthy landowners, some of whom are surfers themselves. If you’re new to surfing, a great place to work on your skills is San Onofre State Beach, which has long, gentle rolling waves, lots of sand, and zero attitude.
Good surfing conditions can be found in Southern California year-round, and the best seasons vary from beach to beach. Point Conception (in Santa Barbara County) is the dividing line between what is considered cold-temperature and subtropical water, so ¾ wet suits will do, with board shorts likely in the summer for Orange County and San Diego.
Santa Barbara Surf Spots and Breaks
Ventura California Surf Spots and Breaks
Los Angeles Surf Spots and Breaks
Orange County Surf Spots and Breaks
South Orange County Surf Breaks
San Diego Surf Spots and Breaks