December 7, 2017 0 Comments Adventures, Destinations, North America, Surfing

Guide to Surfing the California Coast

Guide to Surfing the California Coast Blog Title

California. The birthplace of modern surf culture. All the stereotypes are true. People say “dude” too many times in a conversation with a heavy California accent. Lineups always have some guy who yells at you if you cut him off. Any good wave is crowded. Everyone spends a lot of money to wear brand name clothes like Ripcurl, Billabong, Patagonia, and Quicksilver so that they look like they don’t spend a lot of money on brand name clothes. The California surf scene holds a lot of ironies but one fact remains true: There are some great waves to ride. 

The best part about a surf trip to Cali is that, unlike heading to Hawaii or Indonesia, there aren’t many waves an intermediate surfer couldn’t ride. There aren’t many hollow waves or sharp reefs, nor are there secret spots all to yourself—unless you want to brave the scary and rugged Northern California coast.

Here are the 5 best breaks to surf on a trip to California:

Surfing Cardiff by the Sea, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Cardiff by the Sea, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Cardiff by the Sea, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Cardiff by the Sea, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Cardiff by the Sea, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Cardiff by the Sea, Surfing the California Coast

1. Cardiff-by-the-Sea: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Reef rocky

Wave direction: Right and lefts (rights are better on NW swell)

Now, I’m gonna be nice and tell you about the best “secret” spot to surf but if this blog gets to be too big then I’ll be forced to get rid of it so shhh don’t tell anyone (just kidding, please share this blog on social media). Between the crowded, pristine point break of Cardiff Reef where SUPs, longboarders, and almost-pro surfers hog all the waves and the peeling point of Swami’s right beside downtown Encinitas, is my spot I call Bull Taco. Right at the entrance to San Elijo Campground, which I highly highly recommend you camp at, is a staircase next to the camp store and Mexican food restaurant, Bull Taco. If you surf right out here, you get the most bang for your buck as far as the epic wave caught to crowd ratio goes.

 

Surfing Santa Cruz, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Santa Cruz, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Santa Cruz, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Santa Cruz, Surfing the California Coast

2. Steamer Lane/ Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Reef

Wave direction: Mostly rights, occasional lefts

I’d been wanting to surf here for years until finally, last April, we took a road trip up to the world famous surf break. So famous that while surfing in the water, streams of tourist kept coming up to the railing to take a photo of “the famous surfing spot” as one tourist said. If you’re brave enough to enter the 40-something degree water, this will be one of the best waves you’ll ever surf. You don’t have to be a pro to surf this wave and the localism is nothing like you hear, though it is slightly existent at the furthest right peak where I wouldn’t recommend paddling over to if you’re gonna steal all the waves. But otherwise, people were super friendly and shared the waves. Steamer consists of two peaks, at least while I was there. Both are rights. The north peak is a faster takeoff and can be a better and longer wave, but if you significantly mess up (you’d have to mess up a lot) you’ll be splashed against cliff. The south peak is more longboard friendly and is still a nice fast right. I love how the wave at Steamer is fast on your board so you can make some fun maneuvers but you don’t have to race the corner. Pleasure is another option if it’s too big for you at Steamer. The vibe is even more chill at Pleasure Point, unless there’s a huge swell, so if you’re not feeling up to an aggressive lineup, head here.

 

Surfing Oceanside, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Oceanside, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Oceanside, Surfing the California Coast

3. Oceanside: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Beachbreak

Wave direction: Lefts and rights

Many pro and amateur surf competitions are held here for a reason.  From the Harbor to the Pier there are plenty of fun waves for anyone to have fun. The South Harbor Jetty is my personal favorite where a fast left hits the jetty on the north side and the same as a right on the south side. The vibe can be competitive when it’s good, but usually the crowd spreads out, giving everyone a good shot at getting waves. South of the pier is also a very good and varying wave depending on tides. At full tide, it’s fat and slow corners, while at low tide, it’s fast and rampy.

 

Surfing Trestles, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Trestles, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Trestles, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Trestles, Surfing the California Coast

4. Lower & Upper Trestles, San Clemente: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Reef rocky

Wave direction: Rights and lefts at Lowers; rights at Uppers

This is the epitome of a competitive lineup buttt there’s a reason. There aren’t many better rights around (Steamer is one of the better). Fast, holds up, and has moderately warm water. The only better option to surfing here would be if you got lucky with a reservation at San Onofre Campground with close to as good of waves but less crowds. Military personnel can camp at Churches or you can take the long walk in to get here.  We liked surfing Cottons, as it was less crowded and still packed a fun punch.

 

Surfing Ventura, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Ventura, Surfing the California Coast
Surfing Ventura, Surfing the California Coast

5. C-Street, Ventura: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Reef rocky

Wave direction: Rights

C-Street, a right that at times has been known to steam a mile across the bay. What’s great about this wave is how shifty it can be. If you’re not from California you’re probably thinking, no that’s not a good thing, but it is because that means you have as good a chance of getting a wave as the guy sitting closer to the shifting “peak”. The wave is soft and reliable and is great for any size board.

 

Bonus- Rincon: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Reef

Wave direction: Rights

“The Queen” is one of the easiest and most epic rights in the world if you can manage to snag a wave. However, getting a wave here is the hard part. The tough thing about Rincon’s crowds is due the utter perfection of the wave. Because the wave goes on so flawlessly down the bay, the guys who catch waves right on the peak are gonna stay on the wave the wholeeee way to shore. There aren’t really waves that break inside so you have to either fight for a wave on the peak with the big boys or hope that someone falls off the wave before it ends and you can snag before the next guy does. 

 

My Home Break- Pacific Beach: Surfing The California Coast

Ocean floor: Beachbreak

Wave direction: Rights and Lefts

While this may not world-classclass break, it can deliver some a lot of fun and it’s usually where I choose to surf when I’m spending my winters in San Diego.  While the white wash is popular among surf schools for teaching beginners, the outside breaks are peaky and can be long depending on the swell size and direction.  Typically it’s better on a fuller tide, and if the tide gets too low or the swell is too big, head north a few hundred yards to Tourmaline a.k.a. “Old Man’s” where the long boarders and a hundred of their closest friends congregate.  Or if you are looking for a faster, steeper wave, head south to the pier and try your hand at an epic left.

 

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