The Best Beaches for Surfing in California

California is home to some of the best waves in the world. It also has some of the most beautiful beaches on earth. So with that in mind, it’s no surprise that California has become one of the central locations for surfing.

Whether you’re a beginner or a skilled surfer looking for somewhere new to challenge your skills, read on for our list of the top spots to catch waves in California.

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What You Need to Know Before You Surf

Get a Soft-Top Board

Soft top boards are the best option for beginners. They’re also a good option for people who want to progress to a hard top board but need to ease themselves. Soft top boards are less stable than hard top boards, so they encourage you to paddle harder and stand up on the board sooner, which are crucial skills when learning how to surf. Soft tops also make it easier to catch a wave when you’re starting. With a soft top you also don't have to worry about getting hit by your board or hitting another person because they're soft!

Look for Beginner Waves

There are ideal times when beginner waves are more prevalent. You’re less likely to be confronted by powerful or big waves when there’s a low tide and smaller swells, and you’re more likely to find a consistent flow of beginner waves.

Swells, tides, and weather patterns change at different times, so you’re more likely to find the right combination of consistency and power at certain times. Using an app like Surfline can be beneficial for surfers, especially when starting out. It will also usually be better to practice surfing in the morning when the wind tends to be lighter and conditions more calm.

buddy system surfing

Don't Surf by Yourself

A seasoned surfer might be able to catch a wave on their own, but it’s best to catch waves with a partner if you're starting. If you’re caught in a bad situation, you’ll be glad you have someone else to help get you out of it. If you don’t know anyone who surfs, look for a local surf school or surf club.

Start With a Big Surfboard

Don’t push yourself into a small soft top board if you've never surfed before. You’ll find it more difficult to paddle and balance, and you’ll be less likely to catch a wave. Instead, invest in a giant soft top board or rent one from your local surf shop.

Bigger boards are more accessible to paddle, so you’ll be more likely to catch waves more consistently, which is crucial for beginner surfers. More giant boards are also easier to stand up on, essential for beginner surfers. As you progress in your skill levels, you can invest in smaller boards.

the best surfing beaches in California

The Best Surfing Beaches in California

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a quick look at the best surf spots in California.

La Jolla Shores

The Shores is one of the most popular beach breaks in all of California. With it's year-round gentle swells and carefree locals and tourists this is a must surf spot for beginners. Numerous surf lessons and kids camps can be scene throughout the summer learning the stoke.  

Cardiff Reef

The waves at the reef are best for skilled surfers as they are powerful and can produce a strong shore break. The water at the reef is deep and is usually a dark blue. The Cardiff Reef is a great place for skilled surfers to catch big waves.

San Onofre State Beach San Diego County

The beach is located in San Onofre State Park in northern San Diego County. The beach is a long and wide sandy beach with a gentle slope that ends with a rocky shoreline.

California surfer

Doheny State Beach

The beach has a long sandy shoreline, a popular destination for surfing, swimming, kayaking, and other water activities.

The water at the beach is cold, especially during the winter, so most visitors like to wear a wetsuit or other water clothing. The Doheny State Beach is a good place for beginners to find easy waves.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is one of the most famous surfing locations in the state. The beach is located in Orange County near the city of Newport. The beach has a long sandy shoreline with various attractions, including shops, hotels, and restaurants.

Faria Beach

Faria Beach is a good place for beginners to practice surfing because the waves are generally small and not too tricky to catch. The beach is also an excellent place to go swimming, especially during the summer when the water temperature is warmer.

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C Street

C Street is a good surf spot for beginners and experienced surfers to catch waves. The beach has an expansive sandy shoreline that is generally not too rocky. The water at the beach is usually warm, so it is an excellent place to swim.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is a long sandy beach in the city of Pismo Beach in southern San Luis Obispo County. The beach has a pier that visitors can walk out on to look for marine life.

Morro Rock Beach

Morro Rock Beach is a small beach in San Luis Obispo County in Morro Bay. The beach is near the historic Morro Rock landmark. The Morro Rock Beach is a good place for beginners to practice surfing because the waves are generally not too difficult.

Lower Trestles, San Clemente

Lower Trestles is a beach break in San Clemente in Southern California. The break is protected by a sandbar located just south of the San Clemente pier. The sandbar breaks waves as they approach, making them smaller and easier to catch.

Essential surfing tips for beginners

Essential Surfing Tips for Beginners

Surfing Etiquette

Respect the ocean and try to swim with the current, never against it. If the current seems too strong, avoid going out in general, or instead just swim closer to the shoreline. Never paddle out when the waves are too big.

Be mindful of others while you’re out in the water. Especially when you're starting out, try to stay out of the way of the more experienced surfers. Leave plenty of space around you so you don't get hurt.

One Rider per Wave

If you’re at a crowded break, there’s a good chance you’ll have to “pick and choose” which waves you’d like to ride. The general rule is one rider per wave.

Don’t steal someone’s wave. If you catch a wave going to another person, the general rule is to give the person the next wave. But, it’s good to keep an eye on the surfer’s direction. If the person is going toward you, you have the right of way.

Surfer girl in san diego

Final Thoughts

If you’re ready to catch some waves and live out your California beach boy/girl fantasies, try out the surf spots listed. Extraordinary coastal communities like San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Cruz, and Crescent City are famous for their vibe and great year-round waves. So what are you waiting for? Book that cheap flight and get ready to catch the best waves in California!

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