The beaches in California offer some of the best surfing in the world. Whether you’re a beginner just getting your feet wet or an expert looking for the perfect point break, there’s a surf spot for you. In the winter, the Santa Ana winds, often combined with El-Nino driven storms, deliver big Pacific swells that contribute to the six-story waves at Maverick and overall perfect surfing conditions up and down the coast.
10. Salmon Creek, Sonoma County
Salmon Creek Beach in Bodega Bay in northern California has great surf, cold water, and lots of sharks. This beach has heavy beach breaks through most of the summer – both left and right, and you need some skill to try them out. There are easier swells further down the beach. Take a wetsuit and keep an eye out for those great whites.
9. Swami’s Beach, San Diego
Swami’s Beach in San Diego is famous for its hollow right-hand point break throughout the winter. The wave breaks a good distance out from shore requiring some fitness to get to it, and waves can run anywhere from 2 to 12 feet high, so it covers a good range of skill. Generally popular with longboard and shortboard surfers, there is a lot of competition to get the waves as they come in. (Yes, that’s a shark riding the wave in the picture above).
8. Newport Beach – The Wedge, Orange County
The Wedge is a powerful beach break next to the Newport Beach jetty for experienced surfers only. The waves are steep, rolling, and unpredictable and often cause a strong backwash that can pull people back into the surf. During a south or southwest swell, the waves can reach heights of 30 feet. Bodysurfers and bodyboarders dominate the wave, and boards are banned from May to October, 10am to 5pm. The Wedge can break left or right, but primarily left, and explodes over a very shallow sandy bottom. Injuries are frequent here, so make sure you know what you’re doing.
7. Salt Creek, Orange County
Salt Creek has three breaks: The Point has nice left breaking waves with some good power, but gets crowded as it has a small take off area. The Middles is a hollow break that stretches out more than the Point, and the two will sometimes combine to make a long fast ride. The Gravels is a consistent sandy shore break, generally right, that has a decent hollow when conditions are right. For spectators, the Point at Salt Creek offers great opportunity – due to the curve of the shore, the Point is very close to the lineup. Lots of photographers looking for the perfect shot.
6. Huntington Beach, Orange County
Huntington Beach is Surf City USA, where George Freeth brought surfing from Hawaii back in the 1914, this is where surf culture in the US got its start. The home of the yearly U.S. Open surf competition at the end of July, it has several miles of fast breaking waves. The long boardwalk and copious bars mean lots of beautiful people on the beach during the summer. Consistent all year round, even when other beaches are flat, the best swells are usually in the winter when the crowds are gone, and you can get some classic hollows. The waves break both right and left.