Best Surf Spots In California

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California is known for the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Alcatraz! Another great attraction is the beaches and of course the awesome surf spots! The Golden State has the best coastline and attracts the world’s best surfers to catch and ride the waves!

Surfing in California is exhilarating, with waves that can reach up to 60 feet tall in some areas. The best surf spots are Huntington Beach, Mavericks, Steamer Lane, Windandsea Beach, Newport Beach, and San Onofre State Beach.

Read on for a more in-depth explanation about what it’s like to surf in California, where the best places to go surfing in California are, and when you should go surfing to catch the best waves! Celebrate California Surfing Day like a local on September 20th

What Is It Like Surfing In California?

Surfing in California is one of the most surreal experiences you could ever have. Many legendary surfer towns and 800 miles of gorgeous coastline provide you with beautiful waves all year round.

California provides you with lots of beautiful summer sun and daytime temperatures between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes reaching into the low to mid-80s. In the winter months, the temperatures can drop into the mid to the low 30s.

Depending on the area of California you are staying in, the inland temperatures can reach all the way into the low 100s. Night temperatures are between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average temperature in the mid-50s.

Between July and August, there will, on occasion, be an entire week where it will rain non-stop.

When Is Best Time Of Year To Go Surfing In California?

The best time of year to go surfing in California is relative to where in California you are. California is separated into three main coastal regions: Southern California, also known as SoCal, Central California, and Northern California.

Best Seasons To Surf Southern California

Southern California has beaches that provide the perfect conditions for surfers of all skill levels, especially those new to surfing. In Southern California, you can surf on beautiful waves the entire year-round.

This means that because you can surf all year in SoCal, the decision of when to go is entirely up to you. However, the winter months are considered to have better swells providing surfers with more consistent waves to ride. 

Although the winter months have better waves, the price you have to pay for those waves is water temperatures in the range of 52 degrees Fahrenheit to 58 degrees Fahrenheit (11.11 degrees Celsius and 14.44 degrees Celsius). However, the temperatures rise into the low 70s (20s in Celsius) in the summer months.

When Should You Surf Central California?

Central California has gorgeous beaches scattered throughout its shoreline. The best seasons to visit central California for surfing are winter, fall, and spring. Visiting at these times of the year means you can catch some of the best waves that central California has to offer.

Go out in the early morning or late evenings to catch the best waves possible. Aside from a hand full of surf spots, the beaches in central California are surfable by all categories of surfer, whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or an expert. For the most part, it’s the more experienced surfers taking on these swells, though.

The water temperatures in central California fluctuate between 48 degrees Fahrenheit and 62 degrees Fahrenheit (8.88 and 16.66 degrees Celsius), with an average temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 54 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 12.22 degrees Celsius).

Using a 4/3 mm wetsuit or even a 5 mm wetsuit is recommended when surfing in temperatures as low as this.

When Is Best For Northern California Surfing?

Fall, winter, and spring are the optimal seasons to surf in Northern California. Surfing in Northern California is incredible; however, it’s not a good idea for novices or low-level intermediate surfers to go surfing here as the conditions are such that only advanced professional surfers should take on these monster swells.

The water temperatures in northern California have the same range as in central California, with lows ranging between 48 degrees Fahrenheit and 62 degrees Fahrenheit (8.88 and 16.66 degrees Celsius) with an average temperature range of 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 54 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 12.22 degrees Celsius).

As such, you should be wearing a wetsuit no thinner than 4/3 mm, or if you like to be warm when you are surfing, you should invest in a 5 mm wetsuit with boots and a hood.

Where Are The Top 6 Spots To Go Surfing In California?

The following is not a ranking system; it is simply a list of California’s top 6 spots to go surfing. These spots are located all around Southern, central, and Northern California. 

1. Surfing In Huntington Beach

Here follows, in brief, the information you need regarding surfing in Huntington Beach.

  • Location – Huntington beach is situated in Orange County, Southern California, just outside Los Angeles. 
  • Wave Height – Huntington Beach’s waves can range in size from 1.28 feet tall to 4.59 feet tall.
  • Beach Length – Huntington beach has 9.5 miles (15.3 Kilometers) of beautiful shoreline.
  • Experience level – all surfers of every experience level are welcome at Huntington beach. Beginner and low-level intermediate surfers have to stick to the inside shore breaks because the outside is for the more experienced surfers.
  • Popularity – Huntington bay is one of the busiest beaches in Orange County, with millions of passionate surfers and patrons visiting each year, earning Huntington beach the nickname of surf city.
  • Vibe – the people in Huntington are the perfect combination of exciting and laid back. Many people who visit Huntington often want to stay in this relaxed atmosphere.

2. Mavericks As A Surf Location In California

If you consider choosing Mavericks as a surf venue, the information you need follows.

  • Location – Mavericks is located a couple of minutes north of Half moon bay in the northern part of California 
  • Wave Height – the waves at Mavericks are crazy, with an average height of 25 feet tall and occasionally reaching 60 feet tall.
  • Beach Length – Mavericks beach is 264 yards across or 0.15 miles (0.24 Kilometres)
  • Experience level – to surf at Mavericks, you have to be an expert/professional at surfing. However, even some pros don’t want to go surfing there due to the unpredictability of the enormous waves and sharp jagged rock reefs.
  • Popularity – Mavericks is an extremely popular location to go to, even if you are not surfing. Not only can you go surfing at Mavericks, but you can even bring your dogs along, and with activities like hiking, jet skiing, and bike trails, you will most definitely see lots of people.
  • Vibe – The locals at Mavericks are very kind and will gladly direct you to the entrance. However, if you plan to surf, they may try and urge you to reconsider.

3. Steamer Lane – A Surf Location For Professionals

Steamer Lane is a beautiful surf venue but should only be attempted by professional surfers.

  • Location – Steamer lane is located at 700w cliff drive in Santa Cruz in central California.
  • Wave Height – the waves at steamer lane are relentless, with swells reaching up to 26 feet tall.
  • Experience level – to successfully surf Steamer lane, you have to be a professional who has spent hundreds of hours surfing. Otherwise, it is far too dangerous, with death being a genuine risk. 
  • Popularity – Steamer lane isn’t very popular to surf at due to the danger levels associated with the spot. However, when a professional surfer does get into the water, it can draw quite a crowd of people who want to watch a master at work.

4. Surfing In Windansea Beach, California

Here is what you need to know about surfing at Windansea beach.

  • Location – Windansea beach is located in San Diego in the southern part of California.
  • Wave Height – the height of the waves at Windansea beach is consistently in the range of 6 feet to 8 feet tall.
  • Experience level – to safely surf at Windansea beach, you should be an intermediate to experienced surfer at least. Even though the waves’ size is manageable, the currents are rather strong and can be potentially dangerous if you don’t know how to deal with them safely.
  • Popularity – Windansea beach is a secluded beach with beautiful waves and is perfect for surfing. However, finding parking may prove to be a challenge unless you are a local, but once you manage to find a spot, the beach is rarely crowded.
  • Vibe – the locals at Windansea beach are generally very kind and willing to help direct you to the beach.

5. Newport Beach – A Surf Venue For All

Are you interested in surfing in Orange county? Newport is a great option, and here is why.

  • Location – Newport Beach is situated in Orange County in the southern part of California.
  • Wave Height – at Newport beach, the waves can fluctuate between 1 foot and 5.7 feet tall, depending on the time of day.
  • Beach Length – Newport beach length is 1421.7 yards or 0.807 miles (1.3 kilometers)
  • Experience level – the waves at Newport Beach are perfect for longboarders and beginners or people who aren’t entirely confident in their abilities.
  • Popularity – with Newport beach facilitating activities such as; swimming, surfing, sailing, boating, and even fishing, it’s no wonder that people are constantly drawn to it. However, there is no reason to worry because there is more than enough space for everyone to enjoy and be comfortable.
  • Vibe – Newport beach is a family-friendly beach that has something for everyone to enjoy, and on the off chance you do find yourself struggling to find the beach, the friendly locals will generally have no problem pointing you in the right direction.

6. San Onofre State Beach

 San Onofre has something for everyone, including surfing. Here is the information you need about this venue:

  • Location – San Onofre State Beach is situated on the old pacific highway, San Clemente, Orange County, in southern California.
  • Wave Height – The waves at San Onofre State Beach range from 1 foot tall to 5.9 feet tall, depending on the season.
  • Beach Length – San Onofre State Beach has 3.5 miles or 5.6 kilometers of shoreline to take advantage of. 
  • Experience level – anyone and everyone can go surfing at San Onofre State Beach, whether you are a professional surfer or it’s your first time getting on a surfboard.
  • Popularity – San Onofre State Beach is extremely popular due to all the activities available, including; swimming, surfing, sunbathing, kayaking, cycling, and even camping. With all of the activities available, it’s no wonder that people come flocking in by the hundreds each day.
  • Vibe – the local people are very kind and helpful to outsiders. 

Surf Lessons In Southern California

Surf lessons are always fun and interactive learning experiences for people of all ages so let’s look at one of the best surf schools in SoCal – Wavehuggers Surf School.

Wavehuggers surf school is SoCal’s original ocean-conscious surf school.

There are four main reasons to choose Wavehuggers surf school:

  • Every lesson booked with Wavehuggers surf school helps save a sea lion’s life.
  • All of Wavehuggers instructors have their CPR and first aid certifications.
  • Wavehuggers surf school has two hour-long lessons available every day of the week.
  • A 3/2 mm full-length wetsuit and foam top board are provided for you by Wavehuggers.

This surf school has four lesson types. They are as follows:

  • Private one on one lessons or bring a group.
  • Kids surf camp at the beautiful Huntington beach.
  • Community surf classes every other Sunday of the month.
  • Video surf coaching with Professional surfer Holly Beck.

The following are Wavehugger’s four most popular programs. Two of them are tailored to people of all ages, and two are tailored to kids aged 5 to 15.

  • A single two-hour-long private lesson for people of all ages, this package costs $156, including a wetsuit and board rental.
  • The dolphin package entails three 2-hour lessons for all ages. This package costs $346, including a wetsuit and board rental.
  • ½ day sessions at Huntington beach Monday to Friday for kids ages 5 to 15. This package costs$395.
  • Full-day drop-in session available Monday to Thursday for kids aged 5 to 15. This package costs $180.


In total, we have discovered that surfing experiences in California can be entirely different depending on where you are surfing. We discussed where the best spots to go surfing are and that some of the locations are rather dangerous.

We have also learned about one of the best surfing schools in southern California. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your wetsuit, grab your board, and head on down to sunny California, where an adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you.