Humboldt is a rugged surf destination with countless high-quality breaks. Surfing in Humboldt county is not for the fainthearted. There are some fun spots for beginners, but most of the surf breaks in Humboldt are on the heavier end of the spectrum.
Humboldt has countless beach breaks, reef breaks, and points, and is an ideal surf destination for experienced surfers. The swell season is between autumn and winter when the coastline gets hit by powerful northwest swells. Summer is best for beginner surfers. Thick wetsuits are necessary year-round.
If you’re looking for an adventurous surf trip in an area of exhilarating natural beauty, Humboldt provides the goods. Proper planning is crucial to find the best waves and avoid some of the hazards of surfing in Humboldt. Here is some useful information you need to know before you go.
Surfing In Humboldt: What You Need To Know
Humboldt county has stunning natural beauty and a wealth of surf spots. The county is located along a highly exposed part of the Californian coastline, directly in the path of open-ocean swells. Most surf spots in Humboldt are suited to experienced surfers, though there are some fun beach breaks for novices.
You need a car to travel along the Humboldt coastline. Many of the surf breaks in Humboldt can be accessed from the coastal highways, though there is often a long walk down cliff trails to get to the jump-off spots.
It’s easy to find accommodation options to suit all budgets in the main towns in Humboldt. There are many camping grounds along the more isolated stretches of coastline. If you’re venturing far from the urban areas, it’s worth packing supplies.
The best time to surf in Humboldt is in autumn and winter, during the peak of the swell season. Humboldt has waves in spring, and it’s also possible to surf in summer too, but the size and quality of the waves are more likely to satisfy beginner surfers than hardcore big-wave riders.
Being Northern Cali, it goes without saying that the water is cold. Full wetsuits are necessary throughout the year, even in summer. In autumn and winter, you’ll need a 5/4mm suit, booties and a hoodie. During the swell season, you should also bring your biggest boards and a few spare leashes.
The rich abundance of sea life in Humboldt makes for exciting and memorable surf sessions. However, this means there is always a possibility of encountering great white sharks while you’re in the water. Caution and alertness are vital when surfing along the Humboldt coastline.
Local surfers also pose a potential hazard when surfing in Humboldt. The locals can be fiercely protective of ‘their’ breaks – it’s important to respect the locals, especially when the waves are cooking. Nonetheless, it’s easy to find uncrowded or solitary waves along the isolated expanses of the Humboldt coastline.
When Is The Best Time To Surf In Humboldt?
Surfing is possible throughout the year in Humboldt, but the waves are at their best in autumn (September to November). At this time of year, solid, long-period northwest swells start hitting the Humboldt coastline. Offshore winds also begin to blow more consistently, making for powerful, groomed lines.
Humboldt also gets all-time waves in winter, during the peak of the swell season. The weather conditions deteriorate in winter, so the waves can get too stormy and wind-blown to have a decent session. A high level of skill, fitness, and courage are vital for surfing in Humboldt during the wintertime.
Spring has some good days for surfing because the weather starts improving while the last of the big swells are still hitting the Humboldt coastline. In summer, the waves are pretty flat in Humboldt. Experienced surfers might get bored, but beginners can score some fun sessions at the local beach breaks.
Where Are The Best Places To Surf In Humboldt?
The surf spots in Humboldt county are dotted sparsely along the entire stretch of the coastline, and there is considerable secrecy surrounding the precise location of the best breaks. It’s impossible to list all the surf breaks worth exploring in Humboldt, but some of the more well-known places to surf are (from south to north):
- Shelter Cove,
- Centerville Beach,
- Moonstone Beach,
- Camel Rock,
- Patrick Point,
- Agate Beach.
Let’s look more closely at a few of these spots.
The Lost Coast: Shelter Cove
Shelter Cove is a tiny coastal settlement on the Lost Coast, along southernmost stretch of the Humboldt coastline. The area is considered one of the most isolated and unspoiled parts of the US coast.
Shelter Cove in the King Range National Conservation Area, and is a long detour off Route 101. However, the scenery, serenity, and waves of Shelter Cove make the trip well worth it.
There are several beach breaks and too many points and reefs to mention in the Shelter Cove area. Many of the better-known spots are on the south side of Shelter Cove. The most easily accessible, beginner-friendly surf spot is at Shelter Cove Beach, situated within the protection of the cove and boat launch.
A quick walk south down the beach is Dead Mans, which is a short, fast left-hand point break best left to experienced surfers. The next spot is Third Reef, a few minutes walk south along the coast. Like Dead Mans, Third Reef is a fast, heavy left-hand point.
The beach ends at a headland, where you’ll find No Pass, a big, barreling left-hand reef break. On the other side of the headland is Gale Point. The break is accessed by boat or by paddling around the headland. No Pass and Gale Point are for advanced surfers only.
Westhaven: Moonstone Beach And Camel Rock
About ten miles north of the county capital Eureka is the town of Westhaven. Here you’ll find two of the most well-known surf spots in Humboldt: Moonstone Beach and Camel Rock.
Moonstone Beach is situated at the northern end of Little River Beach, just off Route 101. The waves at Moonstone Beach are generally mellow, but there are some fun sections on bigger days. When it’s working, Moonstone Beach can get crowded.
Just north of Moonstone Beach is Camel Rock (also known as Houda Point Beach), where you’ll find a small beach on a rocky headland marked by majestic geological formations just offshore.
The waves at Camel Rock are typically beginner-friendly and can get very good with the right wind and swell conditions. Beginners should note that the currents can be heavy and unpredictable at Camel Rock during big swells in autumn and winter.
Sue-Meg State Park: Patrick’s Point And Agate Beach
Just over a mile north of Westhaven along Route 101, there are two surf spots inside the borders of the mesmerizing Sue-Meg State Park: Patrick’s Point and Agate Beach.
Patricks Point is a very long, risky left-hand wave that breaks along the steep headland at the southern end of the Sue-Meg Park. This spot is for experienced and adventurous surfers only.
The waves at this point break are usually big and powerful, though their shape tends to be crumbly, especially at high tide. Patricks Point also has strong currents and several shallow sections where the waves break over barely submerged rocks.
Patricks Point is situated far out near the top of the headland (more than 500m from the beach), and the water is pretty deep in the channel, so it’s the kind of place that sharks enjoy frequenting.
Agate Beach starts at the foot of the headland inside Sue-Meg Park. The beach is a long and sandy stretch of coastline backed by dramatic tree-lined cliffs. Agate beach has a steep gradient, so the waves are usually quite powerful, and the currents can be heavy on bigger swells.
Agate Beach produces clean, hollow waves and fast walls when the sandbanks, swell, and wind conditions are right.
Humboldt county is a stunning surf destination with enough surf spots to keep beginner and advanced surfers happy. While the sharks, rocky cliffs, and local surfers of Humboldt can be intimidating, you can score seriously fun and memorable sessions if you plan well and keep your wits about you when you’re in the water.