Best time to visit California

Surfing in California

Amazing swells, great weather conditions, and various opportunities on dozens of ideal surfing beaches are waiting for you in the Golden State

Best time: October–March (all year round)


It's hard to live in California and not to try surfing. Here you can experience everything from beginner-friendly waves to the big wave surfing. Over thousand kilometres of beaches makes this state an ideal surfing destination. The most popular surfing spot in California is Huntington Beach. It is known as “Surf City” and is the capital of surfing in CA. You can spend the whole day surfing, without waiting for the right time.

If you are looking for a more peaceful place, head to Limantour Beach in Point Reyes or to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both are known for beautiful white sand stretches, wildlife, and hiking trails. If you are looking for huge Pacific Swells, Santa Ana and Mavericks are the best choice for you.

Southern California features over 60 great surfing spots easily accessible and with perfect tubes. Los Angeles and San Diego are the biggest surf cities in Southern California. Over 20 perfect surfing spots can be found at each of them. Zuma Beach, Topanga, and Venice Beach are the beaches for intermediate and advanced surfers only. El Porto is a great beach for beginners, while Hermosa and Manhattan Beach are good for every level of surfing. The Wedge in Newport Beach is one of the must-go surf destinations in SoCal. It is known for its incredible backwash ride, hollow, deep waves and quick breaks in the sand.

Numerous good spots can also be found in Santa Cruz, the Central Coast, and Bay Area. Some of the top spots are Steamer Lane, Malibu, and Rincon. Salt Creek Beach, in Dana Point, features powerful left-handers.

During spring, both North Pacific and South Pacific swells can occur. It is a time for beachbreakers that like cross swells. The period from March through May delivers quite unpredictable conditions. One day it can be perfect, another—absolutely miserable.

Summer brings South and Southwest Southern Hemi swells. This time is better in south facing regions, like Orange and Northern LA Counties, as well as some areas in San Diego and Ventura. Summer is also known for long periods of flat conditions. South and Southeastern hurricane swells occur from August through October.

Fall surfing conditions are somehow similar to those in spring, but much better. Again, a combination of cross swells is good for surfers. Wind conditions are quite good, and beaches are less crowded than in summer.

Winter offers larger and more constant swells. It is a prime season for surfing in various spots in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and South LA. Great weather and wind conditions will last all day long. You just need to check the low and high tide on the spot you've chosen. Low tide means more shallow choppy waves and what you really need for a perfect ride is a high tide. The biggest waves usually come from the North from December through February. The best conditions appear at early morning session and the lineup is not so packed during mid-week.

Practical info

When is the best time to surf in California?

Surfing enthusiasts are advised to hit the waters of California during the fall and winter seasons. This is when the swells are bigger and more consistent from October through March. During this time, the weather conditions are favorable, offering optimal fun all day long for surfers while the summers may have long periods of flat conditions. However, certain southern-facing areas in Orange, Ventura, as well as Northern LA Counties are excellent options during summer, so hit these spots to catch quintessential waves. Show more

Where are the best beginner-friendly beaches for surfing located in California?

If you are a beginner planning to tackle the waves of California, adventure to El Porto, Zuma Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Hermosa Beach- all located in Southern California. Limantour Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea in Northern California are also some beginner-friendly options. For added options, try looking around Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz where beaches like Rincon and Steamer Lane are best suited for new surfers. These locations are a great starting point to begin from for novice surfers. Show more

What are the most popular surfing spots in Southern California?

California boasts over 60 spectacular beaches perfect for surfing and amongst them are some of the most well-known spots in the world. Think of popular spots such as the ever-iconic Venice and Zuma Beach, Hermosa, and Manhattan Beach. Further down, Topanga, San Diego and Santa Ana also make the cut. For Newport Beach, The Wedge is the place to be if one is looking to catch challenging tides like pros. With over 20 perfect surfing spots in both LA and San Diego, the area is a surfer's mecca. Show more

How are the surfing conditions different in the summer and winter in California?

Winter in California is known to provide larger and more consistent swells than what summer offers. South and Southwest Southern Hemisphere swells engulf south-facing areas like Orange, Ventura, San Diego, and Northern LA Counties during the summer season. Spring and fall have similar conditions with fall being better and less busy. Beachbreakers are also in abundance during spring featuring cross swells while summer is synonymous with long periods of flat conditions. Show more

Are there any unique or hidden surfing spots in California that are not as well-known?

Yes, California houses a significant number of lesser-known but extremely delectable surfing gems. If you are on the lookout for some unique and hidden surfing spots, visit Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point or Mavericks in Half Moon Bay; perfect hideouts for surfing enthusiasts. Locations like Central Coast, Bay Areas, Santa Cruz, Malibu, and Rincon are a few other great paradises for surfers. Don't forget to ask the locals or seasoned surfers around the area for the hidden treasures. Show more

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