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Get the right board and a wetsuit and head out to these Southern California beaches to find the surfing spots of your dreams.
9 min read
May 08, 2021
California is home to a multitude of incredible surfing spots, many of which are concentrated in Los Angeles. The prolonged periods of warm weather, sweeping coastline, and great variety of surfing conditions allow surfers of all skill levels to enjoy the swells without compromise while surfing in Los Angeles. After hitting up the local Los Angeles surf shops to get the right board and a wetsuit, head out to these Southern California beaches to find the surfing spots of your dreams.
Whether you’re a beginner paddler or a professional rider, these beautiful beaches are bound to impress you with swells and more. The best surf spots in Los Angeles are found along the miles and miles of beaches on the county line. Grab your board and your surfing buddies, and get ready to get a taste of surfing in Los Angeles; we have a feeling you might not want to surf anywhere else after.
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The swells at Venice Beach are famously mellow, but don’t mistake their moderate nature for a boring experience. While the lazy waves create the ideal setting for beginners and relaxed riders, there are still plenty of opportunities for thrill seekers. If the bustling sidewalks filled with street performers and funky shops aren’t enough to spark your adventurous spirit, check out some of the more intense surfing spots to take advantage of the swells.
The Venice Breakwater and the Venice Fishing Pier provide enough structural displacement to fundamentally change the types of waves available. The Breakwater is created by a collection of rocks that causes sand to accumulate on the ocean floor, forming beautiful rights just waiting to be surfed. With its unique water conditions, this is a popular surfing destination, so make sure to get there early for your best shot at riding solo. Similarly, rocks underneath the water’s surface at the Venice Fishing Pier create larger waves, forming a strong riptide and the perfect surfing conditions for experienced riders on a Venice Beach surfing adventure.
Regardless of where you decide to surf along Venice Beach, it'll be one of your most memorable surfing trips in Southern California. If surfing in Venice Beach doesn’t end up being a perfect match for you, there are still plenty of other underrated activities to check out at the SoCal spot.
Another one of the best beginner surf spots in Los Angeles is Sunset Point Beach. The northernmost of all the Will Rogers State Beaches, Sunset Point is separated from the rest by a noticeably rocky and sandless stretch.
Sunset Point beach has a reputation for being one of the top Los Angeles surf spots for beginners thanks to its long right-hand rollers. Surfing at this spot is best described as long, slow, and relatively easy—so it’s also suitable for longboarders. Go between April and August for the best conditions, and you’ll primarily face south swells with five to seven foot waves. When you're done, there are plenty of spots to grab lunch along the beach. And of course, the iconic L.A. street of Sunset Boulevard is a short walk away.
Similar in many ways to Sunset Point Beach, Leo Carrillo is a surf spot in Los Angeles that’s excellent for novice surfers. Both secluded and well-equipped, this dog-friendly beach is truly an awesome stretch of L.A. sand.
If you’d describe yourself as more experienced than a beginner, you’ll still find surfing in Leo Carrillo very enjoyable. Summer is the best time of year to ride here with consistent clean waves. You can expect super fun, right-hand rocky reef breaks, often fairly crowded with surfers. Funboarders and longboarders also frequent this beginner surf spot in Los Angeles, so be ready to share the waves with many other surfers.
While Leo Carrillo offers surfing conditions that both beginner and intermediate surfers can enjoy, Bay Street is almost exclusively for beginners. Visit from July to September and you’ll face three- to five-foot waves and south swells.
The waves aren’t comparable to some of the best surf spots in California, but the mellow nature of the beach is what makes it perfect for beginners surfing in Los Angeles. The beach is never empty, but it’s way less crowded than the nearby Santa Monica Pier, making it perfect for families looking to spend time by the coast. If you get hungry, you’ll have an abundance of nearby eateries to choose from, including a branch of the well-known Cafe Gratitude.
While Zuma Beach is one of the longest surfing beaches in the entire state, it is located farther north than most Los Angeles beaches, so it draws fewer crowds than the SoCal staples. The internationally renowned surf spot is famous for its even breaks across the entire expanse of beach, making it a great location for experienced and intermediate surfers looking for additional excitement.
Though Zuma Beach is an exquisite location, beginners may want to stay away; the intense riptide, 20-foot swells, and close-to-shore breaks make for a rigorous ride—so much so that sponsored, professional surfers can often be found along this stretch. (Keep your eyes peeled and your GoPro handy just in case.)
Nonetheless, if you're an intermediate surfer with enough gusto, you’ll have an awesome time enjoying the best surfing in Los Angeles at Zuma Beach.
Tucked away in the northern portion of Manhattan Beach, El Porto Beach is yet another prime example of the warm, white-sand beaches of Southern California. Due to its location between Manhattan Beach and Dockweiler State Beach, it is often lumped into these other two destinations, so it isn't as well-known to visitors.
But El Porto Beach is no secret among the locals, so make sure to arrive early to snag a parking spot and catch some unobstructed waves. The more experienced surfers know to come in the winter months, when the swells are larger and more consistent, but for less confident surfers, the smooth waves and sunshine of the warmer months provide a better option. El Porto Beach’s central location also offers travelers a great alternative to lounging at the airport during layovers. Visitors can head out to play some volleyball, walk along the shore, and longboard on the paved pathways between surfing sessions.
The popularity of Topanga Beach is a testament to its reputation as one of the best surf spots in Los Angeles. Go early to beat the crowds at the fan-favorite SoCal spot and have a blast riding the waves.
You’ll find an awesome right-hand point break that’s steep off the top, and more slopey and mellow on the inside. To enjoy the sick waves on a south swell, hit the waters from May to August. You’ll also find 40 to 50 other surfers in the water on a good day, but you won’t feel suffocated at all. As long as you’re friendly with the other surfers and respect everyone’s boundaries, localism won’t be an issue here.
As the name suggests, the northernmost County Line Beach is located at the cusp of Los Angeles County. If you’re wondering whether the drive up north is worth it, the answer is absolutely.
When the swell is right, County Line Beach can easily accommodate advanced surfers. But the waves here are not consistently strong, which is why it’s better classified as one of the best surfing spots in L.A. for beginners. Several individual beach breaks with northwest swells are also common here, so despite the crowds, you’ll still be able to catch a good wave.
Besides surfing, Hermosa Beach also offers awesome events year-round. Parades, fairs, and even a full-fledged surf festival occur often (during normal circumstances) at Hermosa—you’re constantly surrounded by SoCal's surf culture.
Here, the beach break waves are bound to entertain all levels of surfers. After you’re done shredding, explore what else this surf spot in Los Angeles has to offer. The surrounding region of Hermosa Beach is filled with California surf history, and the shopping and dining scene is amazing. Head up the pier to Watermans for tasty bites surrounded by pictures of the area’s best surfers and surfing history—pro tip: the tacos are killer.
Nestled between the Malibu Pier and Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Surfrider Beach is one of the most iconic surfing destinations in the world. Situated just off the famous Pacific Coast Highway, Surfrider Beach provides the unique opportunity to experience three different breaks along a single stretch of sand.
This idyllic spot is a picture-perfect representation of Southern California beaches: volleyball courts, pristine white sands, turquoise waters, and surfers as far as the eye can see. Head to the third point to get your bearings if you are a beginner or have recently picked up surfing again, and save the other two points for more experienced riders. Keep an eye out for the surf camps that regularly occupy the gentle waters near the coastline, and make sure to explore the entire extent of the beach to get a true sense of Surfrider Beach. Stay at the nearby nearby Surfrider Hotel, grab locally sourced cuisine at Malibu Farm, and immerse yourself in the Malibu surf culture.
At Pyramid Cove, seclusion is the name of the game. Only accessible by boat, Pyramid Cove is filled with people who take surfing seriously. The sand and rock bottom spot is found at the south end of San Clemente Island—it’s pretty much a hidden gem. With magnificent south swells, a huge rock takeoff, and world-class waves, it’s only a matter of time before people realize Pyramid Cove’s potential as one of the best places to surf in Los Angeles.
Lunada Bay is an awesome Los Angeles surf spot for intermediate and advanced surfers. Compared to top surf spots in Hawaii by the likes of Greg Knoll, Luanda Bay has an excellent reputation in big wave surfing. The rocky beach is also a gorgeous place to watch the sunset, and the old shipwreck around the north point is worth checking out. Sadly, Lunada Bay’s reputation for heavy localism often precedes it. If you ever decide to hit up this surf spot in Los Angeles, it’s best you tag along with a local.
The expert tag of Redondo Beach Breakwater should be taken seriously. With a swell director of west to northwest, this gnarly Los Angeles surf spot has a long and powerful left-bound break, giving advanced surfers a serious challenge.
Experienced surfers appreciate this breakwater and jetty spot near the border of Redondo and Hermosa Beach. If surfing isn’t your best skill, you’ll be happy to find boutiques, food stands, and restaurants near the shores. A grassy area, volleyball court, and picnic tables are also accessible nearby.
The official name of this sandy stretch is actually Nicholas Canyon Beach, but surfers gave it the nickname “Zeros” or “Point Zero.” Apparently, the nickname comes from the waves that crash at the scattered boulders below the parking lot, where the canyon meets the shore. Usually less crowded than other Malibu beaches, Zeros is more than just a surfing spot.
A large number of water sports are popular here including body surfing, wind sailing, and scuba diving. The waves are frequent and somewhat high, and the bottom is rocky at Zeros, so it’s best left for surfers with experience under their belt.
More of a winter spot, Pipes and Turbos boasts shallow, rocky, barreling left slabs which are clean in the winter and somewhat blown out during the warmer months. Surfing at this Los Angeles destination is best between November and February. We’d be lying if we said there is absolutely no localism here, but if you show up with one or two other people (at most), and respect everyone’s boundaries in the water, you won’t face any problems.
Heading to San Diego next? Check out their best surfing destinations.
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