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Grab Your Surfboard and Head to These Top San Diego Surf Destinations
Health & Fitness

Grab Your Surfboard and Head to These Top San Diego Surf Destinations

Whether you seek calm waves for honing your skills or intense breaks for satisfying thrills, there is a San Diego surf spot for you.

California.com

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6 min read

March 07, 2021

San Diego is home to great weather, endless coastlines, and a wide variety of surf breaks made for every skill level imaginable. Whether you are just learning how to surf or are making the trip to San Diego specifically for its intense breaks, there is a beach and a season for you. 

The best time to surf in San Diego

The best time to surf in San Diego is any time, considering there is always something solid to ride at one of California’s best spots for catching waves. But the most foolproof season for the average surfer in San Diego is August through November.

South swells combine with Santa Ana winds and produce beautiful offshore walls and barrels in late summer and early fall. While the weather gets cooler in October and November—which are considered transitional months—the water temperature dips as swells arrive from the west.

As for surface conditions, the waters are cleanest during the early mornings. The best surf spots in San Diego are least crowded during midday, mid-week work hours.

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Rad San Diego surf spots

Oceanside is one of the top surf spots in San Diego and consistently offers thrilling breaks and swells to keep advanced surfers entertained.

Oceanside

Best for: Advanced surfers

Best season: Year-round

Oceanside is perfect for experienced surfers regardless of the season, and thanks to its consistent surf, it has a reputation for being one of the best surfing beaches in San Diego. This location is blessed with southern and northwestern swells due to the beach’s shifting sandbars, and curling rights and lefts make frequent appearances during the summer. But thrillseekers wait until winter to hit the longest and most exhilarating of the waves. The most tumultuous surf surrounds Oceanside Pier, so be careful—and consider checking Surfline San Diego before heading out—because the currents have been known to sweep surfers under the pier when the waters get rough. 

Aside from boasting interesting wave patterns, Oceanside is also renowned for being a great place to see San Diego Harbor’s famous timber jetties, so make sure to bring a camera along.

When you finish surfing, head inland to check out the community of surfer-owned eateries and refuel after riding the waves. 

Encinitas surf spots

Swami's is a surfing mecca in Encinitas, drawing surfers of all skill levels with its varying wave patterns and communal charm.

Swami’s

Best for: Intermediate/advanced surfers

Best season: Winter

You’ll find this San Diego surf spot by heading south of the Self-Realization Fellowship meditation center. Swami’s was once a hippie hot spot. Today, it offers some of the best surfing in the San Diego region—when the season’s right. Unlike Oceanside, conditions at Swami’s can be tranquil enough to accommodate beginners who are looking to upgrade their skills in a challenging duel against the ocean. For a calmer experience, head toward the shallow reefs and try to hit the quieter breaks along the shore, but leave the barrels to the more experienced surfers. 

This surf beach in San Diego has grown in popularity over the years and can sometimes be difficult to navigate. But if you can get through the crowds of locals and experience the walls, you’ll understand why it’s considered to be among the city’s top point breaks. 

Need to grab a new board in order to feel confident tackling these swells? Head over to Hansen Surfboards—one of the coolest surf shops in San Diego—to peruse the selection before paddling out to find inner peace.

Grandview

Best for: Beginner/intermediate surfers

Best season: Winter

Encinitas is the best place to surf in San Diego for northwest, southwest, and combination swells. Known for being beginner-friendly, but nonetheless exciting for professionals as well, this San Diego surf spot is a true wave magnet.

Although surfable year-round, the waves here can get mushy and slow during the down season. This means you’ll enjoy paddling on your shortboard and longboard as well. However, all these perks come at an expected trade-off: crowds. If you’re a surfer who prefers to ride solo, this Encinitas surf spot might not be the best fit for you.

La Jolla surf spots

La Jolla's stunning shores and secluded stretches of coastline provide the ultimate surfing experience.

Black’s Beach

Best for: Expert/pro surfers

Best season: Winter

Looking to add a killer San Diego surf spot to your getaway to La Jolla itinerary? Consider Black’s Beach—one of the most intense surf spots in San Diego. Tucked along the cliffs of Torrey Pines in La Jolla, this remote destination is known for its incessantly crashing waves and incredibly powerful breaks created by the offshore trench lurking beneath the surface.  

Since it takes some effort to reach this alcove, Black’s Beach is often a bit quieter than the rest of the surfing beaches in San Diego. Hiking down to the shore takes about 20 minutes (and you are likely to encounter some nudists once you get there), so pack accordingly and be prepared for the trek.

La Jolla Shores 

Best for: Beginner/intermediate surfers

Best season: Year-round

La Jolla Shores is known for its gentle, slow-moving waves, so it is the perfect place to take some surf lessons in San Diego. Get comfortable with your board, learn the basics, and gain confidence here before pushing yourself to try more difficult waters. Since the waves are ideal all year, there is no longer an excuse to put off learning how to surf.

Beginner surf spots in San Diego

Surfers of all skill levels flock to Ocean Beach where there's a variety of surf breaks, not to mention the pristine shoreline and tide pools.

Ocean Beach

Best for: Beginner/intermediate surfers 

Best season: Summer

With tide pools just south of the Ocean Beach Pier, a sandy beach at the south end of the San Diego River, and a wide expanse for experimenting with other watersports, Ocean Beach is a great place to ease yourself into surfing. Take a walk along the nearly half-mile-long pier before diving into the waters for a relaxed surfing session. 

Make sure to avoid the Sunset Cliffs area unless you are an incredibly experienced surfer—locals are quite protective of these swells. Ocean Beach is significantly more pleasant and has a lot to offer beginners and somewhat experienced surfers alike. After you finish, round out your day by heading over to Ironside Fish and Oyster for some much-needed grub and hitting up the Casbah to catch a show.

Pacific Beach

Best for: Beginner/intermediate surfers

Best season: Year-round

Pacific Beach is unique in that it has two different regions that appeal to surfers of different skill levels. Tourmaline Surfing Park is located along the southern end of Pacific Beach and is known for its soft waves and perfect-for-beginners surf. Since the parking lot is located here, it’s super easy to find and is a good place to start if you haven’t surfed in a while. 

Once you feel comfortable, head up to PB Point, where the more experienced longboarders hang out. Try these slightly larger waves on for size, and relax on the beach with the rest of the college students if it gets to be too much.

Mission Beach Surf Spot

Best for: Beginner surfers

Best season: Fall

Whether you are here to surf or to take pictures of the surfers at the South Mission Jetty, this location is the place to be. Like La Jolla Shores, Mission Beach has calmer waters, so join all the beginner surfers in the San Diego area for a day on the water. 

But skilled surfers shouldn’t give up hope; locals love this spot during the winter because the swells get significantly larger.

Known for its beach breaks and intense conditions, Sunset Cliffs is reserved for seasoned surfers.

Sunset Cliffs Surf Destination

Best for: Advanced surfers

Best season: Fall/winter

Now if you are an extremely experienced surfer, you’ll love the super fun reef breaks at this San Diego surf spot. Most of the waves are right and left deepwater reef breaks with the occasional barrel.

With over two miles of beaches and panoramic views, Sunset Cliffs is one of the best surf spots in San Diego for its secluded nature, glassy barrels during low tide, kelp beds, and sandy bottoms—all of which contribute to the formation of the perfect beach break.

Del Mar Surf Spots

15th Street

Best for: Easy/intermediate

Best season: Year-round

Fun for the whole family, 15th Street is one of the best surf spots in San Diego for its versatility and year-round rideability. This popular beach usually features a mix of all kinds of people with waves that are easy to surf and enjoyable for all. 

This surf beach in San Diego also boasts plenty of eateries, a nearby park, and a friendly crowd. If you’re new to surfing and want a judgment-free session with no localism and heavy vibes, 15th Street is the perfect place for you.

Looking for a new challenge? Try the waves of Los Angeles and put your surfing skills to the test.

 

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