Riding the waves is a quintessential component of the So Cal lifestyle, and San Diego County boasts some of the area’s very best. With 70 miles of coastline lapped by reliable breaks, there are sufficient swells to suit just about any type of surfer. Throw in the perennial sunshine and reasonably warm water temps and you’ve got peak conditions to keep the stoke going strong 365 days a year.
If you’ve got the yen to charge some San Diego sets, there’s a wave that’s right for you and only one way to find it. Whether newbie or pro, long board soul surfer or short board hotshot, grab some wetsuits, strap down your sticks and hit the road for an epic San Diego surfari. While you’re bound to discover several sesh-worthy waves on your own, here are some of the sweetest:
Trestles is a 2.25-mile stretch of surf and sand smack between the San Onofre nuclear plant and the San Diego County-Orange County line. Known for its world-class river-mouth point breaks, it’s a hot spot among experts and pros. Conditions are ideal with a south-to-southwest swell and, when it’s on, you’ll score some seriously cool surf stories. Expect to work for your waves, however. It’s a long trek from the parking lot and the line-up is thick and aggressive.
Further north on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, discover Del Mar Beach, where the sets build big and hollow. Continue on to San Diego’s northernmost coastal town of Oceanside for miles of benign beach breaks perfect for beginners. Experienced riders will enjoy The Jetties, where the steepest swells roll in, while the Oceanside Pier is great for hot-dogging short boarders. Further south down the sand, long boarders can hang ten with their soul surfing brethren at Buccaneer Beach.
Continue the journey to Carlsbad and get your session on at Tamarack. While conditions here are best in summer, sand bars create nice rippable peaks no matter the season. For the best rides, aim for medium tide with a 3-to-6-foot swell. If the waves just won’t cooperate, set your sights on Ponto Jetty for some awesome left breaks Thanks to dredging operations in the Batiquitos Lagoon, this spot is hot year-round.
Further south in Leucadia, Beacons beckons surfers with a friendly northwest surge. The light-to-medium reef break is fun for tenderfoots and champs alike, but watch out around the shoreline where the waves can close out with force. Continue on to Swamis in Encinitas for a world-class point break built for experienced surfers with big guns. The sets are huge and unforgiving but those with the necessary skills will be rewarded with epic rides.
Down the road in Cardiff you’ll find the reef break known as Suckouts. The wave is generally slow and mushy in summer, which can be good for beginning long boarders, but the winter swells are awesome. Avoid this spot after storms as water conditions become contaminated with bacteria — head to nearby Pipes instead. The sets are smaller but still fun to catch.
Your next move south will land you at family-friendly 15th Street in Del Mar. Look for the grassy park and the peeling left-hand break below it. The waves are fun, friendly and great for greenhorns. If you’re an expert, however, move on to the trench-driven waters at Black’s Beach and prepare for gnarly 10’ to 12’ swells. This is arguably the best surf spot in California but unless you charge like a pro, don’t bother paddling out.
The only notable surf between Pacific Beach and San Diego’s southernmost town of Imperial Beach is Point Loma’s Sunset Cliffs where the winter point break is prime. The best swells require a long paddle and you’ll have to weave around some rocks, but when the waves go off big, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Photo Courtesy of iStock/rmanera