Updated: Oct 9
From the Hollywood sign to Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles is where people go to make it big and make a name for themselves.
It’s also where people go to surf.
In fact, LA was where modern day American surfing took its shape.
It has a deep surf culture along its many sunny beaches.
It’s a vast area that deserves a whole book breaking down its numerous breaks — but we’ll give you a short rundown in this article.
What’s So Special About Surfing in Los Angeles?
Waves in Los Angeles
LA is much like the rest of southern California — it’s mostly beach breaks with locals arguing if the south or north side of the pier is better.
During the summer the waves are pretty small and mushy.
Fall is a nice time to surf in southern California, the waves are rippable and daylight savings hasn’t kicked in yet so you can stay out for longer.
The best swells will hit during the winter but expect pretty chilly temperatures.
The Surf Culture in Los Angeles
LA is notorious for its amazing surf history and culture. It’s where surfing hit the mainstream in the 50s and 60s.
Everyone dreamt of coming down to Malibu to surf some of the long perfect waves at Surfrider beach.
Today, it still holds a similar reputation, for better or worse.
Many beaches will be packed with surfers of all abilities.
This occurrence is most common during the summer but the winter will usually send the weekend warriors packing and spots will be reserved for seasoned locals.
Equipment Needed to Surf in Los Angeles
Late summer and early fall require almost nothing but trunks but the winter and spring are another story.
Winter is going to be pretty cold and a wetsuit in the 4/3 range will be ideal.
Then spring will be sunnier but the water hasn’t quite warmed up yet so a short spring suit is ideal.
Yes, E-Foils have been making their presence known in the community.
And, if you want to avoid parking, you can always use an e-bike.
The Best Surf Spots in Los Angeles
The world famous Malibu is what surfers dream about at night. At least they used to dream about it.
This wave was perceived as the best wave in the world at one point but that was before “The Endless Summer” and surf trips were a thing.
Now it's more a circus rather than a surfing experience. Chances are you’re not going to get a wave for yourself because the better part of LA county’s population decided to come down here to try out surfing.
As far as the wave goes, there are three points that all offer something a little different.
First point offers some amazing longboarding waves while second and third point takes swells a little better making it a better shortboard wave.
Despite the crowds, there’s a reason why Malibu is so famous. It truly is an amazing wave that deserves all the hype.
Just south of Malibu is Santa Monica Beach.
Perhaps this spot is better known for its name rather than its waves, but regardless, it still is an LA staple.
The famous Santa Monica pier doesn’t really produce any surf so you’ll have to move a little farther south to Bay Street where surfable waves finally appear.
A little farther south of Santa Monica is the zany Venice Beach.
Venice is an interesting place.
If the waves are flat there is plenty of people watching to do, from the boardwalk to the world famous Venice Beach skatepark.
Try not to get too distracted by Venice’s wacky culture because it has some pretty good waves.
Venice has a couple of breaks worth surfing, one of them being Rose Avenue, which is a classic sandbar beach break.
The Venice Breakwall and Jetty have the potential to get overhead and barreling during the winter. Venice does have its crew of locals, so be on the lookout when the waves are good.
Manhattan Beach is another break that’s a part of LA surf legend.
Much like the rest of the beaches along LA’s coast it has quite the history.
Manhattan Beach has a couple of different breaks along its stretch of beach.
Marine Street is a popular break that produces some pretty solid surf that will get pretty crowded on the right day.
Then either side of the Manhattan Beach Pier will almost always give you something to surf.
Although it's not technically part of LA county, Huntington Beach is a short drive on the I-5 from anywhere in LA county.
Dubbed “Surf City”, Huntington has been a consistently good wave that’s held its spot in the surfing world for decades.
Duke Kahanamoku held a surfing exhibition here allowing it to blow surfing up in this part of town.
It has also been a frequent stop for professional surfing competitions and its where many surfers like Tom Curren or Rob Machado made names for themselves.
As far as waves go there are plenty of spots along the stretch of beach but we’ll focus on the pier where most of the action goes down.
The south side is typically where the US Open is held but it is also going to be incredibly crowded.
What To Do In Los Angeles When the Waves Are Flat
The question should really be what can’t you do in LA when the waves are flat.
Seriously though, SoCal is famously known for being able to snowboard and surf all in the same day.
A couple of popular ski resorts near LA are Big Bear Mountain and Mammoth Mountain.
If you're tired of board sports then maybe consider touring around some of LA's famous areas like seeing the Hollywood sign or visiting the LA County Art Museum which holds a very diverse collection of art.
Then of course you can visit the LA Dodgers at Dodger stadium which overlooks the LA city skyline.
Surfing in Los Angeles
The City of Angels is a diverse and culture rich area and surfing is just one aspect of that rich culture.
There’s a reason why it has held so much respect among the surfing community for all these years and there is so much more to be said that can't be said in one article.
So get out there for yourself and experience it!