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The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in San Diego

Updated: Jan 25

Like many other cities along Southern California's coast, San Diego provides an abundance of beaches that are highly equipped for all levels of surfing.

Across its 70 miles of coastline, San Diego has it all, from beginner to experienced spots.

With different surf spots marked at every mile of the coastline, San Diego is any surfers playground.


It provides a chance to test out the waters, and find what kind of breaks you enjoy.


You’ll have a selection of:


  • beach breaks

  • cove breaks

  • right point breaks

  • left point breaks


From my personal experiences and those from the peers around me, here's my ultimate guide to San Diego surfing

Photo courtesy @camwinkmedia


What’s So Special About San Diego Surfing?

From the moment you step foot in San Diego, you are met with the atmosphere of a typical surf town.


Surf shops on every corner and the view of the ocean all around you.


If the overall vibe of San Diego isn’t enough to convince you to make a trip down here, just wait until you take a step into the water.

Although you may have to wear a full suit during the winter time, San Diego has the warmest water in all of California’s coast.


Waves

San Diego is a playground for many surfers because of its vast collection of waves.


It contains everything from beach, to reef, to right point, and left point breaks.


All these different breaks operate on various swells, which means that you are guaranteed to have good conditions for surfing all throughout the year by exploring different breaks.



Photo courtesy @camwinkmedia


One of San Diego’s biggest fascinations is its winter time swells.


With waves up to 15-18ft, San Diego becomes a breeding ground for experienced surfers to display their performance.


Even so, there are alternative breaks that still remain relatively small for beginner surfers to test out.


The San Diego Surfing Culture

Due to San Diego’s extensive history in the surf industry, the surf culture of this area has become more of the backbone and identity of the city.

As many of its visitors and tourists come to experience the beach and the waves it provides, San Diego is filled with all kinds of surfers.


Photo courtesy @camwinkmedia


Like every other surf town, you may find yourself met with a sense of localism at certain breaks, however if you show respect, you shouldn’t have any problems.


The 5 Best Surf Spots In San Diego


Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs is located throughout the Point Loma peninsula and is filled with a plethora of different point breaks.

Because of its location, Sunset cliffs is often protected from the wind which means that you aren’t restricted to only surfing in the morning before the wind picks up.


What makes these breaks so special is their ability to work on different swells.


In summer, you can find long peeling waves perfect for longboarding and getting down your nose rides.


During winter, you will find huge waves that are more equipped for experienced surfers.


Blacks

Blacks beach is one of the most well known beaches in La Jolla and all of San Diego.


Unlike many waves, I’ve found that Blacks is consistently pumping out good waves all year round.

This beach break can range anywhere from 2-12 ft.


With that being said, this break is for more experienced surfers, as there is a long hike down, and a hefty paddle out into the lineup.


Oceanside

Oceanside is another beach break that stretches across about 4 miles of coastline.


This San Diego beach break has an accumulation of both rights and lefts so it’s a win for everyone.


Although it works best under northeast winds, you can find decent conditions in Oceanside at all times throughout the year.


It is important to note that this break also works best during high tide, so make sure to plan around that.


One downside to this is that you will frequently be met with a crowd in Oceanside, but can you blame people, the place is good all year round!


Windansea

One of La Jolla’s most well known reef breaks is Windansea.


This break works best when a southwest swell is met with offshore wind.


You are most likely to find these optimal conditions during the wintertime, more specifically during the month of November.


It is important to note that this surf break is for experienced surfers only. When the conditions are just right, the waves at Windansea become consistent and steep.


Since it is such a consistently surfable spot, you may notice a bit of localism in the lineup, but just follow the rules, no backpaddling or snaking, and there should be no problems.


Cardiff Reef

If you are visiting San Diego, another relatively consistent break is Cardiff Reef.


This break is a reef break which means that you should always be aware of where rocks are located in the water and make sure you are able to dodge them.


Cardiff works best under west, northwest swells, but is still surfable year round.


More experienced surfers find themselves enjoying larger waves during the winter time here, while beginners or longboarders prefer the smaller waves that summer brings in.

San Diego Surfing


San Diego’s many different surf breaks make it one of the most well known surf counties in California.


I’ve gone to many breaks throughout this city and found that it can be suitable for all types of surfing.

With that being said, check conditions before paddling out and make sure that the waves are suitable for your skill set.


There are many waves for skilled surfers to play around on, but there are also plenty of safe options for beginners to get started on.

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