A storied history and one of the longest waves around: Malibu is a surfer's paradise — if you can handle the crowd.
Malibu is iconic for many reasons outside of its waves but for our purposes we’ll stick strictly to surfing and run down everything you need to know about surfing the ‘Bu.
What’s So Special About Surfing in Malibu?
Waves in Malibu
When Malibu was considered one of the best waves in the world it was before the shortboard revolution. This means that this is a prime longboarding wave.
It does have more shreddable waves when a big swell comes through. Malibu is also capable of holding some size during the winter.
It takes south swells really well making it a really fun summer wave too.
Fall is the golden season for the entire California coast and Malibu is no exception, fun waves and warm water make fall an ideal time to surf here.
The Surf Culture in Malibu
There’s really no good place to start but the surf culture in Malibu is on the likes of Waikiki. We’ll start in the 1950s when surfing was blowing up all over the US. Malibu was one of the beach towns at the center of this worldwide surf boom.
It was known by the 50s that Malibu wasn’t the best wave to be surfed on the California coast but its scene was like no other in the world.
All the best surfers of the time and thousands of people would come to Malibu to hang out at the beach and catch some easy going waves.
oday, Malibu is still the weekend getaway of many Los Angeles county residents and still holds great waves.
Just like the rest of SoCal, late summer and early fall require almost nothing but trunks and sometimes a 2 mm jacket or 3/2 mm spring suit. Winter will be pretty cold and require a full suit in the 4/3 mm range.
The Best Surf Spots in Malibu
The iconic Surfrider Beach.
It’s the crown jewel of Malibu and one of the best point breaks on the California coast.
It’s where the modern longboard was perfected making surfing accessible for any person who wanted to try it.
On top of its rich history it's still a pretty good wave.
It’s a right handed point break and has a couple of different points to sit at. Its first point is probably the easiest wave to catch and it's where many beginners learn to surf.
Second and third point are another story.
They take swell way better and can get super shreddable. If you’re not a fan of crowds maybe don’t come here, it's one of the most crowded waves simply because of its name and prestige.
Another right handed point break, Topanga Beach is a very consistent wave just south of Surfrider Beach.
The beach here is pretty rocky so it's not the best place to hang out, making crowds a little more doable than Surfrider.
However, this wave is nowhere near the level of perfection of Surfrider.
It's not a bad wave but it just has a hard time stacking up to one of the most iconic waves in the world.
It takes southwest swells really well and can be really fun on the right day.
It holds size so it can be short boarded but is also a perfect longboarding wave.
Zuma is a three mile stretch of beach break just north of Surfrider.
This beach is pretty popular and can get pretty crowded similarly to the rest of the breaks at Malibu.
It has a couple of peaks to choose from and is considered one of the heaviest beach breaks in SoCal.
It's mostly shorebreak so you’re probably going to want to bring a good foamie or a board you don’t care about breaking or damaging.
The wave is only really dangerous when it gets big, other than that it's a pretty easy going wave.
It’s important to know your limits here.
Leo Carrillo is a famous Hollywood beach used as a backdrop for many movies through the years.
It's a small little cove and the takeoff point isn’t very big so when it gets crowded it's nearly impossible to catch a wave.
Most of the time you’re better off going to Zuma or Surfrider where crowds have a chance to spread out.
The setup is pretty simple— it's a right-handed reef break that has the potential to hold size and can become a really rippable wall with the right swell. Leo Carrillo will take any sort of south swell.
Although it's just past the LA county line this spot is just close enough to earn the name of County Line. It's one of the better spots in Northern Malibu and has quite a few different breaks to offer.
There’s a main sandbar beach break that has the potential to get hollow and big.
Then there's also a right handed point break on the north side of the beach that is pretty consistent.
This is also probably the least crowded wave in Malibu but then again that's not saying much because no crowd in Malibu means something different in a lot of other places.
What To Do In Malibu When the Waves Are Flat
Malibu is primarily a beach town so that means if the waves are flat you’ll probably be hanging out at the beach.
Surfirder is going to be a pretty crowded beach to hang out at just because of its name and proximity to the PCH.
I’d recommend going to Zuma or Leo Carillo to hang out because these beaches are a little easier to spread out on.
If you don’t like to hang at the beach then it's also worth seeing some of the scenic landscape and going for a hike.
Malibu Creek State Park has a couple of hikes that are perfect for this.
Every surfer must take their inevitable trip to Malibu at some point in their life. It’s much too iconic to not be on every surfer's bucket list.
If you do find yourself in Malibu, hopefully this list has given you some insight into the many waves on the stretch of Southern California coast.