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Surfing in Los Angeles: A Rider Shack Guide
This entry was posted on March 4, 2020.
Waves on tap year-round
Whether you're new to LA or just passing through, the best way to visit the beaches in California is to surf them! The Southern California coastline is packed with surfing spot after surfing spot, and water temperatures are pleasant year-round. The weather is typically warm, and just about every day of the year there’s a surf-able wave somewhere in the city. Whether you're just learning how to surf or are a seasoned shredder, LA is a surfing paradise. If you're a beginner looking to get your feet wet, it's often worth spending a day taking a surf lesson with a reputable surf school. You'll progress much quicker with some guided instruction. Most visitors rent surfboards, while those considering taking up the sport full-time often start out on a used or new surfboard. Check out our surf essentials guide for a full rundown of surfing must-haves. Here's our list of the best spots to surf in Los Angeles, from South to North.
El Porto, Manhattan Beach
El Porto is a long stretch of beach break located in Manhattan Beach, just South of LAX, and north of Redondo Beach. If you see two smoke stacks on the sand, you're in the right place (in front of the Chevron refinery). El Porto is surf-able just about 365 days-a-year and breaks on most swell directions. El Porto is a versatile break offering a variety of wave-types and conditions for all wave riders. In the Summer (unless a big south swell rolls through), El Porto is a great spot for beginners, and is not usually considered an advanced wave. As one of the most surfed beaches in California during the summer months, finding a parking spot can take as long as snagging a wave in the crowded lineup! But beware, when winter comes around, the beach clears out and the only crowds are in the water. Those soft-shouldered summer waves transform into thumpy, a-frame closeouts. EL Porto will break on all swell directions but tends to be the biggest and most consistent on north-west swells during the winter months.
Venice Pier, Venice
Venice Pier is a popular Los Angeles beach break setup just south of the world famous Venice beach boardwalk. The pier is located directly at the end of Washington Blvd where Venice & Marina Del Rey meet. The Venice pier works best on north-west swells and NW SW combo swells. The ideal tide is a mid-tide pushing to high. This surf break is ideal for surfers of all skill levels. That said, the locals can be a bit testy so we suggest going to the North or South of the Pier by about 50-100 yards. Venice Pier is also a great place to snag a surf lesson.
Venice Breakwater, Venice
Venice Breakwater is a beach break setup located just below the famous Venice beach boardwalk, it is just off windward and identified by the Venice V. The Breakwater is one of the top surf spots for new-comers in Los Angeles and works on all swell directions. The breakwater is an ideal spot for surfers of all skill levels. In the summer the beach and line-up can get quite crowd. Parking in Venice can be expensive and hard to come by. During big swells the current can get quite nasty and the local scene can be extreme.
Ocean Park, Santa Monica
Ocean Park is a beach break setup located in Santa Monica off of Ocean Park Blvd. This is a great spot for beginners and experienced surfers alike. The wave breaks on most swell directions and numerous sandbars offer plenty of take-off spots. Ocean Park often has an early-morning crowd on week days but the vibe is generally friendly.
Sunset Beach, Los Angeles
Sick of beach breaks? Still a beginner? Sunset Beach is the perfect spot to try out a long, mellow point-break! This soft wave is great for beginners and longboards. Sunset Point is located just off the Pacific Coast Highway where Sunset Blvd meets the Ocean. Parking gets busy and is located along the HWY on the Ocean-side of the street. Make a U turn at Sunset Blvd and then park along the side of the road. Sunset breaks on all swell directions but is typically best during summer months on a South swell and with a lower tide. Sunset can get really busy but is usually very inviting to surfers of all skill levels. Beware of surfing during a large swell at high tide. Sunset is very rocky and is notorious for smashing surfers and surfboards on the rocks while attempting to enter or exit the water during high tides.
Topanga Beach, Los Angeles
Topanga Beach is an amazing right-hand reef point-break that works on all swell directions but really comes alive during the summer months with South swells, and in the winter on large NW swells. Topanga is located off the CA 1 Pacific Coast Highway and Topanga Blvd. You can find parking on the side of the road or pull into the paid parking lot on the ocean-side of the highway. Topanga is a location better suited to intermediate & advanced surfers and tends to get quite crowded. The surfing here is competitive but the waves are worth the paddle battle! Many surfers wear booties at this spot as the reef-rock bottom can be tough on your toes. Topanga Beach works best on a mid to high tide. On a big enough swell, low tide can offer draining barrels as well as plenty of exposed rocks.
Malibu Surfrider Beach, Malibu
Surfrider Beach, colloquially referred to as "Malibu" or "First Point," is a 10-mile drive north up PCH, located at 23050 Pacific Coast Highway. When you think about surfing culture in Los Angeles, Malibu usually comes to mind. The break is just north of the Malibu Pier and is a world-famous right-hand point break that works best during summer south swells and big NW winter swells. The break attracts surfers of all skill levels and stays busy all day long. Parking can be had along PCH or in the paid state park lot. There are three main breaks to choose depending on the conditions and the board you decide to ride.1st point is usually a slow rolling right with a hollower inside section that is dominated by longboarders, cross-stepping and hanging ten. 2nd point is usually a steeper, faster, and shorter wave that is a bit less crowded than 1st. You can shortboard or longboard second depending on how much swell is in the water. 3rd is at the top of the point and offers up a faster, peakier waves suited for high performance shortboarding. It is predominately a right but given certain swell conditions will provide a fun left for goofy footers. It's rumored that on the most epic swells, salty, veteran locals tell tales of 3rd point connecting all the way through to 1st point, offering the ride of your dreams!
Zuma Beach, Malibu
Zuma Beach is one of the most popular surf spots in Los Angeles for surf camps in the summer, and barrel hunters in the winter. During the summer months, the long stretch of sand is filled with beach-goers, summer camps, surf lessons, and beach sporting events. There's plenty of room to spread out in the water as this stretch of the California coastline offers sandbars galore. On a good winter swell, this beach-break transforms into an unforgiving, board-snapping spot recommended only for experienced surfers looking to thread close-out barrels.
Zeros (Nicholas State Beach), Malibu
Zeros is one of Los Angeles’ only predominantly left-hand point surf breaks, a rare front-side wave for goofy footers. Zeros is Located off the CA 1 Pacific Coast Highway at Nicholas Canyon State Beach. You can find free parking on the highway or pay a day fee to park in the state beach parking lot. Zeros works on all swells but tends to get better during summer South swells. If there is a swell in the forecast, expect Zeros to be relatively busy. Due to its remote location, it can often be surfed with minimal crowds and provide excellent surf on non-forecasted days.
Leo Carrillo State Beach, Los Angeles
Leo Carrillo is an awesome spot for camping, hiking, and surfing. The campsite was previously closed due to severe brush fires but has reopened to the public. Surfing at Leo Carrillo can be quite competitive and challenging due to the super concentrated take-off zone. The lineup is often crowded around a massive rock. You'll often see surfers taking off on or right next to other surfers. Free parking is plentiful along the ocean-side of the highway. There's also a paid lot at the campground across the street.
County Line, Los Angeles
County Line offers a right-hand cobblestone reef break at the northern end of the beach, as well as 500 yards of beach break south of the point. Depending on the conditions, you’ll find either peaky conditions with lefts and rights or unforgiving closeouts. On larger swells, it is recommended that beginners avoid this spot as currents and rips can get pretty strong, and the point becomes an advanced wave. County Line is located on the border of Los Angeles County & Ventura County on the CA 1 PCH, directly across the street from Neptune's Net. Parking is free and easy to find on either side of the highway. County line is great for surfers of all skill