9 Best Spots for Surfing in San Diego (Explained)

Known for its 70-mile coastline and consistent, year-round waves, surfing in San Diego is a dream come true for both professionals and amateurs.

This vibrant Southern Californian city provides a variety of surf spots suitable for every skill level, making it an indisputable surfing hotspot.

From the powerful point break at Trestles to the friendly rollers of Old Man’s beach, San Diego’s coastline never disappoints.

(The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in California)

Best Surfing Spots in San Diego

San Diego boasts a plethora of beaches that cater to surfers of all levels, offering a diverse array of waves, settings, and experiences.

Let’s explore some of the top surfing spots in San Diego and what makes them stand out in the vibrant surfing scene.


Trestles, a world-renowned river-mouth point break located on the border of San Diego and Orange counties, offers one of the most challenging and exhilarating surfing experiences.

A favorite among experts and professionals, Trestles demands a combination of skill and endurance.

With a long hike from the parking lot to the beach and fierce competition when the surf is pumping, earning your waves at Trestles is part of the adventure.

The spot works best on a good south to southwest swell and, when conditions align, a session at Trestles can be an unforgettable experience.


Oceanside, with miles of gentle beach break, is one of San Diego’s most consistent surf spots, frequented by beginners and advanced surfers alike.

Its surf ambiance beautifully illustrates the city’s deep-rooted surf culture.

Both the Oceanside Pier and the Harbor offer excellent surfing opportunities, although they can be quite crowded.

Oceanside provides a surfable spot at any time of the year, making it a go-to place for surfing enthusiasts.

Blacks Beach, Swamis, and Sunset Cliffs

Moving down the coast, we find other notable surf spots: Blacks Beach, Swamis, and Sunset Cliffs.

Blacks Beach is known for its powerful waves and is considered one of the most challenging surf spots in San Diego. It offers excellent conditions for experienced surfers looking for a thrill.

Swamis, located in Encinitas, is famed for its right point break, offering long, rippable waves that draw surfers from all around. Encinitas itself is known for its excellent surfing beaches and has a rich surfing culture, with several surf shops worth checking out.

Sunset Cliffs, as the name suggests, provides a scenic backdrop for a surf session. The area is suitable for surfers of varying skill levels, although some spots are best left to more experienced riders due to strong currents and rock hazards.

For beginners, there are several spots in San Diego that provide ideal conditions to learn and progress. Pacific Beach, with its forgiving waves and a variety of surf shops, and La Jolla Shores, with its gentle surf, are among the best beginner surf spots in San Diego.

Beginner-Friendly Surf Spots in San Diego

Surfing in San Diego is not just for the seasoned pros; it’s an inclusive culture that welcomes beginners to join in the fun.

The city provides a multitude of beginner-friendly beaches where novices can learn to ride their first wave in a safe and encouraging environment.

Let’s explore some of the best spots for beginner surfers in San Diego.

Tourmaline Beach

Located in North Pacific Beach, Tourmaline Surfing Park is one of the most welcoming spots for beginners in San Diego.

The beach is a favorite for longboarders due to its slow, rolling waves that allow newbies plenty of time to stand up and find their balance.

Plus, the sandy bottom provides an extra layer of safety compared to the rocky or reef breaks found elsewhere.

The mellow and friendly atmosphere among surfers makes Tourmaline Beach an ideal place for first-time wave riders who are starting their surfing journey in San Diego.

La Jolla Shores

Another fantastic spot for beginner surfing in San Diego is La Jolla Shores.

The sandy beach extends for about a mile, offering plenty of space for everyone. The small, gentle waves at La Jolla Shores are perfect for learning, with conditions consistently suitable for beginners throughout the year.

La Jolla Shores is also home to several surf schools, where beginners can find experienced instructors to guide them in their surfing journey. Lessons and surf camps are readily available, providing newcomers with the fundamentals of surfing in a structured, safe, and fun environment.

With all it has to offer, it’s no wonder La Jolla Shores is known as one of the best spots for beginner surfing in San Diego.

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are two adjoining spots that are highly favored by beginners surfing in San Diego.

Both beaches offer a wide sandy coastline, small to moderate wave sizes, and a vibrant beach atmosphere.

Mission Beach is characterized by its long, flat beach and manageable waves, making it an ideal spot for beginners.

Nearby, Pacific Beach provides a similar atmosphere, with plenty of room for beginners to practice without fear of encroaching on the space of more advanced surfers.

Furthermore, a multitude of surf shops along the Pacific Beach Boardwalk offer rental services for all the gear you need to get started, and some even provide beginner surfing lessons.

Surfing in San Diego is a remarkable experience for surfers of all skill levels. The city’s beginner-friendly beaches not only offer the perfect conditions to start your surfing journey but also instill a sense of camaraderie and support that is inherent to San Diego’s vibrant surf culture.

Whether you choose to ride your first wave at Tourmaline Beach, La Jolla Shores, or Mission and Pacific Beach, you’ll find an inclusive, welcoming community ready to share the stoke of surfing with you.

Uncrowded Surfing Spots in San Diego

While surfing in San Diego is immensely popular, there are still a few hidden gems where you can escape the crowds.

These lesser-known surf spots offer more serene surroundings, providing a unique opportunity to commune with nature while enjoying the thrill of riding a wave.

Two such uncrowded surfing spots in San Diego that deserve special mention are the Dip in the Road Surf Spot in Carlsbad and the Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado.

Dip in the Road Surf Spot (Carlsbad)

For those who are in the know, the Dip in the Road is a cherished destination for surfing in San Diego without the crowds.

Located in Carlsbad, this spot can be slightly challenging to find, but the hunt is part of its charm.

Once you’re there, you’ll be greeted by a quiet surf spot, often uncrowded compared to more well-known destinations.

The waves at the Dip in the Road are typically moderate, and suitable for both intermediate and experienced surfers.

The overall vibe here is laid-back and serene, making it an ideal place to enjoy a peaceful surfing session.

Silver Strand State Beach (Coronado)

Situated in Coronado, Silver Strand State Beach is another uncrowded spot for surfing in San Diego.

Known for its beautiful and expansive shoreline, the Silver Strand offers surfers a chance to enjoy the waves without the usual crowd.

The surf here tends to be consistent and ideal for intermediate surfers, though beginners may also find manageable conditions on small surf days.

Despite its relative seclusion, Silver Strand State Beach has lifeguards on duty and facilities available for convenience, giving you peace of mind while you enjoy your uncrowded surf session.

Uncrowded surfing spots like the Dip in the Road and Silver Strand State Beach truly are hidden treasures for those seeking a quieter, more meditative surfing experience in San Diego.

History of Surfing in San Diego

Surfing is not just a sport or a hobby in San Diego; it’s deeply woven into the city’s culture.

San Diego’s Role in Popularizing Wave Riding

San Diego, with its endless sunshine and perfect waves, has played a pivotal role in popularizing surfing as we know it today.

The city’s unique geographical location, combined with its favorable climatic conditions, turned it into an attractive hub for wave riding early on.

The 1916 demonstration by Duke Kahanamoku, a renowned Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimming champion, was a milestone event that showcased the captivating spectacle of “stand-up Hawaiian surfing” to a wide audience.

This event greatly influenced San Diego’s surfing scene and placed the city on the global surfing map.

Influence of Surfing Pioneers and Inventors in San Diego

The story of surfing in San Diego is incomplete without mentioning its iconic surfing pioneers and inventors.

The city has been a breeding ground for innovation in the surfing world, from the surfboard to the wetsuit.

Among the notable figures, Bob Simmons stands out. Often dubbed the “father of the modern surfboard,” Simmons, a San Diego native, revolutionized surfing in the 1950s by introducing the fiberglass surfboard, significantly enhancing the sport’s accessibility and popularity.

Similarly, significant advancements were made at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, where the concept of the modern wetsuit was born.

This innovative garment made it possible for surfers to enjoy the waves in colder water, extending the surfing season and boundaries.

Surf Etiquette and Safety

Understanding and adhering to surf etiquette and safety measures are critical when surfing in San Diego, as they ensure a positive and safe experience for everyone in the water.

Not only do they minimize accidents and conflicts, but they also promote a culture of respect and camaraderie among surfers.

Importance of Respecting Local Surf Etiquette

Every surf spot has its own unspoken rules and customs, and those in San Diego are no exception.

Respecting local surf etiquette is fundamental to harmonious surfing. It involves understanding the right of way, not dropping in on someone else’s wave, not snaking (overtaking someone to get into position for a wave), and being respectful to others.

San Diego’s surfing community is known for being welcoming, but it also appreciates surfers who respect their customs and traditions.

Surf Safety Precautions

In addition to respecting surf etiquette, practicing safety precautions is essential when surfing in San Diego.

Even if you’re an experienced surfer, being mindful of your safety and that of others should always be a top priority.

Here are some key safety tips to remember:

  • Always check the surf conditions and weather before heading out. Understanding wave sizes, tide times, and current direction is crucial.
  • If you are new to surfing or a particular surf spot, consider taking a few surf lessons or hiring a local guide.
  • Always surf with a buddy if possible. If not, let someone know where you’ll be and when you expect to return.
  • Wear the right gear, including a leash to keep your board close and potentially life-saving in certain situations.
  • If you get caught in a rip current, remain calm, conserve energy, and signal for help. Remember to swim parallel to the shore rather than directly against the current.

Can Beginners Surf in San Diego?

Absolutely, beginners can indeed surf in San Diego. The city is known for its surf spots that cater to all skill levels, including beginners. Beaches like Tourmaline Surf Park, La Jolla Shores, and Mission Beach offer gentler waves and surf schools where beginners can learn and practice. It’s important to note that beginners should always be mindful of surf etiquette and safety precautions when starting out.

Which Beach Has the Best Waves in San Diego?

San Diego has numerous beaches offering great waves for surfing, so the “best” can depend on the surfer’s skills and preferences. Advanced surfers often prefer Blacks Beach for its powerful and high-quality waves, while Trestles is famed for consistent swells. Swamis, a point break in Encinitas, is known for its long right-hand waves. Beginners may find Tourmaline Surf Park or La Jolla Shores more suitable due to their gentler surf.

Can You Surf Year-Round in San Diego?

Yes, one of the many advantages of surfing in San Diego is that it’s a year-round activity. The city’s climate and its variety of beaches provide conditions that are suitable for surfing throughout the year. Winter typically brings bigger swells and is often favored by more advanced surfers. Summer, with its milder waves, is ideal for beginners or those who prefer less challenging conditions.

What Is the Best Beach to Body Surf in San Diego?

Body surfing, like board surfing, has its hotspots in San Diego. For those seeking to ride the waves without a board, La Jolla Shores and Marine Street Beach are popular spots. Both have a sandy bottom which is ideal for body surfing and the waves can be great fun when conditions are right. As always, safety should be your top priority.

Can You Surf in San Diego Without a Wet Suit?

While it is possible to surf in San Diego without a wetsuit, especially in the summer months when water temperatures are warmer, it is generally recommended to wear one for comfort and safety. In the winter, water temperatures can drop significantly, and hypothermia can be a risk for those not properly equipped. A wetsuit also provides a degree of protection from the sun, board rash, and potential encounters with marine life.

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