Summertime in the United States brings images of surf and sand and nowhere is that more prevalent than the shores of California. Southern California has some of the more famous spots: Malibu, Venice, Huntington, but head north towards the state’s central coast and you will find just as many, but significantly less crowded locations. Here are some of the best central California surf spots starting from north to south.
Best Central California Surf Spots
Fort Point, San Francisco
When someone mentions San Francisco, surfing isn’t exactly the first sport that comes to mind. The bay’s frigid waters and strong currents are notoriously dangerous but believe it or not, the area near Fort Point is one of the first central California surf spots in San Francisco county. Located just below the southern base of the Golden Gate Bridge, this small area produces generous amounts of relatively safe swells particularly during the winter season. Despite the swell size, remain on alert because the area is particularly rocky and the rip tides here can be rather strong. Nonetheless, it remains a great spot to board, with views of Marin County to the north and San Francisco to the south. Surf experts recommend this area suited for intermediate to advance surfers.
Ocean Beach, San Francisco
A mere six miles southwest of Fort Point is another popular surfing spot for San Franciscans. Ocean Beach is located just southwest of Golden Gate Park and is perhaps one of the most respected central California surf spots in all of the state. The waters here are known for being temperamental, with tides quickly changing the course and size of the swells. Experienced surfers love to come here because they welcome the challenge and the variety. The Pacific Ocean is at its fiercest on a good surfing day. The best season is considered to be fall and winter. Due to the dangers of strong currents and very high swells, the area is strongly advised against beginners and intermediate surfers.
Mitchell’s Cove, Santa Cruz
A few miles east of Santa Cruz Pier is a curved nook often referred to as Mitchell’s Cove. The majority of the surfers here are locals living in the nearby residential areas. Just like much of central California, surfing is available all year, but because of its somewhat enclosed location, swells tend to arrive larger and fiercer. Should you decide to paddle here, be wary of kelp, rocks, strong tides, and the occasional shark sightings. Surf experts recommend this area suited for intermediate to advance surfers.
Pleasure Point, Capitola
Popular with surfers, Pleasure Point Beach is a long stretch of sand located just south of Santa Cruz Harbor, in the nearby town of Capitola. The beach is very easy to access and has plenty of local surfers. The waves here can vary between long and gentle, perfect for those just learning to paddle, to hard and fast, a veteran favorite. Surfing is available all year round, but keep in mind that winter season brings bigger swells. Also keep an eye out for kelp, rocks on the bottom and the occasional rip tides.
Lover’s Point Beach, Pacific Grove
Lover’s Point is at the northern end of the infamous 17-Mile Drive. Just a mile northwest of Monterey, this very picturesque beach area has steady and gentle swells suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers. Winter brings in the best waves, but boarders will also find both spring and fall acceptable times to get into the water. This spot is very easy to access and has hardly any crowds. Surfers, however, need to be cautious about dry rocks, particularly since its location is near a curvature, kelps and sharks.
Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove
Asilomar State Beach is likely one of the most beautiful surf spots in all of California because of its prime location right in the midst of the scenic 17 Mile-Drive. Its sandy beaches, clean waves, and clear waters make it one of the best central California surf spots. Oddly enough, despite all that, you will hardly see any crowds here. Asilomar waves can be ridden all year long and are suitable for all skills levels. However, waves here can peak up to 12 feet in height and white sharks can sometimes be seen around the area.
Big Sur Rivermouth, Big Sur
Big Sur Rivermouth is located right where the Big Sur River empties out to the Pacific Ocean. Pristine waters and steady, medium swells are the site’s main draw. The current coming from the river also helps carve sandbars that provide a suitable entry point for riding the waves. Big Sur Rivermouth’s best season is fall, when gushes of one to two feet of overhead hit the rocky shores. Beware of strong winds, particularly from the west, and shark sightings.
To reach the central California surf spots, drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco; and explore this magnificent coast.