The Five Best Surfing Spots In/Near San Diego

Surf's up in San Diego.

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

Between the beachside surf shacks and San Diego’s inner-city surf fashion stores, the rolling surf beaches of Oceanside and Encinitas and the campervan-crammed car lots that pepper the state’s coastal highway, it’s fair to say that this is a county knows how to tame some waves. Since the sport first hit California in the early 1950s, San Diego locals have fearlessly paddled into the Pacific swells to hone their trade, helping to forge a reputation for excellence on the world surf stage.

If you’re heading to this southern enclave of wild waves and roaring breaks for a spot of surfing yourself, then check out this list of the top five surf spots near to San Diego. Ranging from the iconic 10-footers of Black’s Beach, to the rolling reef breaks of Cardiff, there’s something for every style of rider, right throughout the year!

Enjoy year-round surf at the Oceanside Pier

This versatile, sandy-bottomed beach break is unquestionably one of the most consistent surf spots in all of San Diego; offering up great waves seven days a week, 365 days a year. Swells tend to be at their best during the summer, when crowds flock to the Oceanside for its curling rights and lefts, while wintertime offers more experienced riders some of the longest and most adrenaline-pumping rides just north of the city centre. What’s more, there’s plenty of parking nearby and the famous timber jetties of the San Diego Harbor are also within reach.

Surf with the Orange County riders at Trestles

Trestles has long been the spot where the very best of San Diego’s surfing crowd has come to battle it out with riders from Orange County to the north. Sprawled out along the coast near the river mouth of the San Mateo Creek, the waves here range from the speedy left-turners and world-famous right breaks at Lower Trestles, to the long and rolling rides of Upper. Beginners and less-experienced riders should head a little to the south, where the less-crowded spots at Old Man’s and Dogpatch offer generally less-demanding waves and calmer waters.

Sweet swells and spiritual enlightenment at Swami's, San Diego

Once a hippie hub of Californian free-thinkers and mystics, Swami’s has edged its way to global recognition in recent decades as the home of one of San Diego’s best point breaks. From the sandy, palm-dotted cliffs to the beach’s back, visitors can watch clusters of more experienced surfers riding the main peak waves, while others can be spotted surfing the shallow reefs and smattering of quieter beach breaks along the shore. A great place for advanced surfers to get a taste the powerful Pacific waves, Swami’s can also get inundated during the colder months with locals looking for some of San Diego’s bigger kahunas.

Big waves bubbling up from the Pacific floor at Black's Beach

Shrouded by the steep ocean cliffs of Torrey Pines, beneath a wall of desert rock and terraced sand dunes, uniform lines of wave after wave crash into the long sand stretch of Black’s Beach. With them, they bring some of California’s most powerful breaks, all empowered by the sunken sea trench of Scripps Canyon that lays off the coast in the County’s La Jolla Underwater Park. But Black’s is also noticeably quieter than many of the other spots around, isolated by its high cliffs and boasting plenty of room for all.

Curling and crashing with the waves at Cardiff Reef

In the middle of the 20th century this secluded little spot in Encinitas, San Diego County, was discovered by a few local riders. Today, it’s famed for its consistent, curling breaks, which roll their way elegantly towards the cobbled beachfront in regimented lines and regular periods. Nearby, the appropriately named spot at Pipes is known for its hollow waves and powerful barrels, while there’s also plenty of quieter spots for spectators to enjoy the rides, not to mention plenty of on-site parking.

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