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The Best Places to Learn to Surf in California

California is an awesome place for outdoor activity. There are just so many options out there!   For some of us, our back yard is one such place!   Seemingly synonymous with the southern Californian lifestyle is the surfing sub-culture, where a morning break, or afternoon session could just be around the corner and that’s why we’ve got the best places to learn to surf in California.  But, surfing is one of those sports that is intimidating, for many reasons.

Hey, no wonder though, right?

Best Places to Learn to Surf in California

With all of the things that you need to get and all the things you need to know, it can be a daunting task just preparing to go out for the first time.

That’s why I chose to write a beginners guide to “The Best Places to Learn to Surf in California”

First things, first, though. You only three items to be ready to hit the water.

You need a surf board

This one should be pretty obvious. But in all honesty, its not an easy choice to make. Some boards are short while others, not so much.  From my experience, the best boards for beginners are generally more buoyant than the shorties.

Check out the lineup of great beginner boards on Amazon

Another good tip, the wider and longer the board is, the more stable it will be. If you want to get into sport surfing, shorter boards are snappier. But for beginners, go for something of mid-length, and wide. It will be a good mix of stable and playful yet forgiving.

You need surf wax

Surf wax is one thing that experienced surfers never leave the shop without. Surf wax is what keeps your feet on the board when you go to stand up on the board. It essentially works like grip tape on a skateboard or a stomp pad on a snowboard. Without it, you’ll have a difficult time doing anything other than just trying to stay on the board.

Check some out here

You need a leash

Beyond the wax and the board, a good surf leash is also an essential item to include. The surf leash is your friend! The surf leash can save your life! It also prevents others from getting hit by the board when you bail, and keeps the board tethered to you.

Grab a leash here

I mean, it’s a leash… When the dog tries to run away because of the wave, you have a leash to keep it from going up the beach, right?

Keep in mind that the surf board and wet suit are your two biggest expenses with surfing

For some quick advice there, surf boards can be rented, borrowed, and obviously bought, but before you buy, you should try!  As for wet suits, I’d recommend learning first and then buying your own if you wish to continue with surfing as a hobby.

The fit is incredibly important with a wet suit or else it will not do what it’s supposed to do, and you will end up cold and not happy.

A few other items that will make the experience more fun and safe can be found at the local surf shop!

Surfing is an awesome sport because of the diversity of difficulty levels. But the problem is that you need to know when and where to go to find a level right for you. As they say in real estate, “Location, Location, Location”.  Be careful here because some surfers have a “home turf”, so be courteous!

Of course, some of the most ideal places draw some of the best surfers and there will be competition for space. As a beginner, always be courteous and don’t “steal waves” from another surfer. There is a lineup.

After you’ve found your spot

Once you find a place that’s close to you and have some time to go jump into it, I would recommend finding something in the 2-3 foot class to start. If you’re not familiar with the beach, there are very dangerous conditions that can be present there, so my most important advice is:  Be Safe!

Best Places to Learn to Surf in California

Mavericks… not your typical break

Remember that everything from small, white water surf in many places, to Mavericks off the coast of Central California, where waves can be 100 feet tall and will kill even the most experienced surfers almost instantly…

As it turns out, most of Central and Northern California didn’t make the list because of accessibility, water temperature, and the level of difficulty for the waves. The best places to learn to surf in California are easy to get to, have forgiving breaks and let you get comfortable in the water.

So, with safety in mind (and if you are a beginner looking for The Best Places to Learn to Surf in California), I would recommend finding a place that can teach you with one-on-one instruction.In almost every beach city in California, you can find someone to teach you to surf.

Best Places to Learn to Surf in California

So, here are a few of my favorite cities that have great waves very close by. Starting from the south, moving north along the coast, here are a few great places to start looking for the perfect wave!


Scripps in San Diego is a great place for all types of surfing. And it’s perfect because it is usually nice and spacious so you won’t be fighting people for waves. Plus, there is a generally welcoming attitude toward beginners.

Oceanside Pier

Oceanside Pier is a  nice, well maintained beach and the waves are usually just right to learn on. Plus, one awesome thing about it is that it’s far enough from Carlsbad and Irvine so that it’s not usually too busy.

Dana Point South

Dana Point South had to make the list of the best places to learn to surf in California too. Pretty accessible, and generally friendly to beginners! But its a relatively small beach, so be courteous and don’t barge on someone else and their good session.

Orange County and Beyond

When you start moving towards Orange County, you can find some of the most beginner friendly beaches that exist.  If you can survive the drive (or if you want to beat the traffic), some surfers can outsmart the gym heads and go surfing in Newport, Huntington, or Seal Beach for their morning workout, and even right after work.

Then there’s Hermosa, Manhattan, and Venice Beach in Los Angeles County. Those places aren’t always as busy as you might think. But some of the locals can be a little hostile depending on which beach you pick. I would encourage you to always be gracious! Remember, there are tons of shops that you can find an instructor too.

After Los Angeles, there’s Ventura County

Ventura County presents itself with some epic coastline, slightly chilly water, and some serious surf. Santa Barbara can’t be left off the list here though. Those beaches aren’t always forgiving, so be warned, the farther north you get, the more aggressive the waves become.

A few exceptions that made our list of the best places to learn to surf in California are Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz and a few even by San Francisco. But farther north, the water is cold, beaches are rocky, and many of them can be very difficult to get to.

Farther up the coast is Pismo Beach; yet another example of a beach that isn’t way too busy, but is friendly and loves to teach new surfers. Just be warned that the water is cold…

Between Pismo Beach and Santa Cruz, the coast is almost too rugged to surf. However, some people think that the best waves to be found might lie just in difficult places.

The fact of the matter is that the “frontier” of California surfing has some hidden spots left! So once you’ve developed your own list of the best places to learn to surf in California, and become the next risk taking surf legend, you can still push the sport farther!

That’s why its difficult to list all of  the best places to learn to surf in California. The frontier is yours to explore! You just need to get out there and find your nearest beach. Who knows, your nearest beach might be one of the best places to learn how to surf.

Good luck everyone!





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