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Orange County is home to some of the most popular surfing beaches in SoCal, a hotspot for surf culture, the OC has a lot to offer to both novice and experienced surfers. While quality surfing can be found year-round, the best time of year to surf is in the summer and fall, as storms coming from the Southern Hemisphere and Baja create larger swells for awesome surfing conditions.
While the stretch of the California coastline that runs from Dana Point to Belmont Shores offers plenty of great spots for surfers of all levels, it is important to note that these five surfing OC beaches are the best for experienced surfers.
There is a good reason why Huntington Beach reigns as the official Surf City USA. With a consistent year-round swell, coupled with vibrant deep-rooted surf culture, the 10-mile coast is a surfer's paradise. Each of the five distinct beaches beckons a different level of surfer, from the newbie experiencing the rush of a first paddle-out in calm glistening waters to the seasoned shredder soaking up the stoke by the pier. Experience our surf culture through surf lessons, surfing events, surf shops, the International Surfing Museum, and more.
Bolsa Chica State Beach has 3 miles of uninterrupted coastline, endless summer weather, and various things to enjoy and experience on the beach. From surfing, biking, bonfires, fishing, and volleyball, there is something for everyone to enjoy the outdoors at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
Bolsa Chica provides the perfect playground for veteran and first-time surfers, campers, fishermen/women, and families. Whether you're a novice or pro, Bolsa Chica is a great spot. Local surfers flock here, and most days you’ll find groups of surfers in the parking lot congregating around their cars post-surf session. And most have a meeting spot best described by the number of the lifeguard tower closest to the spot they prefer to paddle out.
Nicknamed “Surf City, USA, ” this iconic surf spot, located north of Newport and south of Seal Beach on the PCH, is more than just an iconic surf location. The Huntington Beach pier and its red-roofed restaurant overlooking the Pacific is one of the most heavily photographed and admired piers in the county.
Depending on the day, Bolsa Chica has waves for all skill levels and the water is easy to get to from the parking lot, requiring a relatively short walk in comparison to some of the OC Beaches.
Parking is open to full capacity. Gates close at 9pm and the park closes at 10pm Amenities include public restrooms, outdoor showers, wheelchair accessibility, Visitor Center, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, year-round RV camping, paved beach path, picnic ramadas, barbecue grills, and 200 fire rings available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tips: Arrive early to claim a fire ring during peak season, or reserve a picnic area, which comes with its very own fire ring.
The beach’s sandy bottom Stingrays are a frequent hazard during entry on the beach’s sandy bottom, so keep your eyes open and wear some type of protective footwear to be on the safe side.
When talking about Orange County waves you cannot fail to mention the Wedge in Newport Beach. The Wedge is the product of a man-made jetty developed in 1916 by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect Newport Harbor from storms.
This spot, not for novice surfers, electrifies during the summer when south swells hit and waves can reach 30 feet. Spectators and experienced surfers alike flock to the beach to take on the sharp, building-sized waves and photograph them from shore. Inexperienced surfers are discouraged from entering the water during times of high swells because the surf breaks onshore.
Tip: The Wedge has a unique rule against blackballs, meaning from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May through October, no one is allowed in the water with any inflatables, surfboards, or boogie boards, leaving the surf to body surfers.
The world-famous Lower Trestles, also known as “Lowers,” is a part of a stretch of several surf breaks collectively known as “Trestles” and is one of the best surf spots in all of California, with high energy surfing conditions. Located in a mostly undeveloped stretch of land, Trestles is situated in a beautiful area where the San Mateo Creek empties into the ocean. Trestles offer surfing for all abilities. From north to south, Cottons Point, Upper Trestles, Lowers, Middles, and Church, with the most challenging conditions at the Lowers.
This wetlands area is called Trestles Wetland Natural Preserve and it is popular with local bird-watchers. It is a long walk down the trail from the parking area to the beach (about 1 mile each way).
The free parking area is located near the intersection of S El Camino Real and Cristianitos Road east of Interstate 5 in San Clemente. A dirt path begins at this intersection and dips under I-5 on the way to the beach. Another path, which is flatter and paved, begins on the other side of I-5 and can be reached by walking over the bridge. San Mateo Campground is near the beach trail parking lot. The San Mateo area of San Onofre State Beach State Park has many hiking trails to explore.
Tip: No dogs are allowed on the beach
Seal Beach is the first Orange County beach after Long Beach’s Belmont Shores when you’re going south from LA county on the Pacific Coast Highway. Cushioned between two jetties, Seal Beach is one of the more consistently clean beaches in Southern California.
Cloud Break boasts one of the biggest breaks in Orange County when there is the right swell. Because this surf spot is a little far from shore, it requires a bit more paddling, experience, and ability than some of the other surf spots in the area.
Still, with a Mayberry by the Sea vibe, Seal Beach offers a more down-home east-coast-like atmosphere, with unique mom-and-pop shops, bars, and restaurants lining Old Town’s Main Street. A broad, sandy beach and California’s second-longest wooden pier make Seal Beach a popular spot to while away warm summer days.
Seal Beach is public with standard amenities including showers, bathrooms, and a playground in the sand next to the pier. Parking in Seal Beach lots runs $10 for the entire day and $3 for two-hour increments.
Tip: When making the surf zone entry, the sandy-bottomed beach is home to jellyfish and stingrays which can be dangerous, so pay attention and wear beach shoes if you want to be safe.
Salt Creek Beach is one of the leading surfing destinations for more experienced surfers along the Orange County coast. Located in a beautiful large cove in the northern end of Laguna Niguel, Salt Creek attracts a collection of locals, longboarders, and boogie boarders, as well as the Dana High School surf team.
Among the favorite surfing spots at the beach is Salt Creek Heroins at the north end of Monarch Beach. Salt Creek Heroins is a point break that is best for experienced surfers because rocks are a hazard.
Gravels is a little distance north of Bluff Park. Gravel's powerful waves attract a lot of experienced and competitive surfers. Like all the other spots at Salt Creek, it is very crowded.
Middles, as its name says, is in the middle between Gravels and the Point. Waves break right and left on the beach. Best at high tides, the Middle is always very crowded.
At the Point between Salt Creek and the Strand experienced surfers ride the left-breaking waves. Local surfers are almost always here when the waves are up.
READ MORE: Best Beaches in SoCal
Here is a quick list of spots for beginners:
Blackies (north side of the Newport pier)
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Crystal Cove State Park
Doheny Beach State Park
Huntington Beach Pier
Old Man’s at San Onofre
San Clemente Pier