7 Best Beaches to Learn to Surf in Southern California

The Right Beach Makes All the Difference!

While Southern California's reputation as a surfer's paradise holds true no matter where you go, choosing the right beach as a beginner can make the difference between getting your toes wet and starting a new life long passion! From hidden gems to world famous breaks, here are our recommendations for the best beaches to book your first surf lesson!

beach goers play in the turquoise water on a warm day in santa monicaLos Angeles County: Santa Monica

One of the most popular beaches in Los Angeles, Santa Monica is the perfect place to learn to surf and get a real taste for the LA lifestyle. This large stretch of beach offers beginner to advanced level waves and a great place to hang out in the sun and enjoy your day. The area we surf near the Ocean Park neighborhood is more mellow than the pier, and is easily accessible for those staying in Venice. Sandy and frequented by dolphins, lessons are best scheduled for low to mid tide, and can take advantage of great swell during the fall and winter. Because it is completely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles, and located close to Hollywood, you just might find yourself hanging ten next to a celebrity!  

Los Angeles County: El Porto (Manhattan Beach)

El Porto, the North most stretch of sand on Manhattan Beach, is a local favorite of surfers and dolphins alike! In our opinion, it's also the best beach in Los Angeles for surf lessons. An underwater canyon just past the break produces great waves at times when other areas are too small to ride. Since the waves here break farther off shore, surfers are also treated to a longer rides than they'll find at most other LA beaches. Throw in a gentle sandy bottom and easy parking, and El Porto is sure to capture your heart!  

Dolphins love El Porto almost as much as surfers do!

Orange County: Newport River Jetties

white short surfboard left on beach in front of ocean at sunset while people play in the waves in the distanceMost of the year, the Wedge is even considered too raucous for most traditional surfers. Happily, though, any surfer (or bodysurfer) has plenty of other options along Newport Beach’s eight-plus miles of coastline. Despite its world-class credentials, you'll find a mellow, welcoming vibe. Newport is a favorite surfing spot among our professional instructors for Orange County surf lessons because of its rich history and storied surfing culture. By far our favorite spot for surfing in Newport is at the River Jetties. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, RJ's build up of sand protects surfers from the stronger currents of Huntington Beach. It offers consistent, friendly waves that are still great for beginners even when winter swells make the conditions at other nearby beaches too rough for learning.

San Diego County: Encinitas

Where mellow waves and beautiful hidden beaches meet

Almost all of Southern California’s oceanfront communities can be classified as “surfy,” but Encinitas seems to embody this spirit better than most. You’d be hard pressed to find a lineup—or a line at the local Starbucks—that isn’t occupied by some level of surf celebrity or industry insider. Add the fact that fun-to-excellent surf can be ridden here almost every day of the year—if you’re willing to drive the coast for 30 minutes in either direction.

San Diego County: La Jolla

Tourmaline Surf Park is a local favorite close to downtown

La Jolla is one of San Diego's best and most popular beaches. Somewhat protected from the prevailing southwest wind, it's a safe, gentle spot to learn or enjoy surfing. There are year-round lifeguard services, good facilities and decent parking. Most of the formal surf schools operate here for this reason, and a lot of local kids practice their basics at the Shores before graduating to bigger and better breaks.
 

Santa Barbara County: Mondos and Santa Claus Lane

Mondos offers a long ride like you'd find in Waikiki!

While our lessons at Wavehuggers currently run from Malibu to San Diego, there are great spots to explore north of county line. Our friends over at Santa Barbara Surf School can take you out through out Santa Barbara County! Both Mondos and Santa Claus offer consistent, beginner friendly waves. Mondos is perfect for those looking for a long ride like you would find in Waikiki, and Santa Claus is by far the best spot to hit up if the rest of Santa Barbara is looking flat.

Pick the Best Beach for your Lesson!

Whether you're ready to try surfing for the first time, or want to pick it back up after some time away, we're here to make sure you have the best experience on the water! We're here to help you pick the best beach for your skill level and find a time when the waves are looking perfect. Book your lesson today!

Author: Harper Phillips