The best places to surf in Los Angeles (from a local)

best surf spots

Welcome to Southern California, where you sit in traffic on the way and in the surf lineup. I grew up here, and have watched lots of people getting born, and even worse, they decide that surfing is a good idea. Sometimes crowded, yet epic pits, walls, drop ins, screaming and spits, with all the dead bird floating action you could want in a lineup. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the best places to surf in and around Los Angeles, for both beginners and pros.

First, here is the rundown of all the places you will definitely end up to trying to surf, and my recommendations for alternatives, which you will actually be able to surf, with slightly less crowds and hassle.

For beginners and kooks – Venice Breakwater
instead: Ocean Park

For those looking for a guaranteed fun wave –
El Porto
instead: Topaz St

For those who ride longboards or like long, long walls – Malibu
instead: Ventura

For those want to get away from it all and not paddle battle – The Cove
instead: Staircases

 

Venice Breakwater

Check out instead: Ocean Park

 

Wave Quality: 
Crowds: 
Swell direction
: SW, WSW, W
Wind: E
Tide: Around medium

Usually: 1-2ft closeouts with occasional corners, look to the rocks for an occasionally decent pushing-off-the-rocks right hander
Sometimes: ‘Bro, don’t snake me I’m hanging 10 here’
Crowds: Kooks mostly, so if for some reason it’s good here, you’ll have a wave to yourself (and maybe some cranky old longboarders in the early AM). If you work in Silicon Beach and ride an electric scooter to work, this is guaranteed where you will go out.
Park: Anywhere you can find that is not $20 a day

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So, to be honest I rarely ever come here because of the longboarders / foamie riders who go straight…mostly into the sand, and occasionally into the soft fleshy regions of your body. If you’re teaching a hottie how to surf and don’t know how to drive a car, then sure, come down here, rent a board and wetsuit, and paddle out. You’ll be able to stand up on some whitewash and, most importantly, she will want you.

 

El Porto

Check out instead Topaz St

el porto

Sunday Porto Church. Because we all need a little prayer before a session here

Wave quality: 
Crowds: 
Swell direction
: SW, WSW, W
Wind: E, SE
Tide: Around medium

Usually: There will always be a wave
Sometimes: ‘Hey that wasn’t half bad I did a turn’ to ‘I just had the wave of my life’
Crowds: Always packed. Rain, shine, or sewage flowing post-monsoon
Park: El Porto parking lot will be a nutcase in the summer months, so best look for sneaky street spots or other lots

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So welcome to the pinnacle of crowded SoCal surf spots. Here you will find kooks and shredders, but most often, WAVESTORMS! Here’s the thing, you are pretty much guaranteed waves here. Whether they are good or not, is another story. If there is any spot breaking in SoCal, it’s going to be here. I’ve surfed it 1ft and 7ft, but more often than not, it’s 2-3ft and closing out.

El Porto rarely pumps, and in my experience, is more known for having agro guys fighting in the parking lot or yelling at each other in the water. Also the only place I’ve had guys yell they were going to sue me after dropping in on their closeouts.

The water quality here can be really bad due to run off. There is nothing like coming up from a duck dive and having a dead bird covered in trash next to your face. See also: Shitpipe

poop

Actual shot of after it rains run off

If you have to:

You’ll probably see 20-40 guys sitting in the space in front of the main parking lot, but if you head north towards the breakwall, or south towards the pier, you may have a peak all to yourself. The peak north of the breakwall in front of Chevron sometimes has a sweet left hander.

It’s all about parking and then going for a walk to find something decent that doesn’t have 6 guys yelling at you to pull off. This is still my most frequented wave due to sheer consistency. After work sunset sesh? Oh yeah, get to Porto and catch a few closeouts. Taking a date to kook surf school? Oh yeah there are rentals on the beach, and we can find something calm. Just watch out for those stingrays.

 

 

Malibu

Check out instead Ventura Point

malibu

Guaranteed to see this once every session

Wave quality: 
Crowds: 
Swell direction: S, SW, WSW
Wind: NW
Tide: Around medium

Usually: Check the report, sometimes swells can totally miss it
Sometimes: Super fun long wave with a surprising punch
Crowds: Literally the birthplace of the drop in
Park: PCH if you are lucky. My secret spot is on the ocean side of PCH, just past the bridge. You’ll see cars parked underneath the trees and on the dirt. Just don’t be a dick and block the thoroughfare for all the other kooks

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So if El Porto was the pinnacle, this is the OG classic. This is where your daddy and Eddie’s daddy surfed a 12ft board and rode the nose like he invented it. You know when you see those retro art pics that have 5 guys standing poo man style on one wave? Yep this is it.

longboarders

Credit USVSA

I pretty much never go to first point. It is kind of a joke, and even if you are learning or trying to teach someone, you are guaranteed to get into some kind of board on board conflict with another learner.

If you have to:

Go straight to 2nd point, and sneak off the small sets that are too wide for the third point. Maybe even make it through to 1st point on a wave screaming at others to stop paddling (but trust me it won’t deter them).

If you walk all the way around the point, you will eventually come to a little beach where a surf school operates on the weekends. There is sometimes a right that won’t go all the way through the points, but you can still get a decent ride before it closes out. I’ll usually walk and then paddle out just to the left of the main beach. On a nice low tide it can be really fun and punchy, but surprisingly fast at times.

 

 

The Cove

Check out instead Staircases

the cove

Dude, I went hiking and found a secret spot we should go

Wave Quality:
Crowds:
Swell direction
: WSW, W
Wind: E, SW
Tide: Medium to high

Usually: A slow rolling left with occasional rights to the left side of the Cove
Sometimes: Still kind of slow rolling but big lefts all the way from the point to the inside. Check Little Reef which is the right hander, usually has a smaller but more punchy wave if you are on a shortboard
Crowds: Busy, but if you can get it midweek during the day I’ve had some sessions with just 4 guys or so out. They weren’t even aggressive, which makes me think they are trying to pay it safe in case we were an offshoot of Lanuda Bay Boys
Park: Street parking, then walk down the headland. You’ll see a few paths but stay on the main one until you reach the bottom.

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If you are a kook and scared of snapping your big $200 longboard fin off, paddle out on the main beach. It may be fairly shallow and there are sharp things, so wear booties or go slow until you’re out of the action. I almost always paddle out at the rocks to the right, closest to Little Reef.

This is the ‘Oh, I went hiking Palos Verdes and found a secret spot’ place. For some reason I run into people who think this is some kind of magic secret just because Surfline doesn’t have a cam there. Don’t buy into it. The Cove is heavily trafficked and can be a nightmare just like anywhere else in SoCal. I have found the guys out here to be a little more chill though, and if you give respect, you will get it back. I’d bring a longboard, or at least a fat fish or egg if you are going to surf the left. It can be surprisingly fat, and there will be a couple guys not wearing leashes, willing and able to look you in the eyes as they paddle past you to priority and snake you again and again.

death stare

100% chance you’ll see one of these

Pop quiz: What’s worse than a guy on a Wavestorm? A guy who knows how to surf well on a Wavestorm.

If you have to:

Bring something with volume if you are going to hit the left on any day smaller than 2ft, but I’d try to go for Little Reef if you are frothing.

 

Ocean Park

Wave Quality:  
Crowds: 
Swell direction: SSW, WSW, W
Wind: E

Tide: Medium to high

Usually: Small and closing out
Sometimes: Head high fast wedges
Crowds: Bad in the mornings, then as the day goes by thins out before the sunset crowd
Park: Suck it up and park in the lot right in front of the wave

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Okay, okay. I said that this place is better than Venice, but solely for the reason that the morning crowd isn’t as bad IMO. If you live in SM, Venice, Mar Vista or above, your options are slim if you want a paddle before your 12 hr a day, soul crushing pharmaceutical job, so I’d give this a go. I find the crowd friendly, with less closeouts than Venice, yet maintaining the ease of jumping in the water and not having to paddle the 405-N after doing the south bay in the morning.

 

Topaz St

topaz

The illegal wavestorm drop in

Wave Quality:
Crowds:
Swell direction
: WSW, W, WNW
Wind: E, SE
Tide: Around low

Usually: Not breaking unless the swell is right
Sometimes: Crazy overhead barrels off the breakwall, super wedgy and lots of power
Crowds: Never too bad unless it is pumping, then a bunch of locals who will sit deep and make you paddle
Park: Go for Topaz St. or the surrounding neighborhoods. Be wary of street sweeping

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Disclaimer: I love Redondo.

When is Porto is crowded or closing out, I have found solace in the typically half-size waves here, that often have way better shape. The beach is so long, that if you walk or drive you can find something just to yourself, guaranteed. I normally paddle out south of the breakwall and surf the right there. It can get good. Really, really, really, good. This is one of the few places I’ve seen guys in stand-tall barrels with punchy fast power that reminded me of Snapper Rocks in Oz. The north side of the breakwall is nearly always smaller and most guys sit on the left that comes off the rocks. I’d say skip the north side if breaking, because the southside is guaranteed to better.

 

 

Ventura Point

ventura point

‘Bro yeah I’d paddle out but I only go out on double overhead days ya know’

Wave Quality: 
Crowds:
Swell direction
: S, SW, W, NW
Wind: E
Tide: Low to medium

Usually: Good size right point break
Sometimes: Long long rides with plenty of sections and walls to hit
Crowds: Getting lots of locals deep and wide, but I’ve never had a problem getting waves here due to the big size of the break
Park: Park in the lot, $4 as of late. If you are a cheap bastard park next to the Hotel which is next to the pier. There is a public parking there, but it will be a walk to get to the point. There is another parking lot just before you reach the $4 lot and it is usually filled with stoners and wanna be kooks living out of cars.

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You’ve probably heard of C Street, where learners who are scared of the crowds of Malibu go. Walk past that, and head for the point. For some reason this wave always seems faster to me than Malibu. It has a rocky bottom, and if you are a puss, put some booties on. Expect steep drops, sometimes very very shallow water, and all the local guys doing airs off 2 ft slop. It’s a longer drive than Malibu, I know, but why don’t you hit up Spencer McKenzies and get some fish tacos or something after. You will get more waves than Malibu, with less of a paddle battle, and more weird wide sets you can sit and wait for.

 

Staircases

staircases

Stairs not pictured.

Wave Quality: 
Crowds: 
Swell direction: W, SW, S
Wind: E-NE
Tide: Low to medium

Usually: A long rolling left and right
Sometimes: A big long rolling left and right
Crowds: Never bad
Park: Park on PCH and walk, or in the lot if you are made of money and $10 means nothing

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This is my favorite wave right now. Walk down a little cliff and find a small deserted beach, bring your friends, dogs, wife, mistress, or kook friends, and have a beach day in front of a fun-at-times fat wave. Leo Carillo and County Line both do a good job of attracting most people, as they are visible from the road, so if you are lucky, you can get this spot without much of a crowd at all. If Malibu is 3ft+ you know it will pull a crazy crowd, so why not roll the dice and come here. High tide delivers a mission to get on the wave, but if you are here on mid or low you can get a fun left or right just to yourself. When its too big, it will just close out, and I would head to County Line or a point which will hold it better. On 3ft days, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than down at Staircases with a board or two, a bunch of friends and an empty wave to share.

 

Did we get it right? Ruin a local spot of yours? Miss something? Let us know in the comments below.