As complimentary as peanut butter and jelly, surfing in California dates back to 1885 when three Hawaiian princes were attending school in San Mateo. The 1930’s saw the rise of surf clubs in major surfing areas across California and after World War II, much advancement was made in foam and fiberglass improving the board quality. By the time The Endless Summer rolled out in the mid 1960’s, surfing was a full on culture for West Coast residents. When the state became a regular stop on the Word Pro Tour, California officially earned its rightful place as one of the best big wave surfing spots in the world and a cross-country cultural fad became a lifestyle.

Huntington Beach

Officially called "Surf City USA" and arguably the most popular surf spot in Cali, Huntington Beach is home to the US Open of Pro Surfing and summer X-Games. With favorable wave breaks powered by the legendary Santa Ana winds, Huntington Beach quickly gained a solid surfing reputation as a tidal mecca sought out by surfers around the globe. The USA surf team makes its permanent home here and the city serves as the base for the Association of Surfing Professionals, as well as the home of Surfline, the authoritative source for surf forecasting and reporting.

"Mavericks Big Waves" by Robert Scoble via Flickr Creative Commons

Mavericks, San Francisco

The home of big wave surfing, Mavericks has seen epic waves swell up to 100 ft. high. Though those were too dangerous to surf, the record there has been a whopping 70 ft. monster. Home to the Big Wave Contest, November sees all the daredevils come out to try their hand against Mother Nature. One thing is for sure, if you want to challenge Mavericks, you must be fearless.

"USA 2012-08-07 (426)" by Armin Rodler via Flickr Creative Commons

Joshua Tree

A more off the map surf destination than touristy San Diego, Oceanside Harbor in San Diego County is an exposed beach and jetty break that works well all around the year, but are the cleanest on a south swell at a low to medium tide which is usually bigger than the rest of North County. The best waves follow the migratory sandbars and to really take advantage, get there at the crack of dawn.

"Manresa State Beach, Santa Cruz Cty, CA" by Marcel Holyoak via Flickr Creative Commons


Just outside of Santa Cruz/Capitola off Highway 1, Manresa is a standout spot year-round. Nearby, visit the Fertile Crescent of Monterey Bay, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world where the majority of organic fruits and vegetables are grown. This lesser known surf spot offers secluded offshore beach breaks if you can find legal access to sneak through.

Carmel Beach

Carmel-by-the-Sea is consistently rated a top destination by Condé Nast for their San Francisco sophistication and Hollywood glamour. With water crystal blue and the sand bright white, this half a mile long rich coast has some of the best restaurants and art museums scattered around its pier. If you’re looking for the perfect setting to surf to, Carmel is the backdrop you need to make you one with the ocean.