Overview of surfing in Orange County
Orange County, the Southern half of the sprawling LA area. This coast starts with Seal and Sunset Beach just South of Long Beach and ends with San Clemente (but does not include San Onofre State Park!) There is a lot of history surfing wise here, as well as some excellent waves. The best waves in the are mostly beach breaks plus a freak (The Wedge). The county, especially in the North is dominated by well to do suburbia. The calm and orderly vibes out of the water can be torture for some and a blessing for others. The center of the US surf industry is found here at Huntington Beach as many surf companies headquarter here. The US Open is held here every year: a conflagration of surfing, usually mediocre waves, and a massive festival. The surfers hall of fame is also here if you’re into museums. This area has churned out some top pros over the years including Chris Ward, Kolohe Andino, the Gudauskas brothers, Colapinto Brothers, Caroline Marks, and many others. The surf history here dates back to Duke Kanahamoku who surfed Huntington Pier in the early 20th century.
The 32 best Surf spots in Orange County
Overview of surfing spots in Orange County
Surf spot overview
There are mostly beach breaks here that get really good on the right swell mixed with offshores. The first notable spot is Huntington Pier. The waves here are not fantastic a lot of the time, but it is one of the most historic spots in SoCal. Home to the US Open of Surfing its history extends back to Duke Kahanamoku. The waves here can be heavy and barreling when the swell is right, mushy and difficult to connect when not. The next break, or collection of breaks really, is Newport Beach. This long collection of beach breaks gets really good a good amount of the time. Think sucky, hollow tubes that wedge up and down the beach. It can get big here but the most common size you’ll see when it is good is about head high. The Wedge is also located here, an absolute freak of a wave that triples the size of incoming South swell after wedging off of a jetty, creating carnage within a gladiator style viewing area just 20 feet from the beach. 20 foot plus days are not uncommon here. Further South is Salt Creek, a cove that puts up excellent, peaky beachbreak waves as well as a great left point to the Southern part of the cove. Head to San Clemente for a couple good waves on their day, T-Street and the Pier. Check these when a peaky swell is coming and you will be rewarded. The issue with all these spots are crowds, but the vibes are generally not hostile.
Access to Surf Spots
As with all of California a car is king. You can get anywhere and to any surf spot here with a car, just beware that traffic is legendary. Park within view of the beach if you are lucky, pay a meter and you should be set after a short walk to the waves.
Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in Orange County
Orange County has the classic Southern California climate. Warm to hot year round. Temps are cooler in the mornings close to the coast due to the marine layer of fog and heat up during the day. Summers bring warmer and drier weather. Winters, if you can call them that, are slightly cooler and less windy. Bring a sweatshirt and one pair of pants and you’ll be fine.
This time of year is not the best for surf here in OC. The big Northwest swells that hit most of the rest of the coast of California don’t really sneak in here too well. Spots to the South and North will be upwards of double the size of the ones here during this time of year. Wear a fullsuit this time of year.
This time of year is best in this county. The southernly swells crossed up with windswell light up the beach breaks up and down the coast leading to wonderful, wedging, and offshore waves. Plus in fall the kids are all in school. Boardshorts and bikinis are not unheard of in the summer, but a wetsuit is needed for the fall. Winds are usually offshore all day in the fall, but summer can lead to some early onshores.
Orange County surf travel guide
Find trips that fit a flexible lifestyle
Not so much camping around here, this coast is best visited in hotels, motels, or AirBNBS. There are plenty of options up and down the quality scale within these parameters, but be aware that prices will be steep if you are close to the coast. Go inland and stomach the drive to the beach if you are on a budget, but even then it won’t be cheap.
Orange County is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, mostly for one reason: Disneyland. Super family friendly, bring your kids, go on some rides, and get to shake Mickey’s hand. Fun for all ages, but mostly for those not yet in high school. There is a lot of camping and state parks just a couple hours drive inland: Notably the Limsetone Canyon park. The beach scene here is also very fun. Take the time to walk up and down the piers and take in Southern California beach culture. Nightlife is not open as late as other places in LA, but there is a great bar scene that can be fun for both families and young, single adults depending on place.