Overview of surfing in Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara County can easily be divided into two parts: The area North of Point Conception and the area that extends to the East after the coast turns. There are also the Channel Islands which offer some amazing and mostly unexplored/unpublished surf spots. The county borders the Pismo Beach to the North and ends with Carpinteria in the Southeast. This coastline marks the start of Southern California, and although Santa Barbara may not be as famous as other areas, it is one of the most important counties in surf history for the USA. Channel Islands Surfboards calls this area home, and it has produced incredible surfers along the years: Tom Curren, the Coffin Bros, Bobby Martinez, Lakey Petersen, and the transplanted Kelly Slater. The surf here is best known for long left hand point breaks that are unfortunately dormant for most of the year. Santa Barbara County is a beautiful, pristine area full of nature and life as well as a city and some smaller coastal communities.
The 16 best Surf spots in Santa Barbara County
Overview of surfing spots in Santa Barbara County
Surf spot overview
The Northern sections of Santa Barbara are dominated by some beaches as well as unnamed reefs. These breaks are usually bigger and wilder than the spots South of Point Conception. Jalama Beach is the most well known and is almost always breaking. Past the turn of the coast, the breaks turn into great points. There are many but Rincon is the most well known. It breaks perfectly along a cobblestone stretch coast, named the Queen of the Coast for a reason.
Access to Surf Spots
A car is the only thing you need here, as well as some hiking boots for the more remote breaks in the Northern areas. In the South you can check the spots from the highways, which often leads to the best spots also being the msot crowded.
Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara County is another example of a great temperate climate in California. Cool mornings with fog blend into sunny afternoons with slight to heavy winds. The weather does not vary much year round, although it is cooler and wetter in the winter. Lately summers have been very dry and fires have been a problem over the last few years. Layers in the morning and evenings, less in the afternoons.
This is the best time to surf in Santa Barbara, the western coastline lights up and can get quite big while the southern facing coast turns into perfect point after perfect point. Point Conception cuts the size of massive winter swells and turn them in to head high peelers. Offshore breezes are common in the mornings and onshore winds will hold off until early afternoon. A 4/3 will suit you fine here this time of year.
This time of year is terrible in the South facing part of the coast. It is greatly shadowed by the Channel Islands, so no South swells sneak through. The place to surf this season is the Western facing Northern Coast. the beach breaks there can get quite good when crossed up with windswell from the North. A 3/2 or 4/3 is good this time of year. Get on the surf early as onshore winds can come up quickly.
Santa Barbara County surf travel guide
Find trips that fit a flexible lifestyle
Toward the northern parts and even up to the larger cities there are a lot of wonderful camping options. Once you hit the smaller towns and urban areas there are a ton of resorts and hotel options available for all budgets and plans. Most areas will be cheaper than further South, but expect some higher price points than elsewhere in the world.
Santa Barbara has some amazing hiking and camping options in the Northern and even Southern parts. Take your time to find some mostly empty trailheads that lead to some beautiful coastal areas. There is a growing wine scene here that produces some excellent beverages for those over 21. The city of Santa Barbara has a college town feel with a laid back atmosphere. Late bar nights are common, but you won’t see too many clubs or anything.