Best time to take a Surf Trip to California

I often get asked "When is the best time to come surf California?" And I basically narrow it down into the 4 seasons: summer, fall, winter and spring. California has a very large coastline with a variety of waves to ride. Our surf camp is located in Orange County, which is 45 minutes south of Los Angeles Air Port and is in the southern region of the state. This area gets swell year round and you can basically surf every day of the year if you're really dedicated.

So let me break down for you what each season has to offer 

Summer time in California - In summer we get south swells and warmer water. Swells form off the coast of Mexico from June - September and Orange County lights up for surf. Why? Because Orange County beaches face south and west. When we get a swell from the south or south west the whole area is pumping. This is the most consistent time of year for Orange County beaches. In summer months you're going to see epic waves at the iconic Trestles surf break, Salt Creek point will have roping lefts, the infamous jetties of Newport Beach will be barreling lefts and of course the largest waves in Orange County peak up at The Wedge with waves up to 30ft on a huge swell. For beginners there are always spots with smaller surf, like Laguna Beach or the lower jetties in Newport Beach which face more north. So when it's 30ft at the wedge our guides know where to look to find 2-3ft waves for a beginner group. That shows the diversity of waves in summertime in Orange County. The downfall of summertime is the overload of tourism and crowds. Our surf guides definitely know how to avoid a crowd and search for waves in less looked areas, but you can't always dodge the beach goers and weekend warriors. Summertime in California is the place to be and can be quite busy but definitely the most consistent tropical warmer water surf.

 

Fall - This is my personal favorite time of year for surf in California. After September rolls by, the weekend crowds leave and the tourists all seem to vanish. The lineups are more empty and the waves pump with swells from the south and north - we call these "combo swells." This creates epic peaks at the beach breaks to go left or right whereas summertime the south swells create more rides going left. During this time we also get very favorable offshore winds with epic conditions all day. You also get a taste of north swells during the fall so it's refreshing to get a new feeling of wave types in the area! 

 

Winter - Wintertime to me is a sense of relief. It's a great time to visit the surf camp and spend a week or two, because you will really get a lot of adventure time on the road. In wintertime Orange County is sort of in what we call the "Catalina Shadow." Just off the Orange County coastline is an island called Catalina Island, and when the waves come from the north, the island kind of blocks swell. Don't get me wrong - there are basically waves in the OC every day in winter with no crowds. You can expect a 2-4ft waves most days, but what I enjoy the most about winter is the size of waves north and south of Orange County. San Diego County (south) and Santa Barbara County (north) are more north facing and the famous waves like Rincon Point in Santa Barbara, and Black's Beach in San Diego turn on all winter. Winter time to visit and experience the smaller OC waves but also to maybe take your surfing to a new level in some bigger surf on a few road trips during your stay. Wintertime also provides longer right hand rides at most point breaks, so you can really work on maneuvers and length of ride. Keep in mind the only slight downfall for winter is that the water temperature is a bit colder. I personally enjoy waking up early to a cold morning, a hot cup of coffee and hitting the road for a dawn patrol session with less crowd. Expect to wear a 3/2 wetsuit with booties. For morning times a 4/3 wetsuit is nice. 

 

Spring - Spring is nice because the water start to warm up and because we once again  get swells from the north but also the start of south swells, so those ideal combo swells come back with peaky beach break conditions. This is a great time to sneak in the last north swell sessions at the long right hand point breaks while most people have had enough and are looking forward to summer. It is a great time to score epic surf!

 

Summary - California is one of the few places in the world with epic year-round surf. You can't go wrong in booking a ticket to California. You can spend money on overpriced hotels and rental cars and search around not really knowing where to look. Or you can join professional surf guides with included transportation, epic surf camp house accommodation, and you will be guaranteed to to score waves. You'll possibly experience strong winds or flat spells other places you may go. Here in California, with the right surf guides that know where to go, this will not happen. See you soon! 




Ryan Croteau
Ryan Croteau

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