San Diego Surfing

Surfing is a huge part of San Diego culture, and there are so many amazing places to learn to surf on the San Diego coast.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
San Diego Surfing
Hang 10 Surf Spots
Best Time to Surf
Featured Activity
Where to Surf
Surfing Lessons
Save on Gear
Surfing Tips
Where to Stay

Surfing is one of Todd's favorite Pacific Beach pastimes. Tour beaches with great surfing conditions like PB Point and Tourmaline Surf Park, and save on surfboard rentals with the Go City San Diego pass.

Save on Tours, Attractions & More

Hang 10 At San Diego’s Incredible Surf Spots!

Surfer Taking An Overhead Wave at  PB Point, Series 3 of 3Two Surfers in a Barrel at Blacks Beach

When you think of San Diego, California, what comes to mind? For many people, it’s the city’s beautiful beaches and amazing surfing.

In San Diego, surfing is more than a hobby - it’s a lifestyle. With so many miles of stunning, well-preserved coastline and waves for every skill level, it’s easy to see why the city attracts surfing enthusiasts from around the world.

Perfect Wave Not Being Surfed in North Pb
Perfect Wave Not Being Surfed in North Pb

Surfing in San Diego is a must for any beach-loving visitor. San Diego has plenty of surf spots that are great for beginners, as well as top surf instructors who can help you perfect your technique. If you’re already an advanced surfer, there are also plenty of spots known for their ‘gnarly’ waves that are sure to give you a challenge.

For those who are just getting started, there are also plenty of places with gentle waves throughout San Diego. If you’d rather stay out of the water, neighborhoods like Ocean Beach are great places to watch the action from afar while enjoying great food and some of San Diego’s world-famous craft beer.

Sunset Surf at Scripps La Jolla
Sunset Surf at Scripps La Jolla

Best Time of Year to Go Surfing in San Diego

You can expect excellent weather in San Diego throughout the year, and no matter when you visit, you’ll be able to go surfing. However, the surf does change throughout the year, and you may want to plan your visit according to the surf you’re looking for.

In general, the best time to go surfing in San Diego is the late summer and early fall. During this time, the weather is still very warm, and the Santa Ana winds blow up from the south for consistently fun waves that are great for surfers of all ability levels.

The winter season has much larger swells, which can be exciting for advanced surfers. There are also fewer crowds, so you’ll have more of the surf to yourself. However, San Diego does experience colder temperatures, higher winds, and even the occasional rain storm during the winter, which can make surfing slightly less pleasant.

Local Tips
Consider Ponto Jetty
South Carlsbad’s Ponto Jetty realized its potential courtesy of two jetties built by the Army Corps of Engineers. Not for beginners, the main peak is primarily a left that freight trains on the takeoff.

The spring season is a transitional time, with similarly high swells to the winter. However, the “May Grey” and “June Gloom” can lead to overcast days.

While you might think that summer would be the best time for surfing, the waves can actually be very unpredictable. Typically, the summer swells don’t hit most of San Diego beaches but there are a few stand out spots in the La Jolla reefs and Oceanside where their beach direction faces more south and are able to pick up these southern swells. The beaches can also get very crowded during the summer, so there’s less room to spread out and enjoy the warm temperatures.

Sole Surfer Walking at Sunset at Torrey Pines State Beach
Sole Surfer Walking at Sunset at Torrey Pines State Beach

San Diego typically experiences the best waves in the morning, when the wind is less. Sometimes just before sunset the wind will die down and the waves can get good for a sunset surf.

Be sure to check a surf forecast website before heading out to get more detailed information about the waves in your area.

Featured Activity

La Jolla Surfing Lesson
Surf Lessons in La Jolla
Ride the waves in La Jolla, a premiere surfing destination! This 90-minute lesson is fit for both beginners & intermediate surfers, with a choice of private or public lessons. All necessary equipment is included. Surfs up!
Buy Now

Where to Go Surfing in San Diego

There are so many incredible surf spots in San Diego, and chances are there’s a great one not far from where you’re staying. While it would be impossible to list all of the amazing surf spots in San Diego, here are some of the most popular places to catch some waves on your surfboard.

Big Winter Swell at Windansea in La Jolla


Windansea is a stunningly pristine beach tucked in between Marine Street Beach and Bird Rock. It’s in a charming residential area, and it’s tucked away from some of the city’s more touristy beaches. But what makes it really special is the waves. Of all of the beaches in San Diego, this one experiences the most consistent surf because of nearby reef breaks.

It’s important to note that Windansea is a challenging place to surf and should only be attempted if you are an experienced surfer. If you’re learning to surf for the first time, you’ll be better off at one of the calmer spots like Tourmaline or La Jolla Shores. However, if you have the skills to surf at Windansea, it’s one of the most rewarding places to do so!

Surfer Walking to the Surf at Scripps La Jolla

La Jolla Shores

La Jolla has a number of excellent places to surf, and La Jolla Shores is one of the best for beginners. The winds here do create surf breaks, but they aren’t as large as those at Windansea or Black’s Beach, so beginners can learn the ropes safely.

The La Jolla Shores area also has plenty of surf shops nearby where you can rent equipment and book a surf lesson. The beach itself is wide and very clean, so there’s plenty of space to lay out when you’re done surfing.

The beach is also just up the hill from the Village of La Jolla, which is home to some of the best restaurants in San Diego.

Two Surfers in a Barrel at Blacks Beach

Black’s Beach

Moving up the coast, Black’s Beach is another top destination for experienced surfers. Black’s is located at the base of the Torrey Pines State Reserve and has some of the most dramatic natural scenery in the area. It’s also known as a nude beach, but don’t let that scare you away - the surfing is some of the best in San Diego.

The waves at Black’s Beach can get big on the right swell, so it’s important to have good swimming skills if you’re going to attempt to catch a wave here. For advanced surfers, it’s hard to beat the drama of the waves at Black’s Beach.

Longboarder Charging a Wave at PB Point

Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach is another great spot for beginners and intermediate surfers. It’s also one of the best places in the city to experience San Diego surf culture and nightlife. The waves at Pacific Beach are often gentle, so it’s a safe and fun place to learn how to surf.

Pacific Beach has a designated surfing park, Tourmaline Surf Park, as well as plenty of room along the coast for surfers. However, you should still expect a crowd - this is truly one of the most popular spots to surf in the area.

The Pacific Beach neighborhood has some of the most vibrant nightlife in the area and is very popular among college kids. If you want to dance or just enjoy a beer after your time in the water, this is a great place to do it!

Longboarder on a Wave at Harbor Beach in Oceanside


Oceanside is a charming beach town that’s located about a half-hour north of Downtown San Diego. The town’s culture revolves around the surf, with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that will make you feel right at home. In fact, surfers run many of the restaurants and shops in the area, and you’ll find it’s completely acceptable to wander around town in your swimsuit.

Oceanside is a particularly great place for beginners to learn how to surf. The waves are consistent, so it’s a great place to come and master some surfing basics. You’ll also find that the beach itself is very large and clean, so overall you can expect a pleasant day out in the water.

Be sure to check the surf report before you go as the waves can get big on the right swell.

Surfer on a Wave at South Beach in Coronado


If you’re looking to surf a little closer to Downtown San Diego, Coronado is a great option. North Beach also called Dog Run Beach (next to the North Island Naval Air Base) is the most popular among local surfers. It has a consistent but gentle surf, so it’s a great choice for beginners.

Lower Trestles

This is one of the most high-profile surf spots in the world, and it’s best for those with intermediate to advanced surf skills. In fact, the waves here are so great that many professional surfers have practiced at Lower Trestles. You’ll need to be prepared for some competition - the beach has been known to attract hundreds of surfers in a day.

The Lower Trestles is located north of Camp Pendleton, where San Diego County and Orange County meet. It also requires a hike in from the beach.

While it takes a little bit of extra effort to get to the Lower Trestles from San Diego proper, it’s worth it for true surfing enthusiasts to experience this world-class surf spot.

Popular Hotels Nearby
Popular Hotels
Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
Learn More
Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
Learn More
Surfer Beach Hotel
Learn More
Tower 23 Hotel
Learn More

Best Place to Take Surfing Lessons

Surfers in the Line up at South Mission
Surfers in the Line up at South Mission

If this is your first time out on the water, a surf lesson is the best way to learn the basics and stay safe in the water. They’re also an absolute must for those who want to surf with kids.

There are plenty of great surf schools located throughout San Diego. No matter which beach you want to surf at, chances are there is a surf school nearby. Popular choices are the Pacific Surf School or San Diego Surf School, but there are plenty of choices throughout town. Both group and individual swim lessons are available, depending on your preferences.

Of course, if you’re learning to surf for the first time, you’ll need to rent a surfboard and other essential gear. The Go San Diego Pass is a great way to save money on rentals with Bike and Kayak La Jolla.

The All-Inclusive Pass also helps you save on your surfboard rental plus admission to popular San Diego attractions like the San Diego Zoo and the USS Midway. We offer an additional discount on the Go San Diego Pass, so be sure to buy one before you visit!

Save on Paddle Boarding!
Coronado - Stand Up Paddle Board Rental
Stand Up Paddle Board Rental
Using your Go Pass, head over to Coronado Island and head out for a 90-minute stand-up paddle board ride. Explore the bay on your ride and take in views of the San Diego skyline, the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, Petco Park and much more.
Buy Now
Local Tips
What is the cheapest way to buy a Go City San Diego pass?

The cheapest way to purchase a Go City San Diego pass is to combine Go Visit San Diego’s exclusive 5% discount with the Go San Diego passes already great deals!

Simply follow our link & use code GVSD5OFF to purchase your pass and begin saving!

Tips for Surfing in San Diego

Longboarder Walking on the Beach at Harbor Beach
Longboarder Walking on the Beach at Harbor Beach

Here’s what to know to make the most of your experience surfing in San Diego.


Parking near San Diego’s most popular surf spots can fill up quickly. Consider walking, taking a ride share, or using public transportation to get to the beach.

If you have to drive, go earlier in the day to find a spot before they fill up.

Consider a Wetsuit

In the winter the water in the Pacific Ocean can get chilly - consider renting a wetsuit to keep you warm while you are in the water.

Summer time water temperatures are perfect to go without a wetsuit as the water warms up and it is hot outside.

Be Polite & Follow Surf Etiquette

Make sure to follow proper surf etiquette, particularly at crowded surf spots. Don’t cut in front of other surfers and follow the right of way.

Generally, the surfer who is closest to the peak of the wave, or the surfer who is first up onto their feet gets the right of way, but this can change depending on the circumstances. Make sure to share the waves with others around you.

Looking to Save on Tickets?
Save on Tickets
Explore all that San Diego has to offer & save up to 55% on attractions
This Month's Forecast
66°F / 81°F
Sunny in July
68°F / 83°F
Sunny in August
66°F / 82°F
Sunny in September

Stay Nearby

Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
Boutique Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
from $156 / night
View Hotel
Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa
from $171 / night
View Hotel
Surfer Beach Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Surfer Beach Hotel
from $170 / night
View Hotel
Tower 23 Hotel
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Tower 23 Hotel
from $199 / night
View Hotel
Show more San Diego Hotels >>
Looking for Something Different?
More San Diego Activities