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Top 7 Best Places to Learn to Surf in California

California is one of the best places to surf in the world. It has consistent, high-quality waves. A large number of the population in California have either attempted to surf or surf regularly.

Why is the sport so popular? Keep reading for more reasons why you should try surfing and where the best places to learn how to surf in California are located.

Why Surf?

There are approximately 20 million people who surf around the world. Its one of the most popular water sports and people on almost every coast enjoy surfing if they have the proper waves.

Whether the air or water is warm or not, youll find people surfing, even if they need to wear a wet suit to stay warm.

Surfing is an adrenaline-seeking sport and people love the feeling of relying on nature to provide a wave suitable for surfing.

Surfing is a one-person sport, so you dont have to wait for friends or join a team to enjoy the activity, which is another excellent quality of surfing.

Each wave is different, which makes for a fun adventure, constantly hoping and searching for the best waves possible.

No ride is the same either, so the sport never gets boring.

Why Surf in California?

In 2018, surfing was named the official sport of California, and September 20th became California Surfing Day.

California has a prominent surf culture, with many coastal residents enjoying the sport regularly. The warmish waters in Southern California make it appealing to surf because for some parts of the year, you wont need to wear a wetsuit.

The waves are also pretty consistent, which is always a plus.

What Makes a Good Beginner Surfing Spot

A good beginner surfing spot has waist-high waves, about 1 to 3 feet high. It’s also an area on the coast that isnt rocky, the winds arent too high, and the water is calm.

Beginner spots also dont have strong riptides. All of these conditions lead to a great beginner surfing location. Another criterion is if the beach has lifeguards.

This will give you some peace of mind and is a safer way to surf, especially when you’re new to the sport. 

Guide for Beginner Surfers

Beginner surfers should take a lesson their first time rather than renting a board and going out there hoping for the best.

An instructor can teach you how to paddle out safely, ride the wave, and give instructions if youre struggling to get up on the board.

Also, the bigger the board, the easier it is to learn how to surf. You should use a soft top longboard when starting out so it wont hurt you and will help you balance.

Also, you will want to wear a wet suit or rash guard to avoid rashes from getting up and down. They can also help you regulate your body temperature.

Most importantly, be patient. Some people figure it out right away, and for others, it takes time. So dont get frustrated if you dont get up immediately.

Instead, enjoy the process, and best of all, have fun!

The Best Places to Learn to Surf in California

Keep reading for a list of the best places to learn how to surf in California, broken out by southern and northern California. With many miles of coastlines, there are many great beaches to choose between

Southern California

More people surf in Southern California than in Northern California. Not only is the air and water warmer, but its less rocky and has overall better surfing conditions.

Rocks lining beach in San Diego

1. San Diego, California

San Diego is often sunny and 75. Its a well-known place throughout the U.S. and worldwide for its warm, year-round, consistent weather.

San Diego also has a prominent and inclusive surf culture and laid-back vibe, making it a great place to learn to surf.

When learning to surf in San Diego, there are a ton of beaches to choose from, so you dont necessarily have to be on top of other people trying to get the wave.

Also, there isnt much pressure in a lesson because residents love to live in and enjoy the moment.

People are very chill in San Diego and Californian in general. So you can expect patience and understanding when learning to surf here.

As for the waves, San Diego is one of the top surfing communities in the United States.

Along the 70 miles of coast in the city, there are a variety of conditions and waves to suit your beginner needs.

Beaches great for beginners include Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach, where there arent huge swells.

These beaches are also very public, with boardwalks, houses, and businesses on the water, so theyre safe places to test out the sport.

Coastal Picture of Malibu, California

2. Malibu, California

Malibu is roughly a 45-minute drive out of Los Angeles. Its a beautiful coastal location serving some of the best surfing conditions in California.

Malibu has great surfing conditioners for all levels of riders. In addition, many surf schools and private surf lessons are offered in Malibu for those looking to try the iconic sport.

Surfrider Beach is a great spot for beginners with calm and easy waves.

Its also a popular spot for its role in films on the beach and the wooden pier.

Zuma Beach is also an excellent spot to learn how to surf.

Its a quieter destination which is good for lessons because it’s not overcrowded, so its the ultimate place to learn.

Pier and surfer in Huntington Beach, California

3. Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach is known as Surf City, USA, and is a great place to surf in Orange County. In addition, the U.S. Open of Surfing and several other competitions are held here each year, making it a very credible surfing location in California.

Bolsa Chica State Beach is a great beginner spot because of the gentle, smaller waves.

It also has year-round waves, so you can learn at any point throughout the year.

In addition, its not very crowded so you dont have to worry about fighting for waves or colliding with other beginners.

The gentle beach break is perfect for beginners and the laid-back vibes relieve all the pressure.

Wave breaking in Ventura, California

4. Ventura, California

Ventura is another great beginner spot. It has sandy beach bottom breaks and long, rolling waves that are great for novice surfers.

Mondos is the best beach in Ventura for practicing the sport. The waves arent too big or small, and there is no current. It is widely known as one of the best beginner spots in the state.

The 3 to 5-foot waves are super consistent thanks to the sand break.

The mellow waves also make for a mellow vibe, so there is no pressure anywhere in Venture.

Northern California

While southern California may get all the surfing praise and hype, northern California does have its share of great surfing locations for beginners; you may just have to look a little harder and endure the colder water.

Waves breaking in Santa Cruz, California

5. Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz is located in northern California and is another excellent place to learn to surf and one of the best beginner spots.

This city was the first place people ever surfed in the contiguous United States. Three princes from Hawaii visited California in 1885 and surfed while visiting.

From there, people started trying it for themselves, and the sport quickly picked up speed.

Santa Cruz is the home and birthplace of surfing in the state of California, so it makes for a great place to practice walking on the water.

When visiting Santa Cruz, also be sure to stop at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, where youll learn more about the history and progress of surfing.

Cowells beach is the best beginner spot because its located in a protected cove, so you can expect calm water, which makes it much easier to learn the sport.

Its known for its long, slow waves.

It does get crowded at times because so many beginners come to this beach, but everyone here is very patient with beginners trying to learn.

Sunsetting on waves breaking in Bolinas, California

6. Bolinas, California

The Patch at Bolinas Beach is the ultimate spot for beginners. Its located near San Francisco, so its in a great location.

Youll need a wet suit here, so make sure youre prepared.

The waves become gentle rollers before reaching shore and take a long time to curl and break, which gives beginners lots of time to catch the wave.

Because of the slow, long waves, beginners also have more time to stand up and ride the wave, which is great for practicing.

There are some large rocks near the shore, so be careful and always learn about hazards before riding in a new place.

The beaches in Bolinas are protected from winds, making the swells smaller, so its one of the best beaches for beginners and one of the safest beaches for surfing.

Enjoy long, consistent, smooth waves that will make you feel like a pro by the end of the day.

People surfing in Pacifica, California

7. Pacifica, California

In Pacifica, Linda Mar State Beach is an excellent spot for beginners.

Not only does it have great waves, but its also very picturesque and protected from the wind. The south end of the beach has very gentle breaks, which are ideal for novice riders.

However, you will need wet shoes because of the sharp rocks on the ocean floor. You will most likely need a wet suit here, but it will also help you protect against rashes, so its worth wearing.

You can expect waves under 5 feet, so theyll be much easier to ride. This beach can also be busy at times because its well known for being one of the best beginner beaches, so be prepared for crowds.


California is a great place to learn to surf. There are thousands of miles of coastline and consistent, high-quality waves.

Its one of the top surfing hubs in the world and a wonderful place to learn the sport. If youve ever been eager to try riding on water, youve come to the right place.

Your first time getting up on the board and riding a wave will leave you feeling exhilarated, and youll soon fall in love with the sport.

Good luck with your surfing journey, and hang ten!

Do you know of a different place to learn to surf in California that is not mentioned on this list? Say so in the comments below.

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