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Beginner Surf Spots in San Diego

If you are eager for the surf, sand, and sea, then you need to set your eyes on San Diego. Known for its great weather, endless coastlines, and surf breaks for all skill levels. This is the perfect spot for surfing enthusiasts.

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Beginner Surf Spots in San Diego



Even beginner surfers find San Diego to be a prime spot to learn how to catch the waves. The question, however, is which beach is best for beginners? 

Tips for Finding the Best Beach to Surf in San Diego 

Your skill level should guide you in choosing which beach in San Diego to surf in. As was mentioned before, the surf breaks here are suitable for all surfing levels. However, there are a few tips that you need to keep in mind when looking for a beach to head out to. 

  1. Choose a beach with gentle surf. Don’t get too cocky if you are surfing for the first time. Tackling big waves without any surfing experience can be dangerous. 
  2. Choose a beach with a lifeguard on duty. This is especially true if you are a beginner surfer. Not only will you have someone to rescue you when you are in need, but they can also give you useful tips on the surfboard. 
  3. Choose a beach with amenities like a bathroom and shower. 
  4. Monitor surf reports before heading out. Keep in mind that surf conditions and tides change consistently. Even when you choose a beach known for gentle waves, there is a possibility that the weather conditions can roughen them up. 

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When is the Best Time to Surf in San Diego? 

The good news is that the best time to surf in San Diego is all the time. This means that as long as there is something solid that you can ride on, you are good to go. But if you ask the locals, the best time for an average surfer is from August to November. 

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When south swells mix with Santa Ana winds you are sure to find plenty of offshore walls as well as barrels. As the weather gets cooler from October to November, the water temperature dips while the swells arrive from the west. Aside from that, in terms of surf conditions, you will find that the waters are cleanest early in the morning. In addition, the best surf spots in the area are less crowded during the mid-day and mid-week. 

Best Beginner Surf Spots in San Diego 

San Diego County boasts pristine beaches and waves for all levels. Experienced surfers are sure to find some of the best breaks here. Even beginners will find the perfect spot to wet their feet. For those who are just starting out with surfing, here are a few options to consider. 

  1. Mission Beach

Just north of Ocean Beach and west of Sea World lies Mission Beach. What’s great about this beach is that it has a friendly vibe to it. Surf lessons are available year-round so you will find someone who can teach you how to surf. Make sure that you look for small waves as well as high tide before you set out. 

The good news is that the surfing waves here are gentle most of the time. However, this doesn’t mean that there will not be any large swells. This happens during the winter months or when there are storms passing through. 

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You will need to paddle a bit more if you want to surf on Mission Beach. For beginners, head to the southern part of the beach. This is the perfect place to catch gentle waves. However, avoid the direct jetty area since it is here where advanced surfers often congregate. 

One of the advantages of surfing here is the size. Mission Beach is wide which makes it safer for surfers of all levels. Aside from that, there are lifeguards stationed around the beach. This means that the entire beach will be closely monitored. 

  1. La Jolla Shores

Meanwhile, La Jolla Shores has gentle rolling waves for newbie surfers. This makes it an ideal place for them to learn how to stand on their surfboard. In fact, you will find plenty of surf camps and lessons being done on the beach during the summer months. You should take this as a good sign that beginner surfers are quite welcome in La Jolla. In addition, the shores here are well protected from large swells. This is why you will feel safe learning the ropes since there won’t be any rogue waves to worry about. 

Parking at La Jolla Cove can be a challenge, especially during the peak season. If you are driving here, you will want to head out as early as you can. Another option is to have someone drop you off here so you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot. Either way, you will not regret visiting this beach, especially if you are eager to learn how to surf. After all, with the gentle waves and several surf schools here, you are sure to learn a thing or two here. 

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La Jolla Shores is a popular spot for beginners which is why you should watch out for lost boards. These are the ones that do not have any ankle tether on them. Aside from that, you should keep an eye on your surroundings to avoid other surfers. All in all, this is one of the best surf spots to consider if you are just a beginner surfer. 

Of course, La Jolla is not exclusive to beginners only. In fact, you will find some of the best waves here that will put your surfing skills to the test. Just keep an eye on the surf forecast before heading out. 

  1. Moonlight Beach 

One of the best places for beginner surfers is Moonlight Beach. This beach is in Encinitas in North County San Diego. You can even explore Encinitas before heading to the beach. This is one place you might fall in love with if you stay longer. 

Going back to the beach, Moonlight can get crowded during the peak season. On a good note, the beach is big enough for surfers to spread out. It is a good idea to check the local surf forecast before heading out. You will want to look for waves that are four feet or below if you are a newbie. 

Aside from that, Moonlight has plenty of parking spaces to accommodate its guests. In addition, there is also a large lifeguard presence on the beach. Which is perfect for first-timers. Amenities like bathrooms, snack bars, and showers are available. Which is a plus. 

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If you are done practicing how to surf, there are other beach activities to do here as well. There are volleyball nets, fire pits, and even a play area for kids here too. And you know what the best part is? Ice cream! Yes, that’s right! Moonlight Beach is just walking distance of some of the most delicious ice creams in North County. You should treat yourself to this sweet dessert while you are here. 

  1. Pacific Beach 

Traveling north of the coast of San Diego and just past Mission Beach is Pacific Beach. What makes it one of the best spots for less-experienced surfers is its consistent surf. With its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, it is not hard to imagine why this is a good area for surfers. In fact, there are three options to consider here. 

  • Tourmaline Beach 

Head towards the northern end of the Pacific Beach just before La Jolla and you will find Tourmaline Beach. It lies within the San Diego area in the surfing mecca called Tourmaline Surf Park

Tourmaline Surfing Park is an essential coastal destination in San Diego. Aside from that, this is a great place for newbies. Because you will be protected from strong waves. In addition, this beach offers great views. As well as amenities like bathrooms and showers. There is also a large parking lot which is a plus. In addition, there are plenty of tide pools in the area

Expect gentle waves on this coastal cliff which is why it is a great place for beginners. This will give you plenty of time to get the hang of your surfboard. In addition, this beach gives off that old-surfing spot vibe to it. No wonder beginners and skilled surfers often head out here. What’s even better is that surfers tend to watch over one another. Chances are, you will find someone who will be willing to teach you the basics here. 

  • Crystal Pier

Another great spot on Pacific Beach is Crystal Pier. Take note that surfing is only available at the north end of the pier. Meanwhile, the south end is for swimming only. The surfing area can get crowded during the high season. Also, advanced surfers may take up most of the area near the pier. Still, it is possible for newbies to catch a wave or two by going down a bit further from Crystal Pier. 

Aside from that, there is a lifeguard presence on the beach which is a plus. Not only will you feel safe here, but they can also point you in the right direction for renting boards. Another thing that you’ll love about Crystal Pier is that it is a beach break. The sand does help beginner surfers who often fall from their boards. You can hang out here after your time in the water since there is good food available here as well. 

  • Law Street

Law Street is a good place for newbies too. Aside from being a quieter spot on Pacific Beach, the laid-back vibe charms first-timers too. Expect slow waves rolling here which is just perfect for beginner surfers. You can practice your balance here while standing on your board. In fact, plenty of seasoned surfers started here. Ask the locals and for sure they will point you to Law Street if you want to learn how to surf. The sandy beach break offers respite to beginners who constantly fall from their boards. 

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If you plan on surfing on Law Street, do it early in the morning or during weekdays. This way you will not have to deal with the crowd. Bathrooms are available in Law Street but finding a parking spot can be a challenge. 

  1. Fletcher Cove Beach 

Fletcher Cove, or Pillbox to the locals, is an ideal place for newbie surfers. In fact, the waves here are easy to catch plus surf season is good throughout the year. Fletcher Cove lies in Solana Beach and is a wide beach that you can easily navigate during high tide. Lifeguards are available year-round which is great. 

There are several reasons why tourists flock here. For starters, it offers easy access to the beach and the waters. There is plenty of parking space to add to your convenience. If you are with your kids, you can take them to the park nearby for a picnic. Aside from that, there are several bathrooms and showers on the beach too. 

Take note that the beach can get crowded during the summer, but it will be worth it. After all, this beach is perfect for swimming and other water sports too. Of course, this is a surfing haven for beginners so make sure that you check it out while in San Diego. 

  1. Ocean Beach

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a great surf session, then head to Ocean Beach in San Francisco. It lies west of the airport and north of Point Loma. Once you reach the beach, make your way to the north of Ocean Beach Pier. From here, you can paddle out easily into the waters to catch gentle waves. Aside from that, the mellow atmosphere and lifeguards keeping a close eye on beach-goers make this a great spot for newbies. 

Although the surfing season here is good the entire year, you should come here during winter. One reason behind this is that the beach will be less crowded. In addition, do check the surf forecast for the day before surfing here. The tide can easily change throughout the day. 

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Beginner surfers can head to Ocean Dog Surf Shop & School for surfing lessons. They offer body and board surfing lessons here regardless of age. You can even opt for private instruction if you like or go for the family lesson. 

  1. San Onofre

When it comes to top spots for beginner surfers then San Onofre is definitely one of them. In fact, the locals consider it the best surfing spot for beginners and shredders alike. Surfers often head here to catch a wave or two. It doesn’t matter how far they are because everyone wants to surf in San Onofre.

San Onofre lies just before you reach Orange Counties. It is part of the western border of Camp Pendleton which is north of Oceanside. If you find yourself in San Clemente then you have passed San Onofre already. 

While you are here, make your way to Old Man as it is the best surfing spot for beginners. The fun, gentle waves are perfect for those who are just learning how to surf. Even the more experienced ones don’t say no to surfing here. In fact, you will feel like you have found one of the surfer’s havens in San Diego here. 

In addition, people expect beginner surfers at Old Man’s. What’s interesting is that other surfers are quite patient with the newbies and even help them out at times. As long as you are respectful of other surfers, you are sure to have a great time here. 

Amenities include bathrooms and showers, plus parking spaces near surf spots. Take note that these parking spaces tend to get crowded during the weekend so time your trip here well. 

  1. Del Mar

If you are traveling with the whole family then make your way to 15th Street in Del Mar. This is one of the best surfing spots in the county known for its versatility. No wonder surfers of all levels head here. After all, the diverse waves here are suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers. 

Aside from that, 15th Street also has plenty of eateries to choose from. With all the work you put into learning how to surf, you are bound to go hungry. Fortunately, there are several options to choose from here. You can also bring the family to the nearby park for some rest and relaxation. The friendly crowd here will put you at ease for sure. 

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If you are just new to surfing and don’t want to be judged by others then this is where you should be. Everyone is welcome here regardless of your skill level. 

  1. Oceanside Pier

Oceanside is one of the excellent spots for surfing in San Diego. With more than 4 miles of stunning Southern California beaches, it is not surprising why it is one of the best surf spots on the West Coast. Surfers of all levels will find Oceanside a great spot to surf. 

In fact, the summer months bring beginner surfers to its shores as surfing lessons abound. With miles of gentle beach break, this is a good place for newbies to learn how to surf. Meanwhile, advanced surfers should come here during the winter months. This is the perfect time to see the best swells here. 

Oceanside is also known for the jetties on either side of the entrance to the Oceanside Harbor. In addition, the shifting sandbars give novice surfers a chance to upgrade their skills with the changing swells. The varying intensities experienced here are perfect for newbies and intermediate surfers alike. 

Head to the end of Oceanside to reach Dog Beach. You can catch a perfect wave here with your furry pal. What’s great about this beach is that it is in a protected area in Oceanside. This is why the swells here are often low. If you are literally just starting to learn how to surf, this is a great spot to practice the basics. 

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You might be surprised to find that the locals here are quite the surfers themselves. Of course, you will need to make friends with them first if you want to learn a thing or two about surfing. I don’t mind chatting it up with the locals. They always give me some good recommendations. 

  1. Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach is a local favorite if you ask them where to head out to for surfing. This beach covers the entire Imperial Beach City Beach which means that there is plenty of space for everyone. In addition, this long narrow beach boasts two parks. These are Dunes Park and the other is Portwood Crystal Pier. 

What’s interesting about Imperial Beach is that it is an exposed beach break. Although there are consistent waves here, the best time to visit is during autumn. You will get good surf here during this season. Imperial Beach lies near the border of San Diego which makes it easy to access for Americans and Mexicans alike. 

  1. San Elijo State Beach 

When it comes to the best beaches for beginner surfers, don’t forget to add San Elijo State Beach to your list. In fact, you can say that this is one of the best beginner spots in North County! It can even compete against Tourmaline Beach for being one of the ideal spots for new surfers. 

Just like Tourmaline, expect gentle and slow breaking waves here. This makes it a great spot for new surfers as well as longboarders. Although san Elijo is a beach break, instead of sand, you’ll get reef breaks. Riding a slow-breaking wave is perfect for student surfers who need to learn how to stand longer on their surfboard. 

There are several peaks in San Elijo State Beach. First-time surfers should make their way to the beach called “Pipes”. Getting here is a bit of a challenge since it is at the bottom of a steep path. But once you reach it, you will find waves breaking slowly here which is perfect for beginners. 

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Popular Beaches for Intermediate to Advanced Surfers

Going on a surf trip to San Diego is not a bad idea. After all, you will find some of the biggest spots for surfers in the area for all skill levels. Aside from the beaches for beginners, there are also other hotspots for intermediate to advanced surfers. If you are ready to test out your skills or want to catch the best breaks, you should check the beaches below. 

  1. Swami’s 

This surf spot in Encinitas was once a hippie place. Today, it is one of the best surfing areas in San Diego. Although this area is ideal for intermediate to skilled surfers, the waters can be tranquil enough for newbies too. If you are a novice surfer, make your way to the shallow reefs. Aim for the quieter breaks here and keep away from the barrels. Those are much suitable for intermediate surfers. 

Swami has gained popularity over the years. Which is not surprising. However, it can be challenging to make your way to the beach, especially during tourist season. But once you navigate through the crowd and experienced the walls, you will understand why many like to surf here. 

  1. Black’s Beach

Advanced to pro surfers will find the surf in Blacks Beach extra challenging. After all, this is one of the most intense surfing destinations in San Diego. Black’s Beach is known for its crashing waves and intense breaks triggered by the offshore trench underneath. If you are looking forward to riding great waves in San Diego, you have found the best spot. 

However, you will need to go on a long hike to reach this beach. In fact, it will take 20 minutes of hiking for you to get here. You will need to pack accordingly for this trip. On a good note, there are fewer people on this beach because of its location. If you are looking for a quiet spot to do some intense surfing then this is where you should be. The best part is that there is free parking here so you don’t have to worry about any extra costs during your trip.

  1. Sunset Cliffs

Pro surfers will love the different swell directions and barrels on Sunset Cliffs. With more than two miles of white sand beaches and stunning views, you will want to stay here longer. Aside from that, Sunset Cliffs are also known for their secluded nature and glassy barrels during low tide. In addition, the kelp beds and even the sandy bottoms contribute to the best beach break in the area. If you are wondering when the best seasons are to visit, it will be during fall and winter. 

  1. Scripps Pier

Another option to consider while you are in La Jolla is Scripps Pier. This surfing spot is more suitable for intermediate surfers who want to hone their skills. In fact, the waves here range from 3 to 5 feet. Scripps Pier lies beside the Institute of Oceanography. If you are done surfing, you can spend the rest of the day learning more about the ocean. You can also grab a bite to eat and make your way to Scripps Park where picnic tables are available. This is a great way to end your morning surfing. 

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  1. D Street

D Street is where you will find homegrown and international surfers showcasing their talents. This beach has fast and peaky waves ideal for advanced and pro surfers. If you are just starting out, it is best to sit this one out. Instead, watch the more experienced ones challenge the strong waves here. On the other hand, if you are a pro who wants to ride stronger waves, this is not a bad option. 

  1. Grandview

Encinitas is one of the best surfing areas in San Diego. If you are looking for combination swells, then this is where you will find them. What’s interesting about Grandview is that it is suitable for surfers from novices to pros. 

Aside from that, this surfing spot is open year-round. However, the waves here can get low and mushy during the off-season. If you are traveling during that time, you will need to paddle some more on your short or longboard. Meanwhile, expect a crowd in Grandview during the peak months. That is why, if you prefer going solo, you might want to search for other options. 

  1. Windansea

There are plenty of reef breaks in La Jolla that tend to lie dormant until the right conditions wake them up. A good example here is La Jolla Cove which is tranquil most of the time. That is until a north swell roughens up the waters here. And then there is Windansea which is known for its consistent surf break. No wonder it gets crowded most of the time. Take note that this is for intermediate to advanced surfers. 

Aside from that, there is a tight-knit community of surfers here. This means that you need to learn the hierarchy if you want to catch the waves. In addition, the waves tend to break quite far from the beach. Unless you are an expert, it is best to watch the skilled surfers do their thing out there instead. 

Get Surfing in San Diego 

San Diego is built for surfers. With its gentle weather, warm water, and consistent waves, surfers can’t help but visit the area. Even if you are just a beginner at surfing, you will find beaches here. That is suitable for your skill level. Look for beaches that offer gentle waves and beach breaks. On the other hand, intermediate to advanced surfers are sure to find more challenging barrels in San Diego too. 

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Regardless of what kind of surfing experience you are aiming for, you will find it here in San Diego. If I were you, I’d plan which beaches to head out to based on your skill levels. Don’t forget to consider the season when visiting too. Traveling here during the off-season means fewer crowds which is a plus. However, keep an eye on the swells during this time, especially if you are a beginner. After all, some beaches may have larger waves that newbies should best avoid. 

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Kevin

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Ocean Beach is not in San Francisco

Cacinda Maloney

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Ocean Beach is a long beach spanning the entire Sunset District of San Francisco from Cliff House south to Sloat Boulevard. It’s also a wide beach, especially when compared to all the other San Francisco beaches.

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