From amazing breaks to wave-related art to beachside food faves, surf culture permeates throughout San Diego County. Surfing was named California's official state sport in 2018, but San Diego has been ahead of the curl for decades — embracing a laid-back surf ethos and serving as one of the top wave destinations in the world.
With more than 70 miles of coastline dotted with premier surf spots, San Diego has a wave for everyone, from eager grom to dedicated shredder. Looking to give it a go? Local shops such as La Jolla's Surf Diva and Everyday California are some of the best places in the city to rent a board and learn from the pros.
Whether you're hoping to score some waves or just enjoy the art and culture that surfing inspires, San Diego has your surf fix dialed in.
Get barreled at Blacks Beach, one of San Diego's most famous breaks. This swell magnet provides year-round waves for advanced surfers. But you don't have to be out in the lineup to enjoy the high-caliber surfing happening here. Grab a towel and hike down to the beach, or check out the action from atop the bluffs at the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
Take a trip along Sunset Cliffs, the stretch of bluffs fronting the Pacific just south of Ocean Beach, and enjoy views of numerous surf spots. Or stop in at La Jolla's legendary Windansea, where generations of surfers have made their names at this high-performance reef break.
San Diego's abundance of waves has inspired local surfboard shapers for decades, leading to the development of shapes and styles that have caught on across the globe. Local shapers such as Josh Hall, Chris Ruddy, Ryan Burch and Tim Bessell have perfected the art of creating surfboards for pros and newcomers alike — with longboards, shortboards and everything in between. San Diego is also the birthplace of such famous surf brands as Rusty, Gordon & Smith, Skip Frye Surfboards and more.
Looking for the Mecca of San Diego surf culture? Look no further than Bird's Surf Shed. Home to hundreds of vintage and modern surfboards of all shapes and sizes, Bird's is the perfect place to learn about surf history and surfboard evolution. Locals can be found scoping the collection to find the perfect board to add to their quivers. Bird's ever-expanding collection prompted the need to expand, so stop by both the Morena and Ocean Beach shops to view the complete curation.
Head to one of San Diego's surf breaks for a firsthand look at what surf culture is all about. Most beaches in San Diego are home to surfable waves, so you're bound to catch a surfer in his or her natural habitat. Head to one of San Diego's most popular surf spots – Pipes or Ponto in North County, or La Jolla Shores, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Imperial Beach – to catch some of San Diego's surf action. And don't miss the matchless Swami's in Encinitas, extolled by the Beach Boys and home to one of the most coveted right-hand waves in California.
No surf session is complete without a post-workout meal. Although the ideal feast varies depending on whom you ask, burritos and breakfast foods are at the top of most people's lists. Head to Taco Surf in Pacific Beach for delicious Mexican food, and one of the top-rated California Burritos in San Diego. The spot scores extra points from surfing locale for its impressive collection of surfboards displayed throughout the restaurant.
If traditional breakfast suits your taste, head to Swami's Cafe for breakfast fare with San Diego flair. The original location sits near the famous surf spot, but there are several locations throughout San Diego.
Wash it down with a beer from Pizza Port, a favorite among San Diego craft beer enthusiasts, featuring a lineup of beers named after local surf spots, such as Swami's and Ponto.
Find your footing in San Diego's surf history at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside. Founded in 1986, this collection showcases the vibrant history of San Diego and California's surf culture evolution. Browse through the eclectic curation of magazines, surfboards, trophies and more to learn how the sport has grown and changed throughout the decades.
Head south to the Imperial Beach Outdoor Surf Museum, a walkable exhibit that showcases metal-sculpture renditions of 25 historic surfboard designs. Or for surf art of a very different kind, check out the Cardiff Kook statue — a whimsical sculpture that has taken on its own entertaining folklore, as locals in the beachside community dress him to fit various seasons and occasions.
With consistent swell and ideal weather, it's no wonder San Diego is home to numerous surf contests throughout the year. California's Beach City hosts local, national and international contests, including the USA Surfing Championships, Switchfoot Bro-Am, WSA West Coast Surfing Championships and Super Girl Surf Pro.
But humans aren't the only ones getting in on San Diego's world-class waves: Head to South County to watch pooches riding waves like pros in the Imperial Beach Surf Dog Competition.
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