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grab your board, you've pulled! kelly mittendorf takes us to her top 5 California surf spots

One of the best parts about growing up in a suburb in the middle of the desert in Arizona was leaving. Not in the dramatic "I'll be back" Arnold Schwarzenegger sense, but in the "School's Out for Summer" Alice Cooper sense. Each year, the beaches of California are plagued with a pilgrimage of zinc-oxide bearing 'Zonies' that settle in for three blissful months of paradise weather and sand in our swimsuits. Staying in Southern California puts you within a 45 minute radius of legendary surf spots so grab your board and get ready to rock n' roll!

Text Kelly Mittendorf

  • windansea, la jolla

    Windansea is a small beach but probably the one you'd recognize the most without realising it, as its monuments inspired movies (Muscle Beach Party starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello) and big surfers from around the world from the 1960s (members of "the heaviest surf crew ever", no really, they called themselves that) through to today. Experienced surfers congregate here to take on the 6-8 ft waves over a rocky floor that were named after past patrons of the beach. The surf isn't for the faint of heart or for the inexperienced, so if you'd rather sit back and beef up your Instagram with shots of the Beach Shack or the surfers, you won't be alone. 


    windansea, la julia

  • trestles, san ofore state beach, san diego aka 'san o'

    There are three parts to Trestles: Uppers, Lowers and Middles, all with varying surf conditions with Lower Trestles reported as the most consistent and hosting multiple surfing competitions each year. Usually the spot will be more crowded than others because of its legacy and locals expect the respect and space they deserve. Waves there are described as "magical" and a "God-sent", comparable to waves around the world that are worth the trouble of the crowd. Staying further north, towards Uppers will give you a little more space to get your wetsuit wet and get used to the roll before diving into the shark tank of Lowers. 


    photo by Mikefairbanks

  • huntington beach, surf city

    You can't get more classic California than a town known as Surf City USA. Not much has changed since the hit song Surf City immortalised the town in the 1960s; restored 'woodies' still roam the streets and 20-somethings still flock here for surf, sand and surfergirls. Miles of beach were designed for all day in the water and evenings spent around a fire pit welcome surfers, bodyboarders, beach bums and man's best friend. This is one of my favorite beaches as it's the most accommodating to those of us that aren't necessarily ready to go pro in the water yet with waves between 2-4 ft high. 


    me at huntington's!

  • swami's, encinitas, san diego

    Well known for various breaks and good swells, this has become a fairly competitive destination for surfers. Waves are fairly far out, which helps to filter out non-experienced surfers who can't make the paddle out to a break. This is a great spot to see pros in their natural habitat or go for a jog down the long stretch of beach, but not so great for a swim or learning the basics. 


  • black's beach, torrey pines, la jolia

    Black's is a secluded part of a reserve called Torrey Pines (a beautiful golf resort) overlooking the Pacific that is usually very peaceful, not crowded and hosts a slew of friendly locals. An underwater canyon provides perfectly consistent swells and the chance to ride alongside dolphins attracts many dare devils, but the potentially dangerous tow and number of advanced surfers deters most swimmers or bodyboarders. Blacks is really a place for seasoned surfers, but was put on the map as a tourist destination for being one of California's few nude beaches in operation, providing visitors with plenty to gawk at.