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The 3 Surfing Regions in California

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Here is part of a great blog post we found. Serene Waters Surf Adventures provides surf lessons in Orange County.

California / Everything You Need to Know

Stunning coastlines, lots of sunshine, and consistent year-round waves make California a primo surf destination. Not to mention California’s legendary surf history and the endless amount of amazing things to do and see in the aptly named Golden State.

Whether you’re discovering the hidden beaches of Malibu, hiking in Big Sur, or exploring the urban jungles of San Francisco and LA, California is rich with natural beauty and exciting places.

If you’ve never been to California, here’s a tip: it’s really really big. From sunny palm-tree-framed beaches to snowy mountains, massive National Parks and desert landscapes to sprawling cities, not only is California larger than many countries on the planet, it’s one heck of a diverse place.

This guide will focus on traveling and surfing the California coast, but just know that there is an endless list of things to do and see in the 3rd largest state of the US.

With over 800 miles of coastline directly exposed to the Great Pacific and some of the most famous waves and surf towns in the world, it’s no wonder California has become one of the most surf-obsessed places on the planet.

Plenty of waves come with plenty of crowds, but there are so many breaks along the coast that, believe it or not, there are still some uncrowded gems to be found if you go searching.

This guide to Surfing California will give you the lowdown on everything you need to know to plan a surf trip in California—regional overviews of the surf, seasons, surf trips costs, transportation, where to stay, and more.


California is diverse as it is large, and there are vast differences between surfing in Northern California and Southern California. To keep it simple, here’s the nutshell version of the three main coastal regions: Southern California, Central California, and Northern California.

Stretching from Santa Barbara down to San Diego and the Mexican border, Southern California (AKA SoCal) is what many people have in mind when they think of California. Sunny beaches, palm trees, and sunshine. California Dreaming and all those other California-inspired songs are definitely referring to the southern part of the state.

Home to Disneyland, Hollywood, a huge chunk of the surf industry, and terrible traffic.


The Central Coast technically spans from Ventura County in the south (just north of Los Angeles) to Santa Cruz in the north. But the surf world and many a’ Californian considers Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to be Southern California, so we’re going to run with that version. Just wanted to let you know there are some variations out there, but in this guide, we’re going to consider the Central Coast going from San Luis Obispo County in the south to Santa Cruz in the north.

The Central Coast is much less populated than the south, full of quaint beach towns, rugged coastline, rolling hills, and remote beaches.

Home to the enchanting Big Sur, lots of wine country, the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium, and scenic drives.


Northern California (AKA NorCal) stretches from San Francisco up to the Oregon border and this coastline is California’s most rural. The North Coast (beyond San Fran) is so sparsely populated that there’s only one city with a population over 100,000. The region is characterized by wild often-inaccessible coastline, lush forests, and unruly surf.

Home to giant redwood trees, moody weather, large ocean wildlife, and more scenic coastal drives.

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