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California is a surfer’s paradise, and for good reason. Between our laid back surfer culture and our beautiful beaches, we’ve got the perfect environment for catching a wave. But not all breaks are created equal, and some beaches are definitely better than others for learning to surf. If you’re a novice and want to get started, these destinations are your best bet.

Cowell’s, Santa Cruz


This beach is nationally known as one of the best beginner surf spots. It’s situated in a protected cove between the municipal wharf and a lighthouse which shelters it from strong winds and creates some pretty calm waters. If you’re looking to longboard, this will be your paradise.

San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente

Camp Pendleton San Onofre Beach BryceApr16 (8)

The multiple surf breaks and slow-breaking peaks at this beach are wonderful for first-time surfers who are learning to stand on a board. The locals here are typically very friendly and will keep an eye out for anyone who might need help.

Zuma Beach, Malibu


Located on the north end of Malibu, Zuma Beach is one of the more popular surfing spots in the area. You can expect clear waters, a decent-sized crowd (especially on weekends) and great waves. Surfers of all skill levels are welcome here, but it’s especially ideal for beginners and intermediate surfers. Rip currents are prevalent here, so proceed with caution.

First Point at Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Sometimes an immersive experience is the best experience. This is also one of Malibu’s premier surfing spots, and it’s also close to Malibu Pier. The gentle waves are ideal for beginners.

Leo Carrillo, Los Angeles

Caves and rock formations at Leo Carillo South Beach

The beautiful Leo Carrillo Beach is a standard for surfers in the LA area, consistently offering a great break. This beach is perfect for a relaxing day out in the waves for those who are adjusting to their sea legs.

Tamarack, Carlsbad

Tamarack Beach Carlsbad BryceApr16 (4)

Practice your surfing skills on the long stretch of coastline leading up to Tamarack State Beach. You’ll find sandy beach break conditions, small, well-formed waves and uncrowded areas. This is a wonderful spot to keep learning after your initial surf lessons.

Moonlight Beach, Encinitas


Moonlight Beach is located at the end of D Street, and it’s one of North County’s best kept secrets. For the easiest waves, head north of the parking lot and catch a ride.

Sunset Cliffs, San Diego

New Break Beach Sunset Cliffs Bryce Feb2015 (8)

Sunset Cliffs is great for beginning surfers since the wave breaks offer a nice, rolling swell that rarely gets heavy. It will also provide an introduction to reef-like conditions, something you’ll want to know how to handle as a surfer.