California is known for surfing and for good reason. It has some of the best surfing areas in the country. Our surfing breaks are varied with some that are perfect for beginners and longboarders and others that are for experts only. One of the infamous waves of California is pretty much insane.
We have been asked several times which beaches in California have the biggest waves, and there are a couple that stand out.
Mavericks in Half Moon Bay definitely has the largest break in California. Waves at this specific location can be as high as 60 feet when conditions are perfect and 20-30 foot waves are common in winter. Unique underwater formations create this crazy wave which breaks both left and right. Mavericks has unfortunately claimed the lives of a couple surfers since surfing the wave began in the 1990’s.
Once a year the famous Mavericks Invitational surfing competition is held at this location, but the dates vary and are announced right before the event when surf forecasts predict ideal conditions (Nov-March). If you aren’t a surfer and just want to see the waves or maybe watch surfers, the beach is typically a quiet place and definitely worth a visit. You’ll need a vantage point on the bluff (binoculars help) to see out to where this offshore break is located. It’s about a 1/4-mile south from Mavericks Beach.
Another well-known large and powerful wave can be found in Newport Beach. This wave, aptly called The Wedge, is located where Balboa Beach meets the western jetty at the entrance to Newport Bay. With a wind from one direction and swells from another the energy can combine to produce a monster wave that has been recorded up to about 30 feet high. Unlike the break at Mavericks, The Wedge is closer to shore and it’s great for spectating and photography.
Other California Big Waves
Many other surf spots have large waves but it depends on where water’s energy is being focused on any given day. There are too many Southern California surf breaks to list here. Northern California has a wild and rugged coastline in many spots including Point Reyes and Humboldt Bay. The Central California coast in places like Morro Bay, Pismo State Beach, Moss Landing and Surf Beach near Lompoc can get the big waves too.