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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 wave, photo by Coast Guard News Flickr


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.

The Wedge, photo by YoTuT Flickr

The Wedge

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.

Beaches on this list

  • Mavericks Beach

    Mavericks Beach at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay is the site of the annual big wave surfing competition called Maverick’s. This big wave surf area is located a quarter-mile […]

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  • West Jetty View Beach – The Wedge

    West Jetty View Park is located at the end of Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, CA. The park is small, but the beach here is large. The waves at this […]

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  • Surf Beach at Vandenberg AFB

    Surf Beach is a public beach located on Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, CA. Access to Surf Beach is from the Amtrak train stop parking area along West Ocean […]

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  • Morro Strand State Beach

    Morro Strand State Beach is divided into two parts that are in the cities of Morro Bay and Cayucos. The main southern portion of this state park is in Morro […]

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  • Pismo State Beach – North Beach

    North Beach is in front of the North Beach Campground at Pismo State Beach. Pismo Creek meets the ocean at this location and sometimes pools up next to the campground. […]

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  • Point Reyes South Beach

    South Beach is the southern access to Point Reyes Beach, an 11-mile long strand nicknamed “The Great Beach” in Point Reyes National Seashore. This vast expanse of shoreline is excellent for beachcombing. Walk […]

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  • Samoa Beach

    Samoa Beach is the long strand of beach on the ocean side of the Samoa Peninsula near Eureka. The small community of Samoa with its historic Samoa Cookhouse Restaurant is […]

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  • Moss Landing State Beach

    Moss Landing State Beach is just north of the Moss Landing Harbor Channel entrance in the town of Moss Landing, CA. This is a long sandy beach backed by dunes. […]

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