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The five-star surf spots of San Diego

If you are not a local, wait your turn

"La Jolla enjoys bigger surf than its neighbors because of the near absence of continental shelf."
"La Jolla enjoys bigger surf than its neighbors because of the near absence of continental shelf."

Tijuana Sloughs in the south and Cotton’s Point in the north bookend the 70-some miles of San Diego coastline. Sandwiched between these two deep-water reefs is one of the lushest wave gardens on earth. Prime among points, reefs, jetties, and beach breaks are Point Loma, La Jolla, Cardiff and Upper and Lower Trestles.

Out of respect for those who have labored to find and keep surf spots off the map, no secret locations are named in this article. If you are not a local and want to surf any of the mentioned five-star spots, it is recommended you break in slowly and wait your turn.

POINT LOMA

Point Loma holds one of San Diego’s only real point waves. It breaks on big south swells but can be worth the short boat ride. Sunset Cliffs has good to great reef breaks, many of them inaccessible by anything but a boat.

LA JOLLA

La Jolla Cove can top 15 feet on occasion. Black’s consistently deals out waves of great size and power. Windansea imitates Hawaiian power on occasion. La Jolla enjoys bigger surf than its neighbors because of the near absence of continental shelf, that menacing submerged landmass that decreases wave height.

NORTH COUNTY

Seaside Reef offers a steep drop and a soft shoulder on the outside. It serves as a launch ramp for some of North County’s best surfers (Ryan Burch, Damien Hobgood, and Rob Machado). The crown jewel of North County is Swami’s. Unless you’re a regular there or an exceptional surfer, you shouldn’t plan on getting anything but scraps.

TRESTLES

Sandwiched between the playful longboard waves at Old Man’s and the occasional Hawaiian-sized surf at Cotton’s are Upper and Lower Trestles. When the World Tour hits town in late summer, it’s worth the mile walk to Lowers for unrivaled action.

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"La Jolla enjoys bigger surf than its neighbors because of the near absence of continental shelf."
"La Jolla enjoys bigger surf than its neighbors because of the near absence of continental shelf."

Tijuana Sloughs in the south and Cotton’s Point in the north bookend the 70-some miles of San Diego coastline. Sandwiched between these two deep-water reefs is one of the lushest wave gardens on earth. Prime among points, reefs, jetties, and beach breaks are Point Loma, La Jolla, Cardiff and Upper and Lower Trestles.

Out of respect for those who have labored to find and keep surf spots off the map, no secret locations are named in this article. If you are not a local and want to surf any of the mentioned five-star spots, it is recommended you break in slowly and wait your turn.

POINT LOMA

Point Loma holds one of San Diego’s only real point waves. It breaks on big south swells but can be worth the short boat ride. Sunset Cliffs has good to great reef breaks, many of them inaccessible by anything but a boat.

LA JOLLA

La Jolla Cove can top 15 feet on occasion. Black’s consistently deals out waves of great size and power. Windansea imitates Hawaiian power on occasion. La Jolla enjoys bigger surf than its neighbors because of the near absence of continental shelf, that menacing submerged landmass that decreases wave height.

NORTH COUNTY

Seaside Reef offers a steep drop and a soft shoulder on the outside. It serves as a launch ramp for some of North County’s best surfers (Ryan Burch, Damien Hobgood, and Rob Machado). The crown jewel of North County is Swami’s. Unless you’re a regular there or an exceptional surfer, you shouldn’t plan on getting anything but scraps.

TRESTLES

Sandwiched between the playful longboard waves at Old Man’s and the occasional Hawaiian-sized surf at Cotton’s are Upper and Lower Trestles. When the World Tour hits town in late summer, it’s worth the mile walk to Lowers for unrivaled action.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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