Maybe it’s the sun-streaked hair, the frequent smiles, the eyes always gazing west, looking to the horizon to see when the next set might roll in. It’s the unmistakable look and vibe of a California surf town, places that live and breathe for that next big break. Surfing has long been one of the most iconic symbols of the California lifestyle, and now it’s been recognized as the state’s official sport (and as of 2018, September 20 has been declared California Surfing Day).
Come, get a new bikini or board shorts, put your toes in the sand, and watch the action—or maybe catch it from the oceanfront balcony of your room or waterfront seat at lunchtime. Better yet, go for it yourself—take a surf lesson and hit the waves. The hardest part will be deciding where to go, since there are plenty of locations that will fit the bill.
There’s Huntington Beach, for instance, which also boasts the International Surfing Museum and the world’s longest surfboard. Or, head to celebrity-frequented Malibu, or Newport Beach, which offers excellent bodysurfing and is known as the cradle of the sport; it’s nearby famous Orange County hotspots San Clemente and San Onofre State Beach, home of the world-famous Trestles. And of course there’s Santa Cruz, with its beginner-friendly Cowell’s, next to the Santa Cruz Wharf; and San Diego, where you can take your pick of several surf spots and go board shopping at the venerable Hansen Surfboards. Read on to explore the surfer meccas along the California coastline.