California’s surfing habit has grown to be more than just a hobby. On August 20, 2018, surfing became the official sport of California, and every year on September 20 the state will celebrate the designation on California Surfing Day. There’s never been a more exciting time to ride a wave in California—and with nearly 3,500 miles of tidal shoreline, there’s plenty of opportunity to give it a shot. Soak up the beachy vibes and catch some swells while on one of these unique California surfing vacations, listed north to south.
Watch dogs catch a wave
Every August some of the world’s most talented pooches descend upon Pacifica (just south of San Francisco) for the World Dog Surfing Championships. Dozens of pups compete for surfing glory (with some help from their human counterparts). Spectating is free, and a portion of the competition fees goes to dog-related nonprofits. Can’t get enough dogs on boards? Check out the three-day Surf City Surf Dog in Huntington Beach in September.
Half Moon Bay
The Mavericks challenge is an invitation-only competition for good reason: The winter waves can reach as high as 80 feet. But aside from watching the experts, mere mortals can join in on the (at least Mavericks-adjacent) action any time of year at another Half Moon Bay surfing spot, Surfer's Beach, aka Half Moon Bay Jetty.
Go to summer surf camp
Whether you want to go from zero to hero or simply enjoy a week filled with waves, the Club Ed surf school in Santa Cruz has you covered. Throughout the summer, master instructors host campers of all ages at nearby Manresa State Beach. Guests camp in tents overlooking the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and enjoy healthy meals, a professional massage, visits to the boardwalk, and more. For a shorter stint, sign up for a single two-hour lesson at the famous Cowells Beach break.
Take a lesson with a goat
Laird Hamilton? Kelly Slater? The greatest human surfer of all time is up for debate. But the greatest of the goats is Pismo, and he knows how to shred. Book a lesson or tour with The Surfing Goats in Pismo Beach and you’ll get expert training from instructor Dana McGregor—and unforgettable entertainment from his surfing farm animal friends. (Make sure to request that the goats come along).
Ride more than waves
From the US Open to Mavericks, California hosts a number of world-famous surfing competitions. But July’s Surf Rodeo Music & Surf Festival in Ventura injects the standard format with bronco-inspired fun. While the best surfers battle it out in the ocean, cowboys on dry land can enjoy the mechanical bull, “greased pig” (aka SUP board) competition, a cornhole tournament, and two days of live music.
Surf through history
Gain a deeper appreciation for California’s official sport in Huntington Beach. After a day in the ocean, groms can visit the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, Surfing Walk of Fame, and the International Surfing Museum, which houses the world’s largest surfboard.
Build your own board
Reach a new level of zen by surfing on a board made with your own two hands in Laguna Beach. The Laguna Beach House offers a two-day Shape, Surf & Stay package, which includes a two-part experience with surfing legend Donald Brink of Brink Surf. Guests handcraft a custom board at Brink’s studio in Dana Point, before joining him for an offshore session. Looking for a different way to ride the waves? This coastal Orange County city is responsible for founding the sport of skimboarding—check out the Solag Skim School to learn how.
Take a surfari road trip in a VW
Costa Mesa, various locations
Pack up your board and choose your own adventure by selecting a ride from the Volkswagen fleet at Vintage Surfari Wagons. The Los Angeles company rents retro-chic campers that can be stocked with coolers, camp chairs, wetsuits, and more—perfect for an epic road trip up and down the coast.
Shred and savasana
Combine two of Southern California’s wellness activities in a two- or five-day getaway from Surf & Stay San Diego, where unlimited surfing is paired with daily yoga and stretching sessions. Packages also include equipment, accommodations at Blue Sea Beach Hotel, and extras like a sunset boat ride around Mission Bay, and a guided bike tour around San Diego.