Statue of Surfer with His Board at Huntington Beach, California
Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Orange County Surfing & Surf Culture

Orange County Surfing & Surf Culture
Take a lesson or just watch pros carve it up

Orange County’s surfing tradition dates back more than 100 years, when pioneering Hawaiian surfer George Freeth performed wave-riding demonstrations during the dedication of the new Huntington Beach Pier in 1914. In the 1920s, surfer and Olympic swimming medalist Duke Kahanamoku also surfed at the pier. But the sport really took off in the 1950s and the 1960s when Huntington Beach began hosting major events and emerged as the most important surfing city on the American mainland. As local surf legend Corky Carroll has said, “Orange County is the cultural center of the surf world, and Huntington Beach is like the heartbeat.”

Huntington Beach’s stores echo the theme. In front of Jack’s Surfboards, the Surfing Walk of Fame honors top surfers with engraved granite stones in the walkway, while nearby Huntington Surf and Sport immortalizes local surf legends with hand- and footprints in a Surfing Hall of Fame. See one of Duke Kahanamoku’s longboards at the International Surfing Museum.

Of course, there’s plenty of surfing in Orange County beyond Huntington Beach. Down at The O.C.’s far southern reaches are San Clemente and San Onofre State Beach (where top surfers ride the legendary breaks at Trestles). Back up the coast, see board-free daredevils bodysurfing at Newport Beach’s experts-only the Wedge.

Want to give surfing a try? Consider Corky Carroll’s Surf School in Huntington Beach or Bolsa Chica State Beach, head south to San Clemente Surf School, or book an early-morning “dawn patrol” session at the Endless Sun Surf School in Newport Beach.

Orange County Surfing & Surf Culture Surf Board
World’s Largest Surfboard Makes Waves in Huntington Beach
42 feet. 66 people. One world record. In Huntington Beach on International Surfing Day, 66 people climbed aboard the world’s largest surfboard and rode it to a new world record.
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Scott Mansfield

Southern California

Discover Orange County

Whether it’s manicured beach towns or celebrated theme parks, all framed by oceanfront towns and luxury yachts, “The OC” stands out as one of the state’s most iconic destinations. The always-amazing Disneyland Resort, roughly a 1-hour drive south of L.A. and 2 hours north of San Diego, continues to be one of the best-loved theme parks in the world, while Knott’s Berry Farms and other OC attractions amp up the fun meter.

“Surfing is like golf. . . it keeps knocking you down. But when you stay with it and catch that wave. . . magic.” — actor Dennis Quaid

Shop at spectacular South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, or get the surfer look in Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, USA. 

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Orange County’s Best Beaches

Visit these four idyllic, sun-drenched stretches of sand in Southern California

With 42 miles of sandy coastline and a string of small, eclectic beach towns, Orange County delivers the quintessential Southern California...

Montage Laguna Beach
Mike's Birds/Flickr

Montage Laguna Beach

Craftsman grace and timeless coastal beauty

With works by noted California artists in the lobby and guest rooms and a classic wood-and-stone Craftsman design, the ultra-luxurious oceanfront...

Orange County

4 Incredible Resorts in Orange County

Enjoy unparalleled views, world-class golf, fine dining, and much more at these high-end destinations

With long stretches of golden sand, prime surfing spots, excellent dining, and top golf courses, the good life doesn’t get much better than along...

The magic of Disneyland, walking through the tunnel underneath the train station to Main Street, it just transports you to other places and other times.
John Lasseter
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Carsten Erler/Getty Images

Spotlight: Anaheim

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Amazing attractions, shopping and dining in the one-of-a-kind Orange County town

With its laid-back vibe and unbeatable attractions, this vibrant city on the northwest side of Orange County has become a popular destination for...

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Courtesy of Pelican Hill

The Resort at Pelican Hill

Indulge in Mediterranean elegance, world-class golf courses, and five-star service at this Newport Beach resort

Tuscan elegance paired with panoramic ocean views is central to the eternal allure of...

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O.C. Shopping

Discover boutique brands and bargains

Shopping in The O.C. is almost as legendary as surfing. Start at expansive South Coast Plaza, California’s largest luxury shopping complex, with...

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Mitch Diamond/Getty Images

Irvine

This centrally located Orange County city is the perfect home base for shopping, dining, and kid-friendly exploring

Irvine’s central location—45 miles from Los Angeles, 85 from San Diego, and 15 minutes from...

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OC Stock Photos 2016

Irvine Spectrum Center

With a Ferris wheel and Spanish ambience, this shopping center expands the definition of “mall”

Southern California is known for its sunny, open-air shopping centers, but this outdoor mall in the heart of Orange County ups the ante with...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

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Great Wolf Lodge

The hotel-meets-water-park chain brings its all-weather family fun to Orange County

At first glance, a completely indoor water-park hotel might seem unnecessary in sunny Orange County. Fans of the Great Wolf Lodge brand, however,...

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The Howlin’ Tornado water slide at Great Wolf Lodge near Anaheim is as tall as a six-story building.
Orange County is the cultural center of the surf world and Huntington Beach is like the heartbeat.
Corky Carroll (Orange County surf legend)
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Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776, was the first winery in California.
Dana Point, California
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Dana Point

Begin your Highway One odyssey in this scenic town with views over the ocean bluffs

The southern origin of California’s Highway 1 winds through some gorgeous locations, like beach town and ...

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Courtesy of Monarch Beach Resort

Monarch Beach Resort

Relaxed sophistication in charming Dana Point

Beyond the Mediterranean–style exterior of this perfectly manicured resort, you’ll find posh but not ornate contemporary rooms and suites. This...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Crystal Cove State Park

Stroll a perfect beach with an intriguing past

In 1912, an early Laguna Beach artist described finding a rugged coastline “with cove after cove and headland after headland, golden cliffs and...

Santa Ana
Liz Boyd/Alamy

Santa Ana

Orange County’s largest city boasts a walkable downtown with an emerging arts and culinary scene

Not showy or sassy like some of Orange County’s more touristy towns, Santa...

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Unleash the kid within at California’s ultimate playgrounds

From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone. Take a tram ride to tour movie back lots at Universal Studios...

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Lucas Himovitz
SPECIAL FEATURE
Get into the coastal vibe

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...

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CLIF Bar/Mason Mashon

California Questionnaire: Greg Long

Although he’s traveled the globe in search of big waves, this professional surfer will always call California home

California native Greg Long has carved out a name in the world of competitive big wave surfing by conquering the most challenging waves on the...

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Courtesy of Brian Huskey

California Questionnaire: Brian Huskey

The Top Chef alum loves riding his bike to work, taking road trips, and vacationing at Lake Tahoe

Brian Huskey first came to national attention in 2013 when he competed on season 11 of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, set in New Orleans. The...

Pacific Coast Highway South

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From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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Golf in Orange County

Tee up at top courses, with some ocean views

With ideal Southern California weather and some of the country’s most celebrated courses, Orange County justly earns the nickname “California Golf...

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Every year, the Orange County Great Park Balloon dons a smiling jack-o-lantern mask, marking the unofficial start of fall in Orange County.
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Courtesy of Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park

Explore an impressive urban park

Turning former military land into a roughly 1,300-acre/526-hectare green space, this Irvine park is as ambitious as it is...