Surfing is California’s official state sport, and now it has its own holiday: September 20 is California Surfing Day, and is being celebrated for the first time in 2018. September is a pretty perfect time to celebrate, when sunny days and warm waters are still plentiful up and down the coastline. Make the most of the day by planning a trip to one of these iconic surfing towns, listed south to north, which offer cool things to do in the days around California Surfing Day and beyond.
La Jolla: Take a weekend clinic
Get some skills by booking a two- to five-day surfing clinic with Surf Diva, a San Diego–based surf school that caters to (but is not limited to) female surfers, offering plenty of women-only classes and clinics. The weekend or five-day clinics, many of which are co-ed, include use of a board and rash guard.
Newport Beach: Watch local experts
Go to the area between 54th or 56th streets on Sept. 22–23, 2018 to watch skilled shredders at the City of Newport Beach Surf Championships. The competition may feature recreational amateur divisions, but around here—the home of the legendary body-surfing spot The Wedge—that’s still serious stuff.
Huntington Beach: Let the surfers entertain you
The Orange County town dubbed Surf City USA will celebrate California Surfing Day with an event called Stop, Drop, and Surf, where the local high school surf teams will be catching waves, along with junior high teams, kids and the local pros. Stick around for the weekend: The Surfin’ Sundays music series has two more dates for the “summer”—Sept. 23 and Oct. 7—when you can hear live music at Huntington Beach Pier, with views of surfers in the background. It’s held right outside the International Surfing Museum, which is currently showing a cross-sport exhibit called Surf 2 Skate.
Malibu: Enjoy a classic surfer lunch
Any day is a good day to salute one of the few World Surfing Reserves on the planet (Santa Cruz is one too): Plus Malibu’s Surfrider Beach is a pop-culture landmark; this is where a real-life teen girl traded peanut butter sandwiches for lessons and became known as Gidget. Celebrate with the famed Ahi Tuna burger from Malibu Seafood. To conduct a proper investigation, sample classic beach burgers in other surf towns too.
Santa Barbara: Surf with a legend
For a VIP surfing experience, book the Surf with a Legend package at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, which includes a customized surfing outing with three-time World Champion Tom Curren (based on his availability, and at surf breaks like Sandspit or Rincon), followed by a gourmet picnic lunch. While you’re in Santa Barbara, feast on a Rincon Burger and check out the vintage surfboards on display at Endless Summer Bar Café in the Santa Barbara Harbor.
Pismo Beach: Watch some great competitions
This Central Coast beach town is well known for its dunes (and dune buggies) but also has serous surfer street cred. The weekend after California Surfing Day it will host the F.G.R.’s Still Frothy Surf Festival (Sept. 21–23), which includes pro-am competitions and the region’s only Tow-At (jet-ski assisted) Air Show, which kicks off Friday with live music at Cool Cat Restaurant. Or, make plans to come next month for the World Surf League Pismo Beach Open on October 11–14.
Big Sur: Take a guided road trip
Book Vintage Surfari Wagons’ California Coast group caravan tour (Oct. 15–22)—where you drive a well-stocked VW bus in a convoy. You’ll start in Orange County and head up Highway 1 to Big Sur, with stops at surfing hot spots like Carpinteria State Beach and Santa Barbara’s Rincon State Beach. Outside of catching waves, the trip includes detours for vineyards and a farm-to-table feast. Check out these other unique, surf-themed vacations too.
Carmel-by-the-Sea: Watch an epic sunset
Monterey County has a wide range of great surf spots—like Asilomar Beach, the expert-level Marina State Beach, and Carmel Beach, known as one of the area’s best places to catch the sunset. Fuel your own happy hour with local wine from nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea winery and tasting room Carraccioli Cellars.
Santa Cruz: Treat yourself to new gear
Jack O’Neill was the surfing legend who developed the wetsuit, and you can see one of his originals at the Capitola surf shop that bears his name. Browse the contemporary versions here or at the other two Santa Cruz area stores, including one near the Santa Cruz Boardwalk—or pick up great gear at classic surf shops all along the California coastline.