Itching to Hit the Open Highway? Here’s an Awesome “Surf’s Up” Road Trip

Not ready to fly? This week-long road trip will take you over the crest, and back
By PETER LATHAM, Weekendr Staff Writer
Published on Mar 3, 2021

Let’s be real. We all want to travel, but air travel is still dicey. Every day brings new stories of people being tossed off airplanes for not wearing a mask, despite federal regulations. The whole business just still seems a little iffy still.

Your best alternative might be a safe, socially distanced road trip on your own. You choose the destination, you pick and pack the snacks, you choose the music, and most importantly, you choose the passengers.

Our friends at Visit California have a few good suggestions for California-based travel. All it takes is you and your friends, and your ride. This trip takes us south to La Jolla, and then heads north to the land of the Really Big Waves at Mavericks, in Half Moon Bay..

This ride is going to take you a week. Plan ahead, and don’t bring any hodads. (Extra credit to anyone knowing that word.)

1.Windansea Beach, La Jolla

6600 Neptune Pl, La Jolla

Our first stop is this  La Jolla reef break where surfing pioneer Woody Brown first rode in 1937. Since then, the surf spot has become one of the most well-known in San Diego County, and even appeared in Andy Warhol’s 1967 film, “San Diego Surf.”

Waves here can range from 2–10 feet and conditions tend to be unpredictable. Because of its difficulty—along with its reputation for being a competitive atmosphere—it best suits skilled surfers. Beginners (and hodads) may feel more comfortable at the calmer La Jolla Shores.

2. Swami’s State Beach, Encinitas

1298 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas

Encinitas is one part of a nifty string of surf towns and beaches running north and south along Highway 1 between San Diego and OC, as it continues way, way north.

Part of Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area, this point break in Encinitas gets its name from the golden, lotus-shaped towers of the Self-Realization Fellowship high on the bluffs. Swami’s is best for intermediate skill levels and up. The fellowship grounds provide a nice perspective on the waves above the ocean below, and the gardens are gorgeous.

Cruise through town on Highway 101 to get a taste of this surf-centric neighborhood—you’ll find beaucoup surf shops, cafés, yoga studios, and record stores.

3. Trestles (San Onofre State Beach), San Clemente

Old Pacific Highway, San Clemente

This is where the train meets the sea by a  railroad bridge over San Mateo Creek.

Hike from the San Onofre State Beach parking lot, and you’ll find some of the most gorgeous waves you’ll find anywhere. These are world-class waves that some have claimed are the mainland’s best.

Newbie? Stay on shore and learn by observing the advanced surfers at Lower Trestles, or look for more gentle stretches along the state beach closer to Upper Trestles. Hodad.

Dana Point

Need a break from the pounding surf and the sand in your kicks? Stop in Dana Point to pick out a dream board or snag some beachy apparel at Hobie Surfboards’ historic first store location,  before you head over to Strands Beach or Salt Creek.

Doheny State Beach is the ideal place for beginners to learn, with small waves and long breaks. You could also take a surfing class with Girl in the Curl or at Monarch Beach Resort, which  offers a “No Fail Surf Lesson.”

5. The Wedge, Newport Beach

2172 E Oceanfront, Newport Beach

Newport Beach’s world-famous bodysurfing and bodyboarding wave is legendary.

 It forms during south swells when waves bounce off the rock jetty, then slam into a second incoming wave, resulting in 30-foot-high mutant waves best observed from the safety of shore.

But any surfer (or bodysurfer) has plenty of other options along Newport Beach’s eight-plus miles of coastline. Despite its world-class rep, this Orange County town offers a rather a mellow, welcoming vibe.

If you need a lesson first, check out local spots like Endless Sun Surf School, Newport Beach Surfing Lessons, or Newport Surf Camp. And certainly, you’ll need some gear. A few blocks north of the pier, visit The Frog House, Newport’s quintessential surf shop, which is chock-a-block with used surfboards, body boards, wetsuits, and surfing DVDs.

6. Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach

1 Main St, Huntington Beach

It’s Surf City USA. Huntington Beach is one of many places which claims to be the birthplace of surfing (See Santa Cruz).

The pier at Huntington State Beach is perhaps Southern California’s holiest surf shrine, though,  thanks to a pedigree that dates back a century to legends Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth.

Check out the surf-bilia and the Guinness World Records’ largest surfboard at the International Surfing Museum. As the site of the Vans US Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach remains a hub for American surfing. Depending on the day, even beginners can surf where such champions as Andy Irons and Kelly Slater triumphed.

On the east side of Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll find a pair of surfing superstores: Jack’s Surfboards (around since 1957) and Huntington Surf & Sport. Cowabunga.

8. Surfrider Beach, Malibu

23050 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu

This right cobblestone point break at Malibu Lagoon State Beach was honored as the first World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition.

The waves are virtually perfect, the likes of Miki (Da Cat) Dora surfed here, and Surfrider played a major role as surfing moved into the cultural mainstream. This is not a spot for beginners—newbies should watch from the beach—but this is a spot to aspire to.

9. Rincon Point, Carpinteria

172 Rincon Point Rd, Carpinteria

Continuing north, Rincon sits on the border of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, both filled with surf-loving peeps.

As once concluded, “Some spots serve as undeniable proof that our Creator was a surfer.”

If you’re driving on U.S. 101 and see a crowded line-up, pull off to watch the action, to set your goals high. And in Carpinteria right between Ventura and Santa Barbara, Rincon Designs (659 Linden Ave.; 805-684-2413) is worth a stop for its branded clothing and surfboards lovingly crafted by Matt Moore.

Morro Bay

362 Quintana Rd, Morro Bay

Another break time!

Peep the selection of boards at Joe’s Surfboard Shop, in Morro Bay, where builder Joe Nichols believes “good surfboards make happy surfers.” YOu can also try Morro Bay’s unspoiled beaches and awesome surf breaks with a lesson from Morro Bay Surf School.

11. Pismo Beach Pier, Pismo Beach

100 Pomeroy Ave, Pismo Beach

A classic beach town needs a classic wave and in Pismo Beach, you’ll find outstanding surfing on both sides of the landmark pier. Much of the time the waves here are suitable for beginners, but are also high enough in quality to host the World Surf League Qualifying Series Pismo Beach Open in October.

12. Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove

Sunset Dr, Pacific Grove

County’s biggest and most notorious wave, Asilomar State Beach offers a much safer and consistent option for mere mortals. Asilomar is usually pretty mellow but it can rock on occasion, so check conditions. And when you need to warm up and refuel, just head over to Phoebe’s Café for a cup of coffee.

13 Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz

700 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz

The cliffs overlooking this Santa Cruz spot, named for steam boats that once chugged along the shoreline, form a natural amphitheater for catching all the action on the four breaks down below. Which might be where you should hang, unless you are a pretty serious surfer.

You can also check out the  Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which commemorates local surf history. (The sport debuted on the U.S. mainland in Santa Cruz in 1885, when three Hawaiian princes rode the local waves on redwood boards.) Try a lesson with Surf School Santa Cruz, which runs group and private sessions based at the more mellow Pleasure Point or Cowell’s Beach.

14. Mavericks, Half Moon Bay

Pillar Point, Princeton-by-the-Sea, Half Moon Bay

“You have reached your destination.”

Mavericks in Half Moon Bay may be the most famous surf jam anywhere on the mainland. Its been elebrated in books, documentaries, and the feature film “Chasing Mavericks,” and waves here can rise to 80-foot faces when conditions are right.

Take a comfortable seat to just watch. People die surfing here.

Big wave icon Jeff Clark pioneered Mavericks (which was named for his dog) and you’ll find hoodies and other cool gear at his Mavericks Surf Company.

Surf’s up. See you on the road

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