Which Beaches Are The Best To Learn Surfing In LA (Asking For A Friend)


With over 300 days of gorgeous sunshine, Los Angeles attracts millions of people every year to their sandy beaches and salty waters, which makes this city one of the most popular surfing destinations.  

But if you aren't an experienced surfer, choosing the wrong beach will not only set you up for failure, but it can also hinder your surfing spirit.

Whether you are a beginner surfer or you have never surfed a day in your life, there is a beach for surfing in LA that is just calling your name. 

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about surfing in Los Angeles's famous beaches as a beginning surfer. 

What Should You Know Before Surfing In LA?

Surfing in LA is no short of a sunny, dreamy paradise. But it does come with a few rules of thumb that you should know before venturing into the water.

To start off, the wave conditions change day to day and, at times, hour to hour at each location. It is a good idea to take a look at the surf conditions online before you head out to the beach. You also want to avoid beaches with rocks, reefs, urchins or other hazards. As a beginner, these dangers are not worth your concern.

If you have never surfed before, you can either join a surf school, or you can rent a board and dive right in to test the waters yourself. A surfing instructor will show you how to align your body on a surfboard, how to properly paddle into a wave and how to balance. But we understand if you are too excited and just jump right in.  

It is also important to realize that there will be crowds when you go surfing, especially during the weekends. The water can be a little quieter during weekday afternoons and early weekend mornings, which is great for beginners to get an understanding of how the waves roll. 

If you do happen to encounter a large crowd when you are a surfing beginner, just use proper surfing etiquette and no one should give you a hard time. While this may sound daunting, just be aware that surfing comes with great vibes and friendly locals, who often seem to hang out at the beaches just to lend a helping hand.

Plus, we are here to tell you where the best beaches to avoid crowds are hidden in LA. 

Cowell's Beach

This list is getting kicked off with one of the most well-known beaches for beginning surfers in Los Angeles. Santa Cruz is also known as "surf city" because it appeals to so many levels of surfers, including beginners. This beach is one of the top beaches for beginner surfers to test the waters after their initial surfing lessons. Cowell's is a timeless, surf classic with a friendly Aloha vibe.

This beach is perfectly positioned between the Municipal Wharf and a lighthouse, creating a shelter from strong winds, which allows for the waves to be quite mellow. Cowell's waves make for a great place to gain surfing experience and wave confidence. 

Because Cowell's is so beginner friendly, it is important to note that a decent size crowd can build up during summer months, but remember they are mostly beginners too. You can easily access this beach by paddling out from just north of the wharf or by taking the stairs off West Cliff Drive. 

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is also ideal for true beginners who are just stepping out of their lessons or are trying out surfing for the first time. Make sure to visit El Porto around 45th Street for the best beginner waves in Manhattan Beach. This beach makes learning how to surf both exciting and easy. Also known as a surfer's paradise, Manhattan Beach is picture-perfect, and it stretches as long as the eye can see. 

A trip to Manhattan Beach ensures that you will be surrounded by friendly surfers and great vibes. If you find that this beach is a little too crowded for your liking, just walk north or south of the parking lot and you should find a spot that is a little quieter. 

Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach is a neighbor to Manhattan beach. It is also another beach that provides beginning surfers with the space and the waves to master the surfing basics. As one of Los Angele's trendiest beaches, Hermosa is often perceived as one of the best training grounds for new surfers. This beach has a sandy bottom, which is ideal for beginner surfers because it is safe. 

The break at Hermosa beach is known to be outstanding during the fall and during low-tide. While Hermosa's waves are rather calm and relaxed, this beach can tend to get crowded at times. 

San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente

Also known as San-O, San Onofre State beach has slow-breaking peaks and a variety of surf breaks. Beginning surfers can venture out to San-O for an optimal location to learn how to balance on their surfboard. This beach is broken into four sections: Trestles, Church, Old Man's and Trails.

Old Man's is located on the north end of the beach, and it has plenty of old guys and gals longboarding away. Trails is located on the south end of the beach and is, naturally, one of the most popular places to surf in San-O. Old Man's and Trails are two areas that are great for beginning surfers. However, some say that Trestles has the best waves in the whole Southern California area.

San-O has a laid-back atmosphere and has over 90 years of surfing history. In fact, it is even known as Surfing Beach. Don't be intimidated to say hello to the locals. They are often willing to lend a helping hand to those who may need it.  

You can access this beach through the Old Pacific Highway from San Clemente. 

County Line

The beachside hills at County Line make for a spectacular view while you are surfing the waves. Believe it or not, County Line beach gets its name from sitting just off the Pacific Coast Highway and right on on the county line between Los Angeles and Ventura. County Line beach encompasses Malibu's beauty, gentle waves, and a soft, sandy bottom beach. which makes for a great place to practice surfing skills.

Although it can be a trek (an hour north of LAX to be exact) the isolation of this beach is pure bliss. The beach is quite wide, which provides plenty of space for surfers to spread out amongst themselves. Because this beach is located a little more north than the others on this list, the water can be rather chilly. So make sure to wear a wetsuit while you are in the water. 

After a long day in the sun and some achy surfing muscles, head on over to Neptune's Net, one of the best local seafood restaurants around.  

Topanga Beach

For a beginner's longboarding session, head on over to Topanga Beach for a gentle yet exciting surf. Plus, there is a little something for all of Topanga's Beach visitors. For the beginners who enjoy their waves breaking on the sand, this beach is going to be right up your alley. However, if you prefer a rocky terrain, Topanga Beach also has you covered.

While surfing at this beach, you can look for a long wave break, which yields a favorable spot for surfers. Topanga Beach attracts a decent group of locals, but the surf area isn't known to be very competitive. You don't have to worry about anyone ridiculing you if you don't know what you are doing, but you may have to wait in the line-up for a little while before you catch a wave. 

Topanga Beach is a little more secluded than the other beaches on this list, and it can be accessed through Topanga Beach Drive. 

Bolsa Chica State Park

Another trek from Los Angeles is Bolsa Chica State Park. However, this beach is well worth the drive for beginner surfers. Once the waves hit at least 3 feet tall, they turn into long rolling peaks, which are any surfer newbie's dream. This beach is also great for beginners because they can avoid large surfing crowds and dangerous rocks.

Bolsa Chica State Park also has many surf instructors for those who are still brand-new to the world of surfing. Plus, there is a lifeguard on duty during the day.

It is important to note that this state park charges $15 for parking, and state park passes are not accepted. You can access Bolsa Chica State Park through the Pacific Coast Highway between Warner Avenue and Golden West. 

Venice Beach 

Venice Beach encompasses everything that a surfer could want. Plus, this beach also has biking, rollerblading and volleyball so the whole family can come. The relaxed waves at Venice Beach are ideal for beginners or even seasoned surfers who are simply looking for a calm ride.

While Venice Beach is rather large, there are some areas, such as the pier and the breakwater, that are only ideal for people who know a lot about surfing and are comfortable in a surfing crowd. Instead, just head south of the pier for some waves that are perfect for beginners to jump right into. 

Venice Beach isn't quite known for their Aloha vibes, but often for their quirky people that hang around instead. So be ready for anything to happen, in a good way. When you're all done surfing, head on over to the Venice boardwalk for a relaxing evening and great sunset views. 

Zuma Beach

When you step foot on Zuma Beach, be prepared for clear waters, sunny skies and fellow surfers with a hang-ten vibe. This beach has a two-mile long stretch and is located at the north end of Malibu. 

This beach is ideal for beginning and intermediate surfers. So this is a great place to start putting your initial surfing skills to the test. Not only is this a scenic location, but Zuma Beach also has a consistent surf that will allow you to ride some pretty decent sized waves throughout the day. 

Zuma Beach is a relatively popular surfing spot in Malibu, so you can expect to see some crowds when you visit. You should also be aware that this beach has a decent amount of rip currents, so make sure that you are careful when you are out in the water. But there are also many lifeguard stations from May to Labor Day, so don't let the rip currents prevent you from visiting this beautiful beach. 

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach isn't necessarily for surfers who are still getting their sea legs warmed up. But once you have tested the waters and are ready for the next step in your surfing adventure, Sunset Beach is the way to go. This beach consists of a rather exposed sandbar, which provides surfers with a steady surf. 

Sunset Beach also provides beginning surfers with the opportunity to catch a "real wave" and surf parallel to the beach as opposed to the same old whitewater that they might be used to. It is important to note that there are rocks on this beach. So it's imperative that surfers know how to turn before they test these gorgeous waters. 

When you first visit Sunset Beach, try to stay toward the south end of the beach because the closer you get to the top of the point, the more competitive the competition becomes. However, don't be afraid to venture out once you become comfortable with a talented crowd. But be cautious of rip currents and undertows during your visit to Sunset Beach. 

Surfing in LA 

The key to finding the best beginners surfing beach in LA is to find the beach that has your ideal crowd size, surf brea, and sand type. If you do that, you are guaranteed to have a great surfing experience. 

When in doubt, take a moment to watch how the surfers in the water act. This will allow you to have a positive experience wherever you go surfing. And don't be too intimidated to ask locals for their best beach advice. They are more than likely eager to talk about surfing. 

Here at California Glory, our Cali style is perfect for all of your adventure needs. Take a look at our blog for more expert advice on your next California adventure. 

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