|Santa Barbara Surf Guide: Where to Surf|
The best time to surf this county is in the winter, and to a lesser extent the fall. Santa Barbara's primary swell source is from storms in the North Pacific that generate waves as they approach the west coast. Spring swells tend to be windswells generated by spring onshores. Summertime is a good time to drive out of the swell shadow of the Channel Islands.
In general, the surf will be smaller the closer one gets to the city of Santa Barbara proper. Waves are always larger around the tip of Point Conception or in Ventura. Having said that, here is a brief overview of surf spots and general regions of the county and adjoining counties:
Remember, when travelling be sure to treat those that you meet with respect. Don't drop in, be friendly, pick up some trash on the beach, and give some waves away.
- Ventura County
The coastline of this county runs from Point Mugu through the Oxnard plain, past three rivermouths and up along a mountain ridgeline before reaching Rincon at its northernmost point. A quick overview:
- The southern portion of the county is predominantly surf-starved, with a good summer spot at County Line and a small but barrelling winter peak at Supertubes, if you can find it.
- From Point Mugu to Port Hueneme the surf is inaccessible.
- From Port Hueneme to Surfer's Point is a series of beaches facing predominantly westward. Fickle shape and conditions dominate this stretch and it can be frequently blown out. Few channels exist to get out easily once the surf gets overhead and it can get punishing.
- The most popular break in the county is a series of lineups at the county fairgrounds, with C Street for longboarders and Fairgrounds/Stables/Pipes for shortboarders. Try this map.
- North from there lie a series of rocky cobblestone points and a few reefs, all visible and accessible from the highway, until we get to the county line at...
The Queen of the Coast. Rincon straddles the Ventura and Santa Barbara county lines. A long right pointbreak with several distinct lineups. Connecting the entire point is a ride over a mile long. Very crowded. To get there, exit Highway 101 at Bates Road and park in either the county or state lot. Try this map.
- Hammonds Reef
A classic right-hander, near Miramar in Montecito. Takes a little effort to get to. Do some exploring. (No map for you!)
- Sand Spit
A sucking, super-hollow barrel. Needs a big west swell to work, and when it breaks it will be half the size of Rincon. Crowded lineup and often dirty. Breaks at the end of the breakwater for Santa Barbara Harbor and visible from Stearns Wharf. Try this map.
- Leadbetter Point
A small, fun, easy wave. Friendly crowd and good for beginners. Lots of peaks along this small right pointbreak. Take Cabrillo past Stearns Wharf and turn left into the pay parking lot. Try this map.
- UCSB Campus and Isla Vista
Campus Point marks the eastern edge of the campus, a small right pointbreak similar in size to Leadbetter. Can get crowded with college students. Small beachbreak and cliffs lead west to Devereux Point, another right with many peaks. Crowded, lots of longboarders, and a lot of tar from natural oil upwellings. Sands is similarly toxic.
- Gaviota Coast
Private property owned by oil companies and cattle ranchers overlooking inaccessible clifflines running from Sands to Gaviota State Beach. Two state beaches, El Capitan and Refugio, offer overnight camping and small right pointbreaks that rarely break over waist high. Some small and clean surfable reefs and beaches lie to the north of Refugio and are visible from the highway. Park in the turnoffs along the road.
- The Ranch
The worst-kept secret in the county. Inaccessible save by boat or for the owners of private land. Classic reef and point waves discovered in the early 1960's and pictured to excess by magazines. Runs from Gaviota State Beach all the way to Point Conception.
- North County
The forbidding and wind-torn section of the county, where the coastline turns north-south and is exposed to the full brunt of wind, tide, rain, and swell. Often blown out for days, even at dawn. Some state and county beaches provide camping opportunities. Much of the coastline hidden behind Vandenburg AFB. Best in fall when a Santa Ana condition is holding and there is a small NW swell.