Epic Surf Breaks in South Orange County

Doug Echelberger

11/2/21

From novices to tanned old veterans, Orange County’s 42 miles of glorious Pacific coastline and surf breaks attracts surfers from around the world. Huntington Beach and Newport Beach are among the most legendary, but don’t overlook these terrific spots:
 
 

Lower Trestles

At the very southern tip of Orange County is Trestle Beach, featuring a combination of several surf breaks. While you can catch some good wave action at them all, the Lower Trestles, a.k.a. the Lowers is considered one of the top surfing spots in California. It’s a reef point break that boasts surf breaks with gentle, flowing faces and one of the longest rides in SoCal. So good, in fact, that a professional surfing contest is held there every year. The Lowers can get a bit crowded, but many consider it the best of the best.
 

San Onofre

Many a California kid cut his surfing teeth at San Onofre. It’s a historic and nostalgic spot that goes all the way back to the days of all-wooden surfboards. The gentle breaking wave just sort of rolls in; it’s great for longboarding. “San O” boasts three great breaks for beginners: The Point (the most difficult of the three), Old Man’s, and the easiest, Dog Patch” The smooth stone bottom creates a break 100-200 yards offshore. If the conditions are right, you can ride it all the way to shore.
 
 

T-Street Beach

Just south of the San Clemente Pier, T-Street Beach was the stomping grounds for many professional surfers in the 1980s. It’s a great surfing spot for all levels: the exposed beach and reef breaks create ideal conditions, especially in the summer months. Check local signs and notices regarding surfing times to avoid conflicts with swimmers.
 

Doheny Beach

While OC has plenty of breaks for intermediate-advanced surfers, Doheny Beach – “Doho” – is the perfect place for those with a little less experience. The north end of Dana Point offers waves that are a bit less intimidating but still give a long ride to shore. Advanced surfers – who might criticize your style or the fact that you’re not up on all the rules of surfing etiquette – are usually surfing somewhere else during the day, so Doheny is a great place to learn, fall, and make the same mistakes they made when just starting out.
 

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is host to the oldest surfing contest in the world. The Brooks Street Surfing Classic goes all the way back to 1955. Laguna’s south swells bring long, powerful waves that break at the reef. A favorite among the locals, the beach has a number of notable breaks – Thalia Street, Rockpile, Salt Creek, Aliso Creek, Oak, Street, and Sleepy Hollow – to name just a few. Some are better for beginners; others should be tackled only by intermediate and advanced surfers. One thing is for sure: Laguna Beach is a great place to get on your board and rip.
 
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