627 South Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, California 92651
The best surf spots in town break over rock reefs and while other cities might have more famous breaks, Laguna Beach—with all its hidden coves and craggy outcroppings—offers endless variation.
Laguna Beach may not be ubiquitous with surfing the way it is with SKIMBOARDING, but that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have plenty of places to rip. Certain breaks in town might only work for a few days a year, rewarding locals who know which conditions to look for. Other spots are more consistent and family friendly.
Today, we rank a few of our favorites:
HONORABLE MENTION: Laguna Beach has so many fun surf breaks that it’s hard not to shout them all out. When OAK STREET breaks, it’s a mellow, fun wave without lots of crowd. SLEEPY HOLLOW is another good (if temperamental) spot, right in front of THE DECK ON LAGUNA BEACH. In the winter, a N-NW swell can cause ALISO CREEK to break (Laguna’s only “rivermouth”). If you pass by, spot waves, and have your gear with you, it’s best to get out in the water right away just so you can say you did it. SALT CREEK always has waves (it’s exposed to every swell) and the park above the beach is spectacular.
2nd RUNNER UP: Local pros love BROOKS STREET. The beach is exposed to swell, so it’s usually a little bigger than other spots nearby, and the underwater topography creates a pretty consistent takeoff. In fact, most locals know exactly which “boil” to sit on in order to be at the right place at the right time. Another huge advantage of Brooks Street: friends and family can watch you surf from the viewing benches above the beach. On a big day, these benches might be packed with hundreds of onlookers, but most of the time it’s just a few locals winding down the day in style.
The only downside? Brooks is almost always a “left”—meaning that regular-footed surfers will be surfing to their backside.
1st RUNNER UP: ROCKPILE, at the far north end of Main Beach, is probably the best wave in the city, if you know how to ride it. Peeling right off of a jagged rock that juts up from the water, the wave is fast and can provide hollow barrels in the right conditions. Basically, it’s a dream wave but you have to be an experienced surfer to make sure you can handle it.
Get used to surfing Rockpile on a medium-sized day, and take off a little further out on the shoulder (rather than right by the rocks). It’s also worth mentioning that locals can get a little prickly here. It’s not about territorialism, just respect and courtesy.
CHAMPION: The break at THALIA STREET is gentle enough for straight-up beginners but isn’t so slow that it’s boring to expert surfers. It’s far and away the best learning beach in Laguna, with outfitters like the excellent CA Surf N’ Paddle teaching lessons that start on the sand and end with full-fledged wave riding. It’s not uncommon to see local pros like Hans Hagen surfing Thalia…it’s an easy spot to grab a few waves, take a break on the sand, then paddle out again.
What makes Thalia our champion today is the fact that it’s got the best vibe. Everyone seems happy, locals are super cordial, and the whole the city’s welcoming spirit is on full display.
*First image by MARY HURLBUT