California may not be the birthplace of surfing, but the state has played an instrumental role in the development of the sport and helped define surf culture. Famed waves like Malibu, San O, Steamer Lane, and Lower Trestles represent iconic chapters in surf history that helped push surfing to where it is today. For new surfers, surfing on the West Coast can feel intimidating. The lore of localism in the region has kept many new surfers out of the water. While many of California’s iconic breaks are technically difficult waves to surf that should only be ridden by experienced surfers, there are still plenty of beginner-friendly waves on the west coast. Regardless of your skill level or where you surf, surf etiquette is a must. Brush up on surf etiquette on our blog before paddling out. If you’re in search of The Best Beginner Waves on the West Coast, continue reading below.
San Onofre State Beach- San Clemente, California
San Onofre, or San O as it is affectionately called, is one of Southern California’s most celebrated longboard waves. San O is to longboarders in Southern California what Lower Trestles is to short boarders. The break at San O has four distinct take-off points that separate new surfers from the experienced local crowd. The wave is a slow-rolling long ride perfect for longboarders and new surfers. San O does get crowded, especially in the summer, so it’s best to stick to the break that best suits your skill level.
La Jolla Shores- San Diego, California
La Jolla Shores is another iconic California surf spot rich with history and surf culture. It’s also one of the state’s best learning waves. The mile-long stretch of sand extends in front of some of California’s most prized real estate and is one of the state’s most popular beaches. La Jolla offers surfers gentle waves with a sand bottom that are perfect for learning and progression.
Cowell’s Beach- Santa Cruz, California
In the heart of NorCal’s most iconic surf town, Santa Cruz, Cowell’s Beach gives new surfers a place to learn and practice amidst a sea of experienced surfers and localized breaks. The waves at Cowell’s are relatively small and gentle compared to the other breaks in the area. Most surfers in the water at Cowell’s Beach fall under the beginner or intermediate category.
Bolinas Beach- Bolinas, California
Another Bay Area gem for novice surfers is Bolinas Beach, located in Bolinas, California, just across the bay from San Francisco. This small town is the ideal surf retreat for Bay Area surfers, and Bolinas beach is perfect for progression. Unlike Ocean Beach in nearby San Francisco, Bolinas offers surfers small gentle waves ideally suited for new surfers.
Zuma Beach- Malibu, California
Zuma Beach, just down the road from Malibu’s iconic First Point, is great for beginners during small swells. Unlike First Point, Zuma Beach is a beach break that offers surfers hundreds of peaks and miles of beach to spread out and surf. While Zuma can get a little dumpy and fast-breaking at size, during small swells, it’s very user-friendly. If you’re looking for a beach near LA where you can get away from the crowds and spread out, Zuma Beach is your best bet.
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