When Is the Best Time to Surf in California?

Surfing during the right time of the day and in the right season can make your surf experience much more enjoyable. No one wants to surf in cold, choppy conditions and have a terrible time out on the water.

Although Southern California has a reputation for being sunny year-round and usually always has consistent waves, winters in the Pacific Ocean can be unbearably cold.

California has an almost historic reputation for having good surf and many people flock to this golden state from all over the world to experience the ocean.

The oceans in California are always beautiful, but when is the absolute best time to surf? What about the best season? Read here to learn when the best time to surf is.

Best Time of Day to Surf

It’s safe to say that everyone has experienced a sunrise or sunset at least once in their lives. Now imagine that you are witnessing that pink and orange-hued sky mirrored in the calm ocean.

You guessed it, sunrise and sunset are the best times to surf. You’ll never miss an epic wave session again with this important information, and you’ll definitely avoid the heartbreak of missing out.

Typically, morning is the best time to surf. Sunrise brings an excellent water swell, which creates perfect waves. There’s nothing better for breakfast than catching the ultimate wave and riding it into shore.

Surfing early in the morning also allows you to avoid crowds that are present throughout the rest of the day. Southern California, and San Diego in particular, has a big residential population, as well as plenty of tourists, so catching a wave could be tricky with so much ocean traffic.

Keep in mind, however, that most regular surfers are aware that this is the best time to surf and you most likely won’t be the only one trying to catch a sunrise wave.

There is also less wind during both the sunrise and sunset as opposed to strong afternoon winds. Nobody wants choppy waves.

Light winds make for clean wave breaks that are typically the best waves for surfing.

Starting your day with a good surf session can really make all the difference. It is near impossible to have a bad day after surfing beautiful waves during a relaxing time of day.

Best Season to Surf

Summer is the most popular season to surf in Southern California because the water is not freezing and the days are longer. The finest surf day during a California summer is when you catch a good southern swell with light winds under the sunshine.

Northwestern wind swells are still present but aren’t as strong as during the springtime. A can be found along California’s coast during the summer and there are plenty of surf rental shops during this time.

Checking the weather forecast is a must before surfing in any season and it is wise to constantly be aware of hurricane swells.

Surfing in the fall is a bit colder than in the summer but has less wind than in the springtime. There is a good combination of swells which brings good beach breaks.

This is perhaps the best time to surf without wind. The famous Santa Anna winds occur at this time in inland California, so it is not rare to find a few completely windless ocean days during the fall.

The kids are also back in school during this time which means there is less traffic in the ocean. Get your wet suit on and ride those open fall waves!

Best Tides for Surfing

The moon pulls the tide during its different phases. When it’s full, the rising and falling tides are more intense.

Middle tides create the perfect wave. Low tides can be risky, as the sand and coral reefs are closer to the bottom of your board and can result in an injury.

Additionally, high tides tend to create choppy waves. While this may not exactly be a deterrent, middle tide waves make for an almost guaranteed perfect surf day.

Reading Surf Reports

Sunrise and sunset may be the perfect time of day to go surfing but you still need to check the weather each day before you go surfing. As arbitrary as it may sound, reading surf reports may save your life. 

There are many surf forecast websites that you can check beforehand to ensure you have a successful day on the ocean.

They predict the surf conditions in advance based on meteorological information, complex swell models, and algorithms.

These reports help you manage your time and aid in planning the best time to surf. Because surf conditions constantly change, understanding the different forecasts can help surfers have a deeper understanding and appreciation for waves.

Sites like Surf-forecast.com provide surf forecasting that is very reliable and easy to read. Surfers and sailors use this site to learn about wave size, period, and energy in specific locations. The major indicators to look for when assessing the surf forecast are

  • Wave height
  • Wind direction and strength
  • Tidal movement

The Best Time to Surf

The best time to surf is in the morning during sunrise and in the evening during sunset. The summer and the fall are also the perfect seasons to go surfing. While practicing on your own is a great way to experience the sport, taking professional guidance like Surf Lessons San Diego from Pacific Surf School can significantly improve your skills. Be sure to check the weather before you go to avoid any big wave surprises that were unaccounted for. If you have any further questions about when you should surf or about our Surf Lessons San Diego, feel free to contact us.

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