Cayucos Surf- A Local’s Guide

Cayucos, California is a small coastal town located in San Luis Obispo, California. This small town is home to about 6 miles of beautiful, clean coastline- and plenty of awesome waves. 

I grew up surfing in San Luis Obispo County, and something about the Cayucos surf always brought me back.

Maybe it was the uncrowded lineups, or the rugged, undeveloped coastline. 

There was always something about that cold, clean water that I LOVED. In fact, Cayucos is actually where I caught one of my first real waves on a shortboard.

ANYWAYS, Cayucos is ripe with epic surf, and if you can handle the cold and the mild **eeriness** of the wildlife, you’ll be able to score some awesome surf in this very special place.

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An Overview of Cayucos Surf

Located about midway between LA and San Francisco, Cayucos State Beach runs for about 6 miles, starting at Morro Rock, and ending about 6 miles north of the rock.

Even though the beach starts at the rock, for the sake of clarity, the surf in Cayucos does not include the rock, although it includes all of the surf spots north of it. 

Cayucos is a beach break all the way up the coast. It is very exposed, and picks up TONS of swell. 

Scattered across this stretch of coastline are seemingly infinite fun little peaks that have some serious potential depending on the cooperation of the sandbars.

cayucos surf
Cayucos surf

How to get to Cayucos

Cayucos is located about 3.5 hours north of LAX, and 3.5 hours south of SFO. 

If you’re flying into either of those airports, you can hop on Highway 1 and cruise out of the big city chaos to this little gem of a surf town.

If you’re not driving to Cayucos with your own car, I highly recommend renting a car for your California surf trip. 

There are so many little surf spots around, especially in the San Luis Obispo area, so if one spot isn’t quite working, you can drive 5 minutes down the road and really score. 

You definitely want a car on this surf trip!

Best Season to Surf Cayucos

Honestly, you can surf in Cayucos almost year round, it’s never quite flat. 

However, the most consistent swells come in winter, when the surf in Cayucos is often head high. 

With that said, my ALL TIME favorite time to surf in Cayucos is in the fall, from about mid September to late November. During this time, the water is warm, the summer tourist crowds are gone, and the swells are coming in.

The Wave(s)

While there are a ton of little surf peaks that crop up along this stretch of coastline, there are a few primary surf spots in Cayucos. 

1. The Cayucos Pier

The Cayucos Pier is located right in the heart of downtown Cayucos. When the swells are working in your favor, you can catch fun, clean rights breaking off the pier. 

Most days though, Cayucos pier surf is just a hollow closeout. On those days, it’s a pretty great spot for beginners to learn how to catch white water waves! 

2. Studio Drive or ‘Studios’

This just might be my favorite surf spot in California. To get here, you just turn left off Highway One onto Studio Drive, park in the residential area, and walk down the stairs to the beach.

This surf spot is amazing. It’s rugged, it’s beautiful, and the sandbars offer some incredible peaks. 

Where to eat after surfing Cayucos

After you’ve worked up an appetite surfing in Cayucos, there are some AWESOME places for post-surf meals. 

Here are my favorites:

  1. Sea Shanty

This place is all time. The staff is friendly, the food isn’t too expensive, and they have a delicious menu. 

If you’re a sweets person, you absolutely MUST try their ice cream desserts. Trust me on this one.

  1. Taco Temple

There is nothing quite like tacos after a surf, and Taco Temple is delicious. It’s a little on the pricey side for tacos, but honestly everything in this town is expensive. It is worth it though.

Hazards of Cayucos Surf

This isn’t the fun part when it comes to learning about a new surf spot, but I feel that it’s important to be upfront about sharing the risks along with the good parts. 

While there are a LOT of good things about Cayucos surfing, unfortunately it does not come without risks, including:

Sharks: 

This whole area of California is super sharky, and Cayucos has a reputation for being one of the sharkiest, unfortunately. 

Those wide open waters, brimming with wildlife, no crowds in site and a lack of beach development? We aren’t the only ones who love that.

I’ve surfed in Cayucos for the last decade without problems, but there have been attacks in the recent years. 

Rocks:

Cayucos is a fairly rocky beach. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, and when you fall off your board, try to land lightly in the water rather than stomping off, in order to avoid hitting any rocks. 

And definitely don’t dive off headfirst. 

Surfing Cayucos FAQ’s

How big are the waves in Cayucos?

The answer to this question is a resounding ‘it depends’. In the summer, the waves here are pretty mellow, usually in the 1-3 foot range. 

In the winter, the waves here are typically head high every day.

However, it depends where you go, different parts of Cayucos pick up different swells, and to really know before you go, check out the surf report!

Is the Cayucos surf good for beginners?

Cayucos surf can definitely be good for beginners, as long as it’s not too big. 

If it gets too big here, it can close out and the paddle out can get impossible anyways. On smaller days though, this can be a great place for more intermediate level surfers to work on their turns.

For absolute beginners, I recommend checking out nearby Pismo

Tips & Tricks

  • If you can, don’t miss out on a sunset session here. 

I’m not sure what it is, but this beach has the most GORGEOUS sunsets. There’s nothing quite like a sunset session while surfing in Cayucos.

  • Bundle up.

It gets pretty chilly here. Even when nearby Morro Rock isn’t too cold, something about the currents here make the surf in Cayucos very cold. I don’t like to surf here in anything lighter than a 4/3.

This men’s O’neill wetsuit is a go-to on chilly mornings, and I particularly like this Roxy 4/3 for women.

What to bring on your Cayucos surf trip

The beauty of surfing is that you don’t need much to enjoy the sport.

However, there are definitely a few items in addition to your board and wetsuit that can make surfing in Cayucos a little more comfortable.

1. A changing mat

The parking areas in Cayucos offer nowhere soft to stand, and changing out of a wetsuit on gravel or concrete is an easy way to rip holes in and ruin your suit.

2. A solar shower

With the exception of the pier, there aren’t any showers at the Cayucos surf spots. To avoid putting a sandy, smelly wetsuit back in your car, a solar shower can help you clean off your wetsuit.

Plus, if you leave it out in the sun atop your car, it’ll be nice and warm to rinse off with after a chilly Cayucos surf session.

Cayucos Surf Guide- Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap on this Cayucos surf guide. I hope that this surf spot proves as fun to you as it repeatedly has to me. 

If you’re growing tired of crowded surf breaks, then this is a surf trip that is sure to be refreshing and fun.

For more fun surf spots in California, check out my ultimate guide to Surfing California!