Huntington Beach, aptly nicknamed “Surf City”, has some of the best waves in California.
While the Huntington Beach surf at the pier is the most famous, this epic California surf town has more to offer than epic waves under what was once the historic Ruby’s Diner. Huntington Beach has approximately several miles of surf, stretching both north and south of the pier.
While my heart lies with beaches further north in California, I grew up spending summers and holidays in Huntington Beach with family, and the Huntington Beach surf still has a special place in my heart.
From the daring street performers on the boardwalk, to the colorful bars, restaurants, and surf shops, Huntington Beach has an undeniably exciting energy. Huntington Beach also has some of the best waves in California- let’s jump right in!
An overview of the Huntington Beach Surf
My favorite thing about the surf in Huntington Beach is the sheer amount of surfable beach there is. While the Huntington Beach pier gets all the attention, you don’t have to go duke it out at the most crowded part of the beach to have an awesome surf session. My recommendation for surfing in Huntington is to skip the pier, pick the least crowded part of the beach that looks good, and paddle out there. Huntington has TONS of awesome surf besides the pier, so unless you’re a pro or really don’t mind the crowds, I recommend surfing away from the pier.
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The different Huntington Beach surf spots
Here are the most notable Huntington Beach surf spots. Keep in mind though, that you really can surf anywhere up and down this beach- especially the stretch that runs from north of the pier up to Goldenwest. When there’s a nice solid swell, there are more than enough fun little peaks that crop up all over the beach.
Huntington Beach Pier South Side
One of the best surf spots in Huntington Beach is the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. On the south side of the pier, the waves are super fun for shortboards. With decent swells, expect a nice, open, rippable wave face. Do keep in mind, this is not a beginner wave, and the lineup can be pretty intense. This is a fairly localized break. The best time to surf here is the winter, although the fall and spring can be pretty good. During the summer, the south side of the Huntington Pier gets blackballed by the lifeguards, and you can’t surf here. This happens because there are too many tourists in the water swimming. When that happens, you can just head over to the northside of the pier.
Huntington Beach Pier North
On the north side of the pier, the waves break fast, and often barrel depending on the tide and sandbars. If you want to spend some time in the green room, this is the place to be. The north side of the pier is open all year long, so it’s the place to be surfing in Huntington Beach when the south side is closed.
Bolsa Chica State Beach is about 4 miles south of the Huntington Beach Pier, and has some really fun surf. The surf at Bolsa Chica typically breaks much gentler than over by the pier, and it’s a great option for beginner surfers and intermediates. Bolsa Chica is also a lot less crowded than surfing closer to the pier. There is a huge, wide open parking lot, bathrooms, showers, and picnic areas. The surf itself is also much less crowded than over by the pier, and a lot more forgiving for beginners learning to surf. There are plenty of surf schools that take their students into the whitewater at Bolsa Chica, like Corky Carrol’s. Despite the mellow break, the surf at Bolsa Chica can get a little hectic with strong onshore winds, or a heavy swell. The beach is very exposed, and does tend to close out when it gets too big, unlike the pier.
Best season to surf in Huntington Beach
The winter is the best time for surfing in Huntington Beach. This is when there are a lot of north and northwest swells that really get this break working. Winter is also nice because there are far fewer crowds, no blackball, and mellow winds.
The fall is also really nice for surfing in Huntington Beach. The water is super warm, the crowds are thin, and there are still some decent swells that come rolling through.
The surf is particularly good in not just Huntington Beach but all of California in October, which is why it’s on our list of the best places in the world for an October surf trip.
Huntington Beach is also an amazing place to surf in September.
Summer is one of the best times for beginner surfers to come and surf at Huntington Beach, because the waves are much smaller than other times of the year. When the pier is crazy, summer sessions over at Bolsa Chica are often the best.
Spring is decent for surfing in Huntington Beach. The water is still fairly cold, but there are some warm days and the swells are semi-consistent.
How to get to Huntington Beach
The easiest way to get to Huntington Beach is to fly into either LAX or the John Wayne Airport, rent a car, and drive. Huntington Beach is about 46 minutes (depending on traffic of course) from LAX, and about 25 minutes from SNA (John Wayne Airport).
It’s easier to fly into SNA, but usually cheaper to fly into LAX.
You can easily rent a car at either airport, and make the quick drive to Huntington Beach.
Where to stay
The Kimpton Shorebreak is located just steps away from the best Huntington Beach surf breaks. This boutique hotel has gorgeous rooms equipped with flat screen TVs, robes, and a yoga mat. The hotel also has a modern fitness center, restaurant, and onsite bar, and even a 40 foot tall rock-climbing wall!
The Huntington Surf Inn is another fantastic place to stay for your surf trip to Huntington Beach. They are located right across from surf, surf shops, and tons of restaurants.
Hazards of surfing at Huntington Beach
The crowds at Huntington are ridiculous, and super agro. Yelling, grabbing leashes, attempted drownings, and fist fights are not uncommon. It sucks, but that’s Huntington Beach for ya.
If you paddle-out away from the pier you’re less likely to have any issues. This really only happens when it’s super crowded right under the pier.
Thanks to southern California being massively overpopulated, the water pollution in Huntington Beach is pretty bad. I would strongly advise against paddling out right after a rain.
Best tides for surfing in Huntington Beach
Pretty much all the surf spots in Huntington Beach do best on a medium tide.
Where to stay for a Huntington Beach surf trip
How big is the surf in Huntington Beach right now?
For up to date surf forecasting on how big the surf at Huntington Beach is now, check out Surfline. They even have a live cam!
Can beginners surf at Huntington Beach?
Yes! Beginners can definitely surf at Huntington Beach. I recommend not paddling out right at the pier though, as some surfers there can be aggressive to beginners.
What is the best month to surf at Huntington Beach?
January has the most consistent surf in Huntington Beach.
Is Huntington considered surf city?
Yes! Huntington Beach has the nickname surf city.
In conclusion, Huntington Beach is a pretty classic southern California surf spot, with surf all up and down the beach. Whether you’re looking to scrap it out and get barreled at the pier, or catch some fun rollers over at Bolsa Chica, you’ll have a blast surfing in Huntington Beach.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, Surf Travel Tribe, to connect with other surfers and share tips on your travels. Happy surfing!