Jalama Beach, California is probably one of the most consistent surf spots in California. Located right next to Point Conception, it picks up all the south swells that the Santa Barbara surfing area misses out on, making it a perfect summer surf destination. If you’re looking to surf some fun, uncrowded waves, the Jalama Beach Surf Spot is for you.
- About Jalama Beach Surf
- Best times for Jalama Beach Surf
- Hazards of Jalama Beach Surf
- Tips & Tricks for a Jalama Beach surf trip
- What to bring to Jalama
- Jalama Beach surf guide- final thoughts
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Jalama Beach is located on the California Central Coast, off the 101 Highway. It is approximately 55 miles north of Santa Barbara, and 61 miles south of Pismo Beach. Jalama Beach is a county park, and you will have to pay $10 to park your car there for the day. Another option is to camp, and then be the first one in the water.
About Jalama Beach Surf
Jalama Beach is a beautiful, rugged, and long stretch of coastline all a part of Jalama Beach County Park. This beach works best on a solid SW swell, and is best surfed at a medium to high tide. There are multiple places you can surf at Jalama Beach:
The Beachbreak includes the area of beach directly in front of the campground/parking, and all the way south to Cracks. It is, well, a beach break, with a sandy bottom and lots of sandbars to surf. The Beachbreak is more popular with long boarders. The Beachbreak tends to be about half the size of Cracks usually.
Cracks is located about a ten minute walk south down the beach from the campground, and is marked by huge indentations (cracks!) in the cliff. It consists of more sandbars, and it does get hollow here. There are multiple spots you can surf in the general area around Cracks, making it a nice option if Tarantulas is too crowded.
Tarantulas is a left breaking reef break. However, nice rights do come through here. This break is located a few minutes walking distance past Cracks, right before the rock formation extending out from the beach. The waves at Tarantulas have a very nice shape- but it does get crowded.
Best times for Jalama Beach Surf
Best season for surfing Jalama
The surf at Jalama Beach is good all year long, but it’s super fun in the summer especially!
Jalama gets the most swell between November and January. During the winter months it can get huge, and should only be surfed by experts during the big swells. However, Jalama Beach surf is pretty special because it actually gets some really fun summer waves. When neighboring Santa Barbara beaches and SLO County are totally flat, you can get out to Jalama and even score some fun little summer tubes.
Looking to take a surf trip in October? Check out our guide to the best places to surf in October!
The best tide for surfing at Jalama Beach
You’ll want to surf Jalama on a medium high to high tide. The waves hold up a little better at higher tides here, and at low tide there is a major risk of rocks.
The best time to surf in Jalama
Usually very early. The winds pick up bad here by late morning, so you usually want to try to make it out just after dawn.
Hazards of Jalama Beach Surf
Jalama Beach is beautifully rugged. Surfing here, you can completely forget about the outside world. That being said, there are a few risks that are noteworthy about surfing here:
There can be some nasty currents here. Be sure to only paddle out in conditions that match your skill level!
There are a few rocks scattered around the beach to watch out for, especially at lower tides.
Sharks are probably the biggest hazard of Jalama Beach. There is a curiously unusual amount of marine activity in this area, and there have been a number of shark attacks at neighboring Surf Beach over the years. Trust your intuition when paddling out, and know that sharks are always out there.
- Shallow water
Some of the waves at Jalama break over pretty shallow water, especially at lower tides. Further, the waves break pretty heavy at Jalama, so you will want to be careful so you don’t get slammed on the bottom.
Tips & Tricks for a Jalama Beach surf trip
- If there is a big swell coming, get to the parking lot EARLY. Especially if it’s the first swell in a while. Last fall, during the first big swell of the season the parking lot was completely full by 7:30 am. True story.
- Pack a lunch! There aren’t many places to eat nearby, except for Jalama Burger, which is pretty pricey. I highly recommend bringing along a cooler, packing it with ice, drinks, and lunch to enjoy post-surf.
What to bring to Jalama
- WARM Neoprene/Geoprene. It gets super cold here, especially with any offshore winds. You’ll want at least a 4/3 wetsuit, and maybe even some surf booties and a hood.
- Surfboard: Low volume shortboard for swells/Tarantulas, fun board for in between, and a log for smaller days or surfing the Beachbreak
- Reef safe sunscreen: Even though Jalama is often cloudy and overcast, the sun still hits pretty hard here, so you’ll want some sunscreen to protect your face and hands from the sun. Just be sure to use sunscreen that’s reefsafe. If you’re not sure, check out my guide on reef safe sunscreens for surfers.
- Changing mat: I recommend bringing an old rug or surf changing mat to stand on while changing in and out of your wetsuit. That way your wetsuit doesn’t get dirty, and you don’t tear a hole in it on the hard gravel.
Jalama Beach surf guide- final thoughts
Overall, I think Jalama Beach is one of the best and most underrated surf spots in California. If you’re living in Santa Barbara, Jalama is really a savior because you can come surf there in the summer when none of the other Santa Barbara surf spots have any waves because of the Channel Islands. If you’re seeking good waves, minimal crowds, and a beautiful stretch of undeveloped California coastline, I think you’ll really enjoy surfing at Jalama. Just keep your eyes peeled for men in grey suits!