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 Santa Barbara 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.
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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
Season: Year round, but fun in the summer
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.
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.
Time of day:
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.
Tips & Tricks
- 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.
What to Bring
- WARM Neoprene/Geoprene. It gets frigid here, especially with any offshore winds.
- Low volume shortboard for swells/Tarantulas, fun board for in between, and a log for smaller days or surfing the Beachbreak