San Diego is home to (literally) hundreds of surf breaks. From National City to Oceanside Harbor – we are blessed with so much wave variety that there is literally something for every level of surfer to enjoy – beach breaks, reef breaks and point breaks abound here. Top if off with super easy coastal access and you could probably surf a different break everyday for a year, if you tried!
Checking out a new surf break is super fun, but can also become a huge – and potentially dangerous – bummer if you don’t know the terrain or you upset the locals. At K-Dub’s we want you to have a blast, and maybe even make a new friend or two. So, we’ve put together tips to help you enter a new break safely and catch waves with ease.
Know your limits.
We probably don’t have to tell you that surfing is inherently dangerous, but we’re going to start here because – SURFING IS DANGEROUS!!! I don’t know a single surfer who hasn’t had some seriously gnarly bruises and most of us (self-included) carry battle scars on our bodies.
The most likely culprit of said bruises and scars is your own surfboard – or, in a worst-case-scenario – someone else’s board. The other (and even nastier) clear and present dangers are REEF and ROCKS – they are sooo unforgiving on our soft, wet skin and fragile bones!
Beach Breaks for days!
If you’re fairly new to surfing, it’s a good idea to begin with San Diego’s beach breaks. Beach breaks have a forgiving sandy bottom and typically the waves are spread out so there’s lots of peaks to choose from. The good news is that San Diego has tons of beach breaks! Some great options are Tourmaline in Pacific Beach, the San Diego River Mouth (aka Dog Beach) in Ocean Beach, La Jolla Shores and north of 15th street in Del Mar.
Note: Most of these beaches have “Surfing only/Swimming only” areas in the summertime. Watch for yellow and black checkered flags, and check with the lifeguard on duty if you’re unsure of the surf zone.
The risky side to beach breaks is that there’s a good chance there will be a small crowd, and among them a few people learning to surf. Take a short walk up or down from any of the main peaks at these beaches and the crowd will thin – you may even get lucky and find your own wave.
It may look like mad chaos in the lineup on a busy day, but there are a few basic rules that – when we all respect – can both ensure an awesome sesh and also totally reduce the chances of carnage. At K-Dub’s we honor 5 basic rules to surf by…
- Scope the scene & keep a healthy respect for the power of the ocean with you at all times.
Ocean conditions can and do change rapidly. Wind, rip currents and groundswells can arrive without warning. A calm day can turn extremely dangerous in under an hour. Be sure to watch the water for at least 15 minutes before you paddle out to a new break. Look for currents and rogue outside waves. If your gut says it’s unsure – listen, and chat up a local to get more info. Even beach breaks can have rocks or other obstacles. Paddle out in a lull and scope the back of the wave from the lineup before charging in.
- Look both ways before you drop into a wave.
The person closest to the peak always has the right of way, even if you have a great shoulder position. If someone is already surfing a wave, stop paddling and wait for the next one. Even if it’s your buddy, don’t snake them unless they say “come on in!” Dropping in is a great way to get a ding in your board, or in your face. It can also lead to fights and bad vibes for everyone in hearing distance. Just don’t do it.
- Share the stoke!
If you just caught a wave, paddle back and sit “off peak” until others have caught a wave or two. Unless you’re reveling in a rare solo-sesh, it’s not cool to paddle back to peak and take the next wave. We’ve gotta let a few waves pass us by so everyone has their share and the vibe stays chill. Don’t be a wave hog – it’s bad karma, and no one will like you. Seriously.
Expanded Surf Rules – Compliments of the Eli Howard Surf School
Ok, this is an Ash-rule and can be observed with restraint. Personally, I like to let others know if I’m NOT going to go when I’m at peak position. That way, they can hop into a sweet shoulder with confidence. I’ll also call off another surfer if I see that they 1) don’t see me coming and are paddling with conviction or 2) think it’s “ok” to break rule #2 above (it’s not!). Letting the people around you know your intentions helps ensure everyone’s safety, especially when it’s crowded. It may also help you get more waves from the locals.
- Stay stoked!
Let’s be honest – surfing is HARD! Catching those first few waves is exhilarating – but getting there can be frustrating, disappointing and even downright painful. If you had a rough sesh, chock it up to experience and try again tomorrow. Give yourself credit for the effort – you’re braver than all those people just sunning themselves on the beach! If you had a great sesh – revel in the glow and share your victory with friends over a cold beverage.
There is so much about surfing that is completely out of your control – the waves, winds, other surfers… and it’s all part of the beauty of the experience of ‘walking on water.’ Staying safe in the surf begins with each of us respecting the inherent danger, and doing our part to minimize it. San Diego is home to thousands of surfers and we love sharing our slice of surf paradise with you. Looking out for each other and sharing the stoke is a win-win for all of us.
We’d love to hear your San Diego surf stories in the comments below!
Ash Bio –
Ashley is local wipe out expert, SDSL member, and friend of K-Dubs Rentals. When she’s not out surfing you’ll probably find her making her own waves for her ocean-inspired sea glass jewelry boutique, Marine Street Designs.