Novice surfers have no shortage of spots to choose from across the United States. But with so many well known surf breaks all over the country, there are many that can be dangerous for beginners due to the size and intensity of the waves, and certain spots with locals probably aren’t going to be so welcoming to learners. As such it pays to know which areas are best for picking up the basics and learning to surf in the US.
Here are some surfing spots that are great for beginners:
1. San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente, California
San Onofre State Beach, aka “San O” or “Old Man’s Beach” as coined by the locals, has been a favorite and one of the best spots for beginner surfers since surfing first became popular some 70 years ago. In Orange County, all surfers, from veterans to beginners, flock to this beach. All this traffic makes this place the most visited state park in all of California. In the beginning, the area grew because of surfers moving from Newport Beach as they sought places where they can relax and unwind easily, creating a family-friendly community.
A well-positioned reef break can do wonders for a beginner, and you will find it here at San Onofre State Beach. The gentle waves created by the reef brake are ideal for beginners, making it easier for them to stay on their surfboard instead of getting knocked down again and again.
If you want to see the pros in action, learn from them, or observe them. You can always go to the Lower Trestles, a popular site for pro-surf events. You can also book a lesson or two from the nearby surf schools to boost your confidence, like the San Clemente Surf School.
San Clemente is a family-friendly community, and you can easily find a place to stay here, like the San Clemente Beach House or San Clemente Surfbreak hotel. But be sure to make an advance booking in the summer as the beach will get crowded.
2. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Cocoa Beach was once known as Canaveral Pier. It became an iconic destination for people with any level of surfing skills in the 1960s. All surfers heed to the siren call of Cocoa beach, which delights everyone with its mellow waves and warm breezes all around the year. This sandy bottom beach allows for a soft landing when you fall from your board; the warm water and incredible waves throughout the year will enable you to visit the place any time. The summers are usually crowded as everyone visits the beach to escape the heat.
When you are ready to jump in the water with your board, you will find reliable, gentle waves that are perfect for longboarding beginners to learn and practice the basics of surfing. The best waves often come when the southeast swells meet offshore winds coming from the west.
Even though there is the inevitable infiltration of shorter blades, the pier remains regularly supported by the regular crew. You can visit the place in times of honor contests yearly to see the pros in action and learn a little.
The place is home to the original Ron Jon Surf Shop and the 11-time world surfing champion, Kelly Slater. At the Ron Jon Surf Shop, you can learn about the vibrant surf culture of Cocoa Beach and also visit the Florida Surf Museum. Schools like School of Surf, Ron Jon Surf School, etc., can provide beginners with an insight into surfing, boost their confidence, and teach them a few tricks when they visit the beach. You can stay at hotels like Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, Beach Place Guesthouses, etc.
3. Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii
Waikiki beach is a great place to learn surfing. The word Waikiki is synonymous with surfing. If you want to stand on the surf and know how an excellent surfer surfs, Waikiki waves can be pretty forgiving to you. The beaches of Waikiki gently coach the beginners. With the warm and rippling waves, a beginner can hone his/her skills here quickly. The best waves come in the summers, with winds from the northeast direction creating perfect southern swells. The rolling waves present here are the best for beginners.
You can always see the pro in action if you go towards the Banzai pipeline; who knows, maybe you will learn a thing or two. The surfing skill has been passed down for generations here in Waikiki- a group known as “Waikiki Beach Boys” were one of the first who shared their surfer lifestyles with the visitors.
Many surf legends like Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Olympic swimmer who popularized surfing, used the Waikiki beaches as a launch point for the game. Another notable name is Kai Sallas. The place is full of surf schools, so if you want to learn something new, head to any of them.
The summertime on the Oahu island is family time; therefore, it will be crowded along with the Waikiki beach, so it is better to book a flight in advance if you wish to go there as the place will not only be filled with surfers but families as well. There are lots of hotels nearby like the Moana Surfrider, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort, etc., where you can stay and enjoy all the amazing facilities.
4. Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach goes by the glorious nickname of “Surf City USA,” which attracts everyone- from novice to seasoned surfers, everyone can be found here. On any given day, you will find dozens of surfers waiting for the perfect wave.
Huntington beach has many regions for surfing, each with its own niche. The Bolsa Chica state beach is one of the favorites for beginners within Huntington beach. It has a gentle break, mild water temperature all around the year, and a sand bottom. The gentle break allows beginners to learn how to surf on the outside and inside. The region is mainly whitewashed, meaning that waves are broken and washed out. The inside is closer to the shore, and the outside waves break slower than that of Huntington cliffs or Newport beach.
The sand bottom allows for a gentler impact on a wipeout. A wipeout is when you fall off your surfboard which will inevitably happen when you are a beginner. So, with a soft sand bottom, the chances of you getting injured become a lot less. This makes the beach safer for surfers of all ages and abilities.
The Bolsa beach is less crowded than the other beach regions, like the Huntington Beach pier, which is crowded, and its waves can also be dangerous for beginners. While in town you can always visit the International Surfing Museum.
The beach is crowded the most during summers, with the crowd slowly getting limited to the locals only as the winter comes. So if you wish to visit this beach in the summers, it’s better to book a place beforehand. Hotels like Hyatt Regency, Waterfront Beach Resort, etc., are available in the region.
5. Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area, Otter Rock, Oregon
Otter Rock is often called the Waikiki of Oregon. Hidden amongst the Pacific Northwest’s rocky cliffs, one can find a welcoming beach with playful waves and beautiful sand throughout the Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area in Otter Rock. This place is predominately a beginners surfing spot.
The water in the region is a bit chilly, but beginners can easily adjust to the 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures with a wetsuit. The place is the go-to destination for many aspiring surfers in the state of Oregon. The area is secluded enough to allow you to practice in privacy.
The best time for beginners to visit Otter Rock is the summer season, when you will find it easy to ride the waves. In the winters, the wind speed increases drastically, creating more giant waves, which can be dangerous for beginners. So, map out a proper plan before heading out.
When you reach the park, there is limited parking, so it’s better that you either get there early or take public transport. The beach even has a wash station so that you can easily wash off all that sand. The gentle groundswells from the west creep up to the shoreline, making the place ideal for surfers and families.
Hotels like Inn at Otter Crest, Alpine Chalet 6 Half Loft, etc., are present near the beach, allowing proper accommodations for families and surfers alike. If you plan to go there during the summers, make sure to pre-book as it will get crowded.