The Ultimate Guide to Newport Beach Surf

by Tom Sanchez

Newport Beach surf holds some mega spots, from the lippy Wedge (a ferocious wave) to some epic river mouths. Let’s take a look…

Newport Beach surf at a glance

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

The good

  • The Wedge – just watching is fun!
  • Points that work well on summer S swells
  • Very cool town

The bad

  • Some pollution in the water after heavy rain
  • Localism is centered around key spots like The Wedge

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in California and surfing on the West Coast

What’s in this guide to surfing in Newport Beach?

An introduction to Newport Beach surf

Newport Beach Surf

Rich Newport Beach spreads down Balboa Boulevard south of LA. It’s a land of convertible cars and stylish boutiques, influenced by Laguna and the OC crowds that own villas in the surrounding hills. Newport Beach surf is another reason the town is on the map. This the home of the infamous Wedge, one of the world’s gnarliest breaks – or, should we say, the sacrificial altar of many a shortboard and backbone vertebrae

We’d urge you not to judge the Newport Beach surf on The Wedge alone. It’s a bit of a freak of a spot among others that are much more classically SoCal. Blackies and the Santa Ana Rivermouth are where you’ll find that, in the form of peaky beach breaks and cruisy shoulders that come of wooden piers.

Southerly swells are the holy grail in this part of Cali, mainly because the coast bends westwards to hoover up anything rolling in from the Equator. Why’s that all so exciting? It makes summer the top time to surf in Newport Beach, so crack out the 2mm and get ready to tan.

A guide to the Newport Beach surf spots

The Wedge

Laguna

There are couple of excellent surf spots in Laguna Beach on the south side of Newport Beach. They don’t offer anywhere near the same consistency as the breaks in the north of OC or in LA, but you will get to hit some lovely coves and reef points. The best of the lot is by Thalia street, but there needs to be some element of S in the swell compass for that to get cooking.

Read our complete guide to surfing in Laguna right now

Corona del Mar

The Corona Del Mar Jetty is a strange beast. Beastly SW swells are needed on a mid tide to see what it’s got. When that happens and you get a nice still day or, better yet, an offshore, you can witness a rippable right with a heavy shoulder come right onto the inside section. It’s long rides and a shortboard heaven. However, it’s hardly ever going and the crowds will descend en masse if it is.

The Wedge

The Wedge is one of the gnarliest waves in south Cali. It’s not like anything you’ve ever surfed before, because it’s formed from the reflection of oncoming south swells on the Newport Harbor groin.

When the period is just right, the first wave in the set will bounce back and match up perfectly with the next oncoming wave. The result is a lippy, wedge-like curl of water that’s unpredictable in the extreme. Don’t ever go right on The Wedge, it will churn you up and spit you out in a tumble-dryer of frothing water. Not that the left ride is much easier. Because the peak forms in an instant from the backwash of the first wave, you can never really pinpoint the right take off point. It’s always shifting and moving. The best you can hope for is a fast paddle into the steep wall and then shooting out to the left.

When the blackball flag is up, The Wedge is bodyboarders only. Local crew is to be reckoned with but they’ve earned it. Experts only.

Newport Point

You probably won’t be around to see the Newport Point start working. It’s a strange spot that hardly ever shows what it can do. What does it do? How about pipe-like barrels that shoot like rifles across the bay. Needs strong storm and hurricane swells to ignite and usually only happens once every few years.

Blackies

Not to be confused with Blacks Beach further down the California shoreline in San Diego, Blackies offers up some pretty unique tubular lefts when its working. Anything in the 180-240 degree angle works well, which means S and W swells. You need some force behind it and for the right sandbank alignment. When all that matches, there are long meetings in the green room going away from the pier and some punchy lefts towards the pier. When things are smaller, Blackies easily transforms into a mellower wave with cruisy lefts and is happy to host loggers and shortboarders alike.

36th Street

This is the most accessible wave in the Newport Beach area. When The Wedge is running amok on strong south swells between May and August, this one’s usually cooking up neat left that roll inside the bay. The reason for that is the extra protection that comes with the headland poking out to the south, meaning this part of Newport Beach faces more due west than its compadre by the jetty. South winds also bring an element of offshores here, and the local crew is pretty relaxed about travelers and kooks entering the water.

54th/56th Street

The waves squeeze in between the river jetties at this spot in north Newport Beach. It’s a skirtboarders mainstay with occasional goofy rides that are simply amazing. You’ll need to learn the ropes to spot them because there are loads of sets that lip up and close pretty fast. You’re essentially at the mercy of the sandbanks, but there’s consistency enough to make it one of the top spots in the town. S swells are best with morning offshores giving the best of the day.

Santa Ana Rivermouth

The summer south-westerlies gift the piers at the Santa Ana River Mouth with pretty steady waves. They’re often some of the hollowest in the OC, with quick but wally waves that are great for shortboarders. Wait for low tide to avoid the dumpiness. Expect crowds.

Huntington Beach

Surf City USA is a bucket-lister for road tripping surfers cruising up or down the 101. Don’t miss a pitstop here, especially if there’s a qualifying comp on for the WSL or US surf open. That will draw in some of the best shortboarders in the world. Dawnies are best at the pier, because it gets crowded. Still a surf heaven though.

Read our full guide to surfing in Huntington Beach right now

What we’d take on a south California surf trip…

WETSUITS (Men):

  • SUMMER: Rip Curl 2mm Dawn Patrol Long Sleeve Springsuit in Camo | By June and July the south swells will have brought some warmth to the SoCal waters and there’s a three-month window when you can usually get away with a shorty. The Dawn Patrol is a solid all-rounder and we love it in this camo.
  • SPRING/FALL: Quiksilver Syncro 3/2 | A solid 3/2 to carry you through the Cali shoulder seasons, the Syncro is one of our forever favs. It’s warm but also flexy, thanks to that pretty awesome StretchFlight x2 tech on the key panels.
  • WINTER: Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 4/3 with Chest Zip | A 4/3 is usually enough to carry you through the winter in SoCal. New seam taping and outrageous thermal stats make this one a great option, and not at a silly price point either. 

WETSUITS (Women)

  • SUMMER: Rip Curl 2mm Dawn Patrol Long Sleeve Springsuit | This is corker for the ladies – it’s got the E5 neoprene (warm and flexy) along with blind-stitched seams. 
  • SPRING/FALL: Rip Curl E Bomb 3/2Loving the colors on these new E Bomb summer+spring steamers. The tech and the style is perfect for the medium waters in south California. 

SUNSCREEN: Sun Bum Original Face Stick 30 SPFSuper important stuff. South California is sunny, you know. No matter the time of year, you’ll need at least a 30 SPF stick like this, and the Sun Bum is water resistant for 80 mins and completely paraben free.

Where to stay when surfing in Newport Beach

It’s important to be close to the 101 or the shoreline if you want to make the most of the Newport Beach surf. That’s where this curated selection of the top hotels for surfers comes in…

NB-115 – Newport Beach House ($$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

There’s loads to like about the strangely named NB-115 – Newport Beach House. A private rental, it’s built in the charming style of the Balboa Peninsula cottages that make this stretch of the Cali coast so lovely. Apart from being just a short walk from the breaks, it has a breezy self-catering kitchen, an open-plan lounge, and even a concreted outdoor yard for watering down the boards and wetsuits.

Doryman’s Oceanfront Inn ($-$$)

You’ll get a taste of classic West Coast hospitality at the Doryman’s Oceanfront Inn. With touches of regal Victorian style velveteen curtains, dangling chandeliers – the stay is a sort of kitschy throwback to the railroad era. Quirky and different but downright fun.

Hotel Solarena ($$$)

The uber-lux Hotel Solarena is located perfectly on Highway 1, so there’s great access to spots like San Clemente and Laguna by car if you want it. That’s not the main reason we recommend, though. We mention it mainly for the darn fantastic pool and the beachfront location – just a few steps to the paddle out on Newport Beach.

When to surf in Newport Beach

As you come up the Californian coast a little away from San Diego, the shoreline pokes out into the Pacific to meet those southerly summer swells head on. That means the months from June to August are usually prime, but there are other breaks that like NW and W swells, so expect something to be working in Newport Beach all year round.

Newport Beach from above

Summer (June-August)

Summer is the best time to hit the Newport Beach Surf. Swell from the south dominates, which means breaks like Blackies and the Santa Ana River Mouth are hitting their prime. Wind is also more likely to be easterly, so it’s regularly offshore. The only real downside is the crowds, which can get pretty unbearable. Get up early to dodge em.

Fall (September-October)

Let’s put it this way: Fall is never bad on the south California coast. Surfing in Newport Beach continues to enjoy a good whack of S-SW swell, so most of the main breaks are working fine. The crowds also dip as the US vacations end, and there’s a good latent warmth in the ocean. We’d still pack a 4/3 and booties in case of sudden upwellings, which can drop ocean temps in an instant. Generally speaking, though, it’s cracking surfing.

Did you know that surfers are three times more likely to develop melanoma than non surfers? Yikes…

A good block is totally essential!

We’ve got the complete lowdown on the best surfer’s sunscreens on the market right now, focussing on the creme-de-la-creme. AKA: Zinc-infused blocks that are easy to pack and apply.

Winter (December-February)

Winter sees most of the swell come from the NW quadrant, which isn’t brilliant for the mostly S and SW-facing beaches on the lineup of Newport Beach surf. Onshore winds might also hurt your chances of glassy SoCal riding. There’s loads of surfing, of course, but it’s not going to be the best or cleanest the region can offer.

Spring (March-May)

The months of April and May see a big change in the direction of the swells. The start of the season has plenty of N in the channel and that’s not so good for Newport Beach. May will be better, combining westerlies and easterlies that will get Blackies and 56th street started for the summer. Time it right and you’ll be rewarded but there’s a chance it will be a waiting game.

Surf shops in Newport Beach

Some names here downright famous, and there are surf shops near Balboa that have been serving the local crews for more than 50 years…

Jack’s Surfboards

This flagship surf shop in Newport Beach is now a major distributor of boards and wetsuits in the US. The deals are sometimes wallet-achingly good, so drop in if you find yourself without a ride on the SoCal coast. There’s usually plenty of staff at hand to offer advice on what fibre will match the waves that are going on.

Main Street Surf Shop

A central location helps here, especially as it means you’re just a short walk from Balboa Pier. The stock is mainly surf fashion and skimboards and footwear.

Where to eat and drink in Newport Beach

There’s no shortage of downright fantastic establishments to eat at in Newport Beach. We’ve gone and chosen a few that might be well located if you’re patrolling the coast for the top waves.

Newport Beach Corner Market Cafe

The Newport Beach Corner Market Cafe is perfectly located for surfers because it’s midway between Huntington Beach and Newport – both of which are loaded with breaks. Drop in to find quesadillas, bagels, burritos, sweet pastries, and some of the best coffee in town.

Mutt Lynch’s

The ramshackle Mexicana bazaar that is Mutt Lynch’s lays claim to some of the finest spicy food in Newport Beach. Only a short walk back from the main breaks and north of the point, it’s got that fix of jalapenos for anyone fresh of the best waves in the city.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in California and surfing on the West Coast

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