The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Laguna

by Tom Sanchez

Surfing in Laguna might not be the five-star experience of San Clemente but it’s still awesome, with Thalia and Brooks Street offering some gnarly shoulders in one darn stylish beach town.

Surfing in Laguna Beach at a glance

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The good

  • Very pretty area – the beaches are positively Mediterranean!
  • Great left-hand points
  • Longboarders like it

The bad

  • Laguna is in a bit of a swell shadow
  • Rocky hazards

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 Laguna Beach?

An introduction to Laguna Beach surf

Surfing in Laguna

We won’t lie: Surfing in Laguna Beach isn’t what most people come here for. This is the town made famous by The OC, where stunning cliff top villas creep over the Californian bluffs to meet palm-speckled coves and bikini bodies on the sand. It’s an R&R haven for sun seekers and stylos; like the mirror image of Malibu only on the south side of LA.

Enough of all that, though, because there is surfing in Laguna. The best waves roll into the rocky coves of Brooks Street and Thalia Street to give beefy right handers that can entertain even the Kelly Slaters in the lineup on their day. The issue is that those days are few and far between. Laguna Beach suffers from over protection, with a headland to the south that stops the summer swells, an island to the west which interrupts the fall and spring swells, and the LA beaches that catch the NW winter swells.

Simply: When things come through, it’s heaven, only expect a bit of a waiting game.

A guide to Laguna Beach surf spots

You’ll need to know where to look for the waves when you’re surfing in Laguna Beach, especially as this isn’t the most reliable spot on the SoCal coast. Here’s a guide to the top spots, starting with the town center and then heading north…

Laguna Beach surf

Agate Street

A westerly swell on this southwest-facing shoreline can bring in some pretty nice sets. It breaks on the reef that runs to the south, folding into the bay going left over the patches of rock. Access is down the metal stairs off Ocean Way.

Brooks Street

Brooks Street is the most iconic wave in the city of Laguna Beach. There’s a couple of sections to know about. Start at the inner reef, or First Reef. It’s a shaprish left on a strong winter swell from the NW, but works in the summer on W swells too. Remember it’s a challenging wave and never for beginners, with virtually consistent boils reminding just how shallow the rocks come in. The outer reef (known as the Second Reef) is what puts Laguna Beach on the surf map of the OC. It’s a rippable, big shouldered reef break that can roll right into the middle of the bay to offer rides up to 100 meters. It reminds us of Mundaka when it’s firing. You won’t be alone in the line up when it’s on.

Rockpile

Rockpile is the right at the top end of Laguna Beach. It’s a gnarly take off zone where boils are everywhere. The local crew is just as dangerous. The reward for braving both is a rippable right shoulder with steep drop ins and barrels that get stunning on offshore days in fall.

Morro

Morro is the shy beast of Laguna. It won’t get going until you get a perfect SW angle in the swell. In needs some moxie in it, too. Then, the sets wrap into the headland and suck up into a hollow shape that will desperately try to draw you inside as it closes. Ride it fast and you’ll shoot out across the beachfront like a rocket. Super fun when you time it right. Some rocks.

Newport Beach

The Wedge is probably the most famous spot in Newport Beach. But don’t come here for that. It’s a beast of a wave that’s really only for the expeditionaries among us looking to try something totally new. Better peaks are at 56th street and the beginner wave at 36th Street.

We’ve got a complete guide to surfing in Newport Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is the Surf City USA. Yep – it’s one of the meccas for surfing in SoCal. Major comps take place around the pier each year, but there are also long stretches of beach break that are fantastic for beginners and intermedaites.

Read our complete guide to surfing in Huntington 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 Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach might have a reputation for pricey hotels, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come surfing here. It just means you can expect a little bit of pampering when you hit the water. Let’s a take a look at some of the top surf hotels in the town…

Surf and Sand Resort ($$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Surf and Sand Resort is a four-star resort that’s precisely the sort of thing you’d expect of chic Laguna Beach. It’s piece de resistance is the location, which puts you right above the splashing waves of the Pacific. Try to score one of the sea-view rooms because they have simply awesome sunset shows. The pool is also a godsend after long morning on the surf. Talk about relaxation!

Villa Roma ($$-$$$)

You simply cannot get closer to the waves than Villa Roma. It’s literally steps off the beachfront and has a gorgeous verandah overlooking the sands. The interior is A-lister chic with some very nice arty touches. It’s a standalone property so you can expect extra privacy. Good for groups of up to four surfers at once.

Hotel Joaquin ($$-$$$)

Hotel Joaquin takes you into the beating heart of Laguna Beach. It’s a charming, Scandi-cool establishment with touches of vibrant West-Coast art. There’s also a swimming pool in a lush garden, and it’s a quieter location than being right on the Laguna beachfront.

When to surf in Laguna Beach

Because Laguna is protected by the Rancho Palos Verdes to the north, Santa Catalina Island to the west and Dana Point to the south, there’s more shelter here than virtually anywhere in SoCal. That’s good and bad news, but mainly bad. It means you need lots of power for sets to come through and will have to wait for specific swell windows to get cooking on the compass before you can guarantee some action. We’d say summer is the peak season for surfing in Laguna Beach, but mainly because the SW and S channels are the most likely in these parts. The downside is that there’s not the same energy in S swells as in N, but it’s swings and roundabouts. Fall is also pretty consistent.

Steps down to a beach in Laguna

Summer (June-August)

The good vibes roll in Laguna Beach come the summer. Thankfully, the dominant SW swell works too, so it’s a good time to pick up consistent waves. Breaks like Morro and the Rockpile love this time of year, though there will be waiting to be done in between large pulses. Offshore winds are best in the morning, and you’ll want to be out early to avoid the crowds. A shorty will see you through the whole season, but have the 3/2 at hand for upwelling moments that can cool the Pacific overnight.

Fall (September-October)

As the swells move N from the dominant summer SW channel, there’s some extra action in the breaks that like a little bit of west in the compass direction. So, you’re more likely to catch the main Brooks Street and Thalia Street waves working in the fall, though the reef breaks further north will be more fickle. Where the autumn excels is in offshore winds and in crowds – they are just a fraction of what they are in August in September.

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)

The north swells that winter bring aren’t the best for surfing in Laguna Beach. We’d say cruise a little down the Coast Highway to Encinitas or Carlsbad, where you will get consistent beaches that have lots of punch to them.

Spring (March-May)

The spring is a good time to surf in Laguna Beach if you can catch a day with some westerly element to the swell direction. Those are optimum for the world-class lefts of Thalia but also help the likes of Morro, which SW elements with enough force to wrap around. The main issue with spring is onshore wind directions, which can mush the whole of Laguna into nothing when it’s too strong.

Surf shops in Laguna Beach

Where Laguna Beach excels is in boutique and bespoke surf shops that do things a little differently. We won’t lie, gear can get expensive here – but it’s not your usual pop-out stuff.

Hobie Surf Shop

Less tech, more style, go to Hobie Surf Shop for you SoCal surf threads. They also stock other outdoors equipment, from tents to camping seats. Basically it’s a great place that we always love to drop into.

Thalia Surf Shop

Lovely spot, locally owned, and always friendly. These guys have a nice array of brands you don’t catch too often on the West Coast – we’re talking the likes of Captain Fin Co. and Tyler Warren shaped shorties. The range of boards is super fun. Rentals are available (rates are usually around $45 for the day with wetsuit and the rest).

Where to eat and drink in Laguna Beach

Prepare for some cool dining spots and chic eats in upscale Laguna Beach.

The Cliff

A hearty Californian coast cafe-diner with all the staples you can expect of this part of the Golden State. What do we mean by that? How about bacon waffles for breakfast and spicy Cali-style tacos and nachos for lunch?

Urth Caffe Laguna Beach

A classic Laguna drop-in coffee shop with barista-made brews and artisan bakes. The interior is breezy and chilled and it’s right there above Main Beach if you happen to be just coming in from your surf sesh.


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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