The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Long Beach

by Tom Sanchez

Surfing in Long Beach hasn’t been the same since the 1930s, when the Army Corps built the breakwater. There are still some secret spot, though…

Long Beach surf at a glance

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The good

  • Cool town close to loads of awesome things
  • Decent pier break on Seal Beach

The bad

  • A breakwater that kills swells
  • Limited spots

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 Long Beach?

An introduction to surfing in Long Beach

Surfing in Long Beach

Long Beach sits at the end of an impressive run of surf towns that read like something out of a dream bucket-list tour of south Cali, going from Encinitas through to Surf City in Huntington Beach. You could be forgiven for thinking that this one was made of the same stuff. Sadly…it ain’t. At least, it ain’t any longer.

There was a time when it was compared with Hawaii, but then came the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the construction of the Long Beach Breakwater. It completely barred the bay to the south and cut off any prevailing swell. NW and W swells already found it tricky to get down to Long Beach thanks to the Palos Verdes headland. The water was pancake flat and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

There have been recent stories of Long Beach getting its waves back, as plans to ditch the breakwater gather speed. Watch that space. In the meantime, you can make do with the meagre SW swells that penetrate the eastern end of Long Beach near 64th street, get to Seal Beach, or travel down to the spots on the north end of Huntington.

A guide to Long Beach surf spots

Seal Beach, Long Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is awesome for surfing. Yes, there’s always a crowd at the pier. But there’s a reason for that. The pier is WSL qualifier pedigree. It’s a bowly wave with an inviting open face that just asks to be town to pieces. Further north up the beach and you can find the more welcoming practice playground of Bolsa Chica.

Huntington Beach is a surf mecca – check our full guide for the town right now!

Surfside

The eastern end of the Surfside Jetty enjoys big W swells whenever they range over the bay, usually in the winter. It’s a big shoulder with a takeoff point that’s just inside from the harbour wall. Then you get onto a long right that you’ll need to keep watch on – it’s section and never straight and horrible if you get caught on the inside. Good surfers only please.

13th Street

It’s not exactly in Long Beach, but the 13th Street break on Seal Beach is the best in the area. It’s a slabby wave that’s got some serious power in the W winter swells. Sucky and punchy, it’ll form into a wedgie A-frame with a high drop in and a smaller shoulder. The rights are more forgiving but the left’s can be hollow. Most of the time its bodyboarders only.

Seal Beach

The pier breaks at Seal Beach are alright. They suffer from heavy backwash on high tide and never seem to hold up quite so well as you think they will People always seem to come to surf it, like their hoping it will magically turn into Huntington overnight. Not gonna’ happen. It’s not awful, but it’s a whitewash fest and pretty menacing on anything above 5.5 foot. Stingrays and pollution are both issues.

72nd Place

Right at the east end of the Long Beach seafront is the 72nd Place jetty. It’s a fickle wave that needs loads in the SW compass direction to start working. When it’s a go, it’s mainly for the longboarders with a cruisy pocket that walls up quite steep before breaking right onto the shore.

64th Place

The last break left in Long Beach that doesn’t get too much interference from the breakwater to no longer exist is 64th Place. It’s still not a reliable prospect. Longboarders and minimals come when the S swells are at their height in August, but the wave is hardly worth it if you’re just traveling through. Keep going to Bolsa Chica or Huntington!

LA

California doesn’t turn off the swell taps as you move north from Long Beach. On the contrary. That’s where the coast opens into the points and beach breaks of Los Angeles, with legendary Malibu beckoning beyond. Amazing options lie there folks.

Check out our complete guide to surfing in Los Angeles 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 Long Beach

It’s a good idea to stay further east from the center of Long Beach if you want to surf. That’s where the swells can reach past the breakwater. We’ve suggested a few of those places, along with an option that’s got some luxury in the heart of the city.

The Belmont Shore Inn ($$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

We love this Long Beach boutique. It’s small scale and quirky, with in-room showers dressed in retro metro tiles and a distinct feel of a West Coast surfer lodge about it. More to the point, The Belmont Shore Inn sits on the east end of Long Beach, way closer to where the swells can sneak around the breakwater.

Ocean-View Oasis with Rooftop Deck – Steps to Beach home ($$)

Seal Beach has some of the best surfing in Long Beach, which is why the Ocean-View Oasis with Rooftop Deck is a prime place to bed down. The pad is a few blocks from the breaks but is also lovely in itself, with, just as the name implies, a sun-drenched terrace that has some fantastic views.

Hotel Maya – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel ($$$)

Long Beach might not have the rustic surf shacks of other Californian surf towns on this stretch of coast. But it’s a good opportunity to crank up the luxury for a few days. The Hotel Maya – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel offers just that: Luxury. The pool is huge and peppered with sunbeds. The location is right behind the sand. The rooms are modern and sleek.

When to surf in Long Beach

The ONLY swells that work in Long Beach itself are strong southwesterlies. That means summer is the time to come, because winter directions are typically in the N-W channels. Summer also has offshore winds or no winds, which are needed as onshores will blowout the fickle waves on Seal Beach. Winter and fall surfers might want to drive south to Huntington, where something’s ALWAYS working.

A shot of Long Beach

Summer (June-August)

The summer brings the bulk of the southerly and south-westerly swell directions. That makes it the best time of all for surfing in Long Beach. Just remember that the breakwater has a huge effect on the incoming sets. So much so that you basically can’t catch a thing until you travel as far east as Seal Beach. Offshore winds are another gift. Water temps sometimes allow for rash vests and boardies, but most stick to the 3/2.

Fall (September-October)

There’s decent surfing in Long Beach n the fall, but only if you’re willing to travel. Spots like Bolsa Chica are the standout options, with their beach breaks that love SW swells left over from August and July. The main reason fall is a doozy, though? The Santa Ana offshores. Still, we would hardly waste too much time here. There are superior surf spots south, in San Clemente and Encinitas that love those autumn days.

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 can be relied upon to fire up the more southerly breaks in Huntington Beach. However, the combo of the breakwater and the south-facing nature of the town mean that surfing in Long Beach is a hard ask after November. Freak storm systems can get it pumping, but mainly it’s a no go. Sorry.

Spring (March-May)

April is actually one of the more consistent months for surfing in Long Beach. There are regular S and SW sets that will bring in good power to the protected pier breaks in Seal Beach. Bolsa Chica and Huntington Beach are also working fine. Sadly, it’ll be a waiting game inside the Long Beach bay, where the onshores will need to quieten and the swells will need to pick up for anything rideable to come.

Surf shops in Long Beach

Long Beach won’t leave you go hungry when it comes to surf shops. It won’t have the same varied array as in, say, Malibu. But there’s still lots to get through…

Alternative Surf Bodyboard Shop

The Alternative Surf Bodyboard Shop is a foamer’s dream. They’ll kit you out with the best tray for sliding on those gnarly Long Beach waves and have you frothing in time for the next incoming swell. Leashes, booties, and other surftech is also available.

Seams Boutique

Small but knowledgeable, the selection of boards at Seams Boutique ticks pretty much any box. As with the clothes, the focus is on stylish, bespoke creations and shaped boards. We LOVE the Jungle fish 5’6 they had in stock last year. Oh and that Christenson Flat Head is something beautiful for the loggers.

Where to eat and drink in Long Beach

There never going to be a shortage of eats in Long Beach. Here, we’ve picked spots near and around Seal Beach, which is where you’re most likely to be surfing.

The Hangout Restaurant & Beach Bar

The Hangout Restaurant & Beach Bar is one of Seal Beach’s classic surf taverns. Come here to join the other salty-haired folk fresh of the shorebreaks. They’re usually eating hearty Americana fare – burgers, steaks, fries. It’s good stuff to cure the dawnie rumbles.

Sweet Jill’s Bakery

Cozy local favourite Sweet Jill’s Bakery is a go-to for cinnamon rolls and muffins in the morning. The coffee is great. The smiling welcome is better :).


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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