Surfing in Long Beach hasn’t been the same since the 1930s, when the Army Corps built the breakwater. There are still some secret spots, though…
An introduction to 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.
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Long Beach surf at a glance
What’s in this guide to surfing in Long Beach?
A guide to Long Beach surf spots
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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 ($$)
We love this Long Beach boutique. It’s small scale and quirky, with in-room showers dressed in retro metro tiles and a distinct feel of a West Coast surfer lodge about it. More to the point, The Belmont Shore Inn sits on the east end of Long Beach, way closer to where the swells can sneak around the breakwater.
Ocean-View Oasis with Rooftop Deck – Steps to Beach home ($$)
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.
Step-by-step guide to planning your Surfing in Long Beach trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Surfing in Long Beach…Lately, we like Omio for searching flights. It’s a nice interface and has lots of airline options. We also use Skyscanner because that sometimes offers deals that even beat going direct to the carrier!
Step two: Book your surf camp Book Surf Camps is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages on the internet right now. Then there’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check EXACTLY how close your hotel is to a surf break.
Step three: Get insuranceThis is kinda’ important. Not just for surf trips but for any trips. SafetyWing is great for nomad travelers. They offer rolling contracts that cover amateur surfing.
Step four (optional): Rent a car If you’re surf camping then you might not need wheels. If you’re not then we’ll just say this: We’ve never been on a surf trip that wasn’t improved by having our own car. Use RentalCars – they’re the best.
Step five: Enjoy!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :).