The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Ventura

by Tom Sanchez

Surfing in Ventura is a rite of passage, mainly thanks to the classy Rincon break that’s one of the best in California. Oh, and cos’ The Beach Boys came here in 62′!

Surfing in Ventura 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

  • Epic breaks like Rincon
  • Easy access from the Pacific Coast Highway
  • We think Ventura has a stunning coastline

The bad

  • Lots of boulders underfoot scares the novices away
  • Doesn’t perform too well on NW winter swells – summer is better

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 Ventura?

An introduction to surfing in Ventura

Surfing in Ventura

Ventura is yet another of the class acts on the California coast. Moving north into the shadow of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the coves and boulder-dotted beaches here do well to draw in any W and SW swells. That means the surfing in Ventura is reliable – like seriously reliable. What’s more, you’ve got all sorts of breaks to pick from, whether you’re looking for sheltered beach breaks or a day on the gnarly point at Rincon, one of Cali’s top spots.

Surfing in Ventura was thrust into the limelight back in the 1960s by the Beach Boys. Since then it’s been a major point of wavecraft pilgrimage. That’s mainly down to aforementioned Rincon, but don’t discount the state beaches to the south of town, which have some epic right-hand points and good sandbar breaks alike. Easy access to most spots from the 101, too. That’s a bonus.

A guide to Ventura surf spots

Sets in Ventura

Malibu

Malibu is the land of the right-hand point break – First Point is one of the best in the US for loggers, with some performance waves on the outside to boot. The letdown is the crowds. But you can find some good sweet spots in the area too, like County Line and Staircase. They still have the quality waves of Malibu but are never as busy. Summer and fall are the best times to surf here.

Check out our complete guide to surfing in Malibu right now

Ormond Beach

A high-tide favorite on summer S swells, Ormond Beach can get glassy on good June days. It’s all peaky beach break with loads of room to spread out, so don’t fear the locals.

Port Hueneme

Regular and reliable Port Hueneme isn’t the most epic of the surfing in Ventura but it works almost any season, picking up summer groundswells and winter storm swells from the SW and the NW alike. It’s long and sandy with a sand bottom, not to mention far enough away from the heart of the town to get any major crowd issues. Time it for high tide. Low is too dumpy.

Silver Strand

The south end of Oxnard Beach starts the surfing in Ventura strong with the trio of breaks at Silver Strand. The Jetty is a right that comes into the bay on S and W swells. It’s okay but can’t beat The Bowl. That’s a sandbar which always churns out pretty nice barrels when it’s on, but sadly suffers from bad-attitude localism. La Jenelle is the breakwater at the south end of the jetty that loves wrap-around SW swells in the summer. The best swells are directly W and an offshore wind in Fall can really up the quality at Silver Strand.

Ventura Harbor Jetty

Known locally as, simply, the New Jetty, the Ventura Harbor Jetty creates a downright epic A-frame peak just to the south of the main breakwater. SW swells and a NE wind will combine from May onwards to give the best of the action, but there’s an infamous local crowd that rarely let travelers get far. Dodge that by going real early. The right is the best, and the left is sometimes a deathwish, throwing you out onto the rocks by the jetty itself.

C Street

Some say C Street is the most epic right in the whole of California. There’s something to be said for that, especially if you’re the sort who seeks the pocket and goes with the flow. The wave here forms off a south-facing jetty, so any westerly swells will kick straight in and peel beautifully into the bay for hundreds of feet. The take off zone is right on the point. There, the wave has a touch of steepness but soon fattens into something cruisy with a neat face for turning on. Good for short boarders but uber-fun with an egg or a minimal.

Emma Wood State Beach

There are a couple of breaks on offer at this long beach to the north of C Street. The Ventura Overhead is the best of the bunch. It’s a reef that sits about 150 yards from the shoreline. The long paddle out is rewarded with very high-quality A-frame wedges, but keep the buoys on the forecast because it’s big swells only. Further inside the bay at Emma Wood State Beach is the spot known as Mushpots. That’s a cracking beginner wave that reminds us a lot of a camel Canggu – short, small and crumbly.

Solimar

Reef lovers are sure to love the surfing in Ventura, mainly because of this quality break under the Pacific Coast Highway. It has an uncanny ability to stay glassy throughout the whole year, and can hold up to 8 foot of strong swell. The take off zones offer a challenge on bigger days but it’s a true intermediate’s wave if you ask us, especially on fall and summer days when the rights on the inside section of the reef come alive.

Pitas Point

Pitas Point is a shoulder machine on strong W swells. Among the five-star surfing in Ventura, it’s true California quality. You do have to pick the right starting zone. Outsides is a harder performance wave that’s a doozy for short boarders who love to rip. Insides is a mellow mushburger that’s perfect for the Cali loggers. Holds amazingly up to 12 foot.

Faria Beach

Crumbly, forgiving waves carry on over the cobblestones and sand north of epic Pitas Point. They’re good for beginners chasing the less-busy surfing in Ventura, but also fun ankle burners when the tide’s on the push. Anything larger than 4 foot is in danger of becoming pure slop.

Hobson County Park

A stretch of waves that are only mediocre because they are in Ventura. Anywhere else and they’d be the main action. The north part of the beach can cook up long rights. The middle sometimes gets good A-frames with better lifts off the peak. Summer south swells work best. The main thing we like is that there’s usually a wave to suit multiple levels going on at Hobson County Park.

Mussel Shoals

Mussel Shoals is also known locally as Little Rincon, which should be a clue as to just how awesome it is. Big winter swells with an element of west in the compass can really get it cooking. They’ll wrap into the bay after crashing into the headland to give sectiony rights that often get hollow and glassy. It’s a fast wave which won’t mind dumping you out on the rocks at the end, so be careful to pull out when it’s right.

La Conchita

With the most famous spot for surfing in Ventura (Rincon Point) within eyeshot, don’t expect to be along at La Conchita beach. It’s decent stuff, all formed off the sandbanks. Summer swells from the south reign supreme and usually bring spells of glassy conditions. At its best around 5 foot.

Rincon

The legend of Rincon won’t disappoint. Like the mirror opposite of Ulu’s, this one cooks up sets of flawless rights that roll into the bay off a single point. They’re great on any swells above 3 foot but really go when it’s westerly and 8-10 foot. That cues the hollowness, offering pits and barrels galore. There’s an inside section that’s usually for the longboarders but can also link up to the starting point to offer uber-long rides. That’s not usually the case. Usually the wave is sectioned into two or three take off points. Always busy.

Carpinteria

Carpinteria heralds the beginning of the Santa Barbara surf territory with a spot called Tar Pits. It’s a whole bay filled with peaky A-frames that’s really only surfable on a mid tide. High tide has rips crossing the bay that make it hell to stay in position and the backwash will play havoc with the shape of the sets. Low tide is too shallow and can be dangerous. Westerly swells work well here, which means fall usually tops the lot.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is famed as another of California’s surf hubs. Only, the whole town sits in a really annoying swell shadow that turns off the taps all summer long. That leaves winter to work its magic, which it does by activating some of the finest right-hand points (El Capitan among them) in this part of the Golden State. Oh, and it’s a simply GORGEOUS town with loads of Spanish history.

Check out our complete guide to surfing in Santa Barbara right now!

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

WETSUITS (Men):

  • SUMMER: XCEL Comp 2mm Short Sleeve Springsuit | A high-performance spring suit for men that has the Channel Flex tech we LOVE from Xcel. Perfect for longer sunset and sunrise sessions in SoCal between June and August. 
  • SPRING/FALL: Men’s Xcel Comp 3/2  FA19 | A solid 3/2 to carry you through the Cali shoulder seasons, the Comp is one of our forever favs. It’s got Plush Thermolite insulation and is super stretchy. 
  • WINTER: Vissla 7 Seas 4​/3 Chest Zip Wetsuit | The 7 Seas is one of the top all-rounders. We like it for SoCal because the 4/3 feels like a 3/2 and you often don’t need to go the whole hog here. Solid and versatile suit for whatever San Clemente can muster in winter. 

WETSUITS (Women)

  • SUMMER: Rip Curl 2mm Dawn Patrol Long Sleeve Springsuit | 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. This is corker for the ladies – it’s got the E5 neoprene (warm and flexy) along with blind-stitched seams. 
  • SPRING/FALL: Sisstrevolution 3​/2 7 Seas Print Back Zip Wetsuit | Sisstrevolution are making some awesome suits right now, and this 7 Seas is no different. Good tech and looks fantastic too. 

BOARDS:

  • LibTech Nude Bowl | The dream of a one-trick quiver, this versatile board offers some extra volume but also a real party on the rails. For us, there’s not much that can beat it at the intermediate level. 

SUNSCREEN: Salt & Stone SPF 30 Lip Balm | Super important stuff – take this to SoCal and reapply like every 20 minutes. Summer surfing here can burn!

Where to stay when surfing in Ventura

We’ve slung together this selection of the top hotels for surfing in Ventura, with an eye on budget, style and location…

Waypoint Ventura ($$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Waypoint Ventura is a stay with a difference. Not a motel, not a hotel, but rather a collection of vintage Airstream caravans all parked in a row. You’ll get to stay in a piece of true Americana history here. The place is in downtown Ventura, too, so access to the breaks to the north and south should be easy with a car.

Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach ($$$)

The Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach is hands down the most luxurious hotel in Ventura. If you’re surfing on your honeymoon, you might want to consider this pool-ready resort with sprawling suites and a beachfront location.

Amanzi Hotel ($-$$)

The 2-star Amanzi Hotel is well located in the heart of Ventura. It’s a no-frills but well-rated hotel. The suites are modern and spacious and there’s a medium-sized outdoor pool for those cooling off sessions when you’re not in the salt water.

When to surf in Ventura?

Summer and the fall are the best times of all to go surfing in Ventura. They bring up the main southerly swell systems, which is a gift for many of the spots that thread down from the Santa Ynez. More specifically…

Winter Swells in Ventura

Summer (June-August)

Glassy days are plentiful on the Ventura surf breaks past June. That’s when the southerly swell channels properly kick into action and you get neat sets with wide periods rolling up to Silver Strand and C-Street. The lack of wind helps matters. The crowds don’t – you’ll hardly ever be alone in the water here.

Fall (September-October)

Fall is just the same as summer – AKA epic. However, there are moments when surfing in Ventura is even better past September. The reason? Mainly it’s down to the regular offshore winds that flow in from the east by morning. Get up early to catch them, and match it with a W swell to see Rincon firing at its best. Lovely stuff.

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 brings more of an element of north-west swell into the mix for Ventura. That’s okay, but not ideal. Many of the breaks will suffer. Thankfully Rincon isn’t one of em’, though you will need to deal with sections closing out as you try to string the barrel with the shoulder there. Cold water is the enemy, so pack your 4/3 at least!

Spring (March-May)

Another shoulder season but with lots of rain. Sadly, that can up the pollution in the water around key spots in Ventura, so it’s not the best time to paddle out. Some days will be epic but you can never see them coming. Better to hold off until June to plan that epic road trip surfing in Ventura if you ask us!

Surf shops in Ventura

Ventura is surfing territory extraordinaire for the West Coast. You won’t go wanting for surf shops in these parts…

Ventura Surf Shop

Behind a sticker-covered doorway on the 101, Ventura Surf Shop offers all sorts of gear. The board rack is particularly excellent, with vintage models in tie dye stacked next to the latest Rusty carver.

Wave Front Surf Shop

With the waves at the south end of Emma Wood State Beach still in earshot, the Wave Front Surf Shop served up a hefty medley of boards both long and short. It’s a pretty cavernous, warehouse-style place with everything from loggers to shorties and fins aplenty.

Where to eat and drink in Ventura?

Ventura is a cracking spot to sample the hearty dining style of coastal California. We’ve got our eye on a few casual cafe and diner spots that we think every passing-through surfer should try…

Bagelicious Café Ventura

Okay, so it’s a little back inland from the best surfing in Ventura, but beeeeejeeezus the bagels here are stunning. There’s so much variety, from caper-topped cream cheese to radish on smoked salmon, it’s a hella’ range of lovely breads. Maybe you can tell but we’re bagel fanatics?

Harbor Cove Cafe

Cruising the 101 to find the breaks of Oxnard State Beach Park? Don’t miss a pull-in brunch at the Harbor Cove Cafe. It’s bathed in the breezes of the Pacific, offering a menu of toasties, omlettes, seafood fries, and other West Coast staples. The view of the boats is also pretty darn nice.


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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