San Clemente is Home to Great Surf!
Hands down! This south orange county surf town is known for it’s world renown surf spots and having the best climate in the world. Here are the reasons why my hometown San Clemente is home to great surf.
Located in one of the most ideal locations between San Diego and Los Angeles, San Clemente offers year-round surf. Whether it’s famous spots like San Onofre, Trestles or Doheny or local secret spots, there is always a wave to be found in San Clemente.
The trick is knowing where to look. This page will answer some of the most common questions surfers have about our beaches.
Typical Ocean Conditions
San Clemente is known for mild, comfortable weather.
Throughout most of the year, surfers wear wetsuits in San Clemente. Water temperatures can range from the low 50’s in the winter to as high as 75 in the summer. Much of the year, surfers wear full wetsuits. During summer months, people may opt for a spring suit or swimsuit.
Morning sea surface conditions are generally smooth and glassy. Expect an onshore breeze to begin to pick up by noon and continue through the afternoon and evening.
Swell conditions in San Clemente vary from day to day and from season to season. Waves in the San Clemente can range from flat to 2X (double) overhead, depending upon the strength, location, and duration of the storm that created the swell.
During summer months, the area has excellent exposure to swells that come from the southerly/southwesterly direction. These swells originate either from large cyclones in the southern hemisphere or from seasonal hurricanes off the coast of Mexico.
During winter months, when swells originate from northern-latitude storms, the San Clemente area often receives less surf than other areas along the California coast. This is due to the fact that San Clemente beaches face a southerly direction, and sit in the shadow of Catalina Island.
San Clemente’s Breaks
Since the 1930’s San Onofre has been one of the most well-enjoyed surfing beaches in California. Each day, families drive from all directions to visit “San-O” and ride the gentle surf that the area has to offer. San-O has some of the better longboard surf on the coast, and is great for beginning surfers. Both in and out of the water, you will find the most friendly, relaxed atmosphere known to the surfing world. Each day during the summer and on weekends throughout the year, the parking lot fills up and a line forms at the entrance, so you my want to arrive early.
Nearly one million visitors on an annual basis visiting San Clemente State Beaches including San Onofre. Nearly half are day use visitors, of which two thirds are local community residents. If you want to get waves here… get there early.
To the south of San Clemente is an area known to the surfing world as “Trestles”. The handful of surf breaks that make up Trestles offer some of the best surf in the region. The waves can be “world class” but intense crowds are the norm and require extreme patience. The only way to get to the beach at Trestles is a 1-mile+ walk down the trail. If you do not know the way, just park in the lot next to Carl’s Jr, just east off the Christianitos Fwy exit, and follow all of the people carrying surfboards toward the beach. They are all headed to the same place you are.
SAN CLEMENTE STATE BEACH
Just to the south of Calafia Beach Park is San Clemente State Beach. Although fickle, quality surf can be found when the conditions are just right. Shallow sandbars can produce hollow, shifting peaks, although more often than not you will find closed-out conditions.
Like San Clemente State Beach, Calafia Beach can offer some great waves when the conditions are right. Like most of the beach-breaks in town, if the wind is blowing onshore, forget about it. The surf at Calafia is very tide-sensitive. Convenient parking is available in the lot in front of the beach.
T-Street is probably the most popular surf break within the City of San Clemente. One of the most consistent breaks around, you can almost always find a wave to ride at T-Street. A nearshore reef helps waves break with better shape than most of the beachbreaks in town. During periods of smaller surf and higher tides, waves take shape on the outer reef before breaking on the shallow inside sandbar. During periods of larger surf, the reef forms a peak that breaks all the way into shore. The quality of the rights & lefts off the reef depend greatly on swell direction and size. During summer months, surfing is allowed only during the morning and evening hours.
THE PIER SOUTH SIDE
The south side of the San Clemente Pier, a popular beach for swimming and body boarding, is closed to surfing during summer months. Surf condition are similar to the north side of the pier, although the south side is typically more closed-out. During southerly swell, beware of the strong current running toward the pier. It is responsible for many lifeguard rescues each year as unsuspecting swimmers are swept toward the barnacle-covered pilings.
THE PIER-NORTH SIDE
The North side of the San Clemente Pier is another popular surf break. Although large swells often produce closed-out conditions, you’ll find someone surfing the pier nearly ever daylight hour of the year. This is probably due to convenient access from the large public parking lot at the bottom of Avenida Del Mar. Surf conditions range from terrible to excellent depending on the size and “peakiness” of the swell. The beach break waves at the pier also vary with tide and wind fluctuations. While the pier blows-out on a westerly wind, the pier itself can sometimes offer protection from a south-east wind.
Just south of North Beach lies “204”. Here, swells refract over offshore reefs before breaking on shallow sandbars. For easy access, park in the lot at North Beach and walk south until you find the right peak. The surf can vary greatly with different swell directions and constantly changing sandbars.
At the north end of town, where Avenida Pico meets the Pacific Ocean, lies “North Beach”. North Beach is a popular family beach for swimming and body boarding. Parking is plentiful in the lot adjacent to the beach, and there are restroom facilities on the beach. Grab a tasty lunch at North Beach Burger, the snack concession that opens during summer months.
San Clemente is home to great surf and surfers. You can also get a list of San Clemente beaches in my local favorites page.
See you at the beach!