Surfing Del Mar is another bonus this coastal gem offers... not only some great beach breaks at each of the numbered streets in the flats, but excellent reef breaks, starting at 15th St. south.
Due to limited parking in the city, the breaks rarely get too crowded. And within 20 minutes north or south, you'll find some of the best surfing in California.
From the north end of Del Mar, heading south, there are beach breaks on all the numbered streets, from 29th to 15th Streets, with 25th, 23rd & 19th seeming to break a bit better than the others most of the time.
From 15th Street, there are very good reef breaks at the ends of many of the streets, with a short climb down the sandstone bluffs to get to the water.
South of Del Mar is
one of the best left breaks in California, due to the Scripps Canyon’s deep water swells suddenly hitting the shallow reefs on big swells. (It also happens to be notorious for nude sunbathing, but that’s a different story for another time.) Blacks Beach Site
At the north end of town there's a pretty good reef break near the river mouth on north west swells, appropriately called The Rivermouth.
Continuing north of Del Mar, Solana Beach has a couple of excellent breaks: Tabletop and Seaside Reef, named after the Seaside Trailer Park, which was there for years before the State purchased the land for a State Park.
Further north in Cardiff is George’s (named after George’s Restaurant, which was like an old diner, where the Chart House is now. Near George’s, the Hansen brothers started the famous Hansen Surfboards in the 60’s).
Beyond George’s is Cardiff Reef, a great year-round break, especially popular with longboarders. Continuing north is San Elijo State Park campground, and at the north end of the park is Pipes, named after - yup,that's right - the drainage pipes on the side of the bluffs.
Lastly, just past Pipes, is Swami’s, a famous right point break, where I rode the biggest wave of my life during a huge winter swell in 1981. It was one of those experiences I will never forget.
Swami's is named after the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF)temple there on the point, founded by Indian Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. The grounds at SRF have a spectacular botanical garden that is open to visitors. Click
here for more information.
Surf report - check here for the latest report - the streaming cam is for members only.
For a very cool real-time view of what swells are hitting, check out UCSD's Scripps Institute coastal model here
Even before I wake, I can tell something’s changed. First thing I notice before I open my eyes is the sound of the surf. It’s loud, with some of the waves cracking like rifle shots. I can feel the air is much drier, the normal coastal humidity is gone (which is why the sound of the waves breaking is so loud and clear.) Without looking, I know the wind is blowing offshore, whipping through the San Dieguito River coastal canyon from the desert out to sea. The Santa Ana winds are here. While most of the state fears these ‘devil winds’ because of the real danger of the wildfires they fan, surfers rejoice because the offshore winds make the waves near perfect.
I trot over to the beach at 25th St. to see how big the waves are and I notice the corduroy lines out to sea. A South swell! As I get closer, I see the rainbows formed from the tops of the breaking waves being blown off from the strong offshore wind. Unlike most of the year, as the waves form, they usually have the prevailing Northwesterly winds pushing them from behind towards shore, and helping them crumble over as they break. However when the Santa Ana winds come, they hit the breaking waves head-on, pushing them straight up. The effect is a near perfect wave, which holds up clean and cylindrical before it breaks, the collapsing cylinder, or tube, making the loud ‘rifle shot’ sound as it closes on itself. For a surfer, it means the chance to ride the wave longer, on a clean face, and the possibility of getting ‘tubed’ or tucking inside the face of the wave as it throws over and covers up the surfer as she streaks along the wave face.
South swells create the “lefts” (as you face the beach, you take off going to your left) and for me, a ‘regular foot’, that means going ‘backside’, or my back is to the breaking wave and I face the shore as I ride. I love the Santa Ana lefts, and the bigger, the better. The larger waves have more of a face to work and are usually faster. I run back to the house, get into my wetsuit, grab my 9’4” Walden longboard and trot back to the beach, race into the surf, hop onto the board prone, and paddle hard to get out to the lineup. I feel the wind pushing me out, and pushing the water with me as well. I get through the impact zone, and as I climb over a 6 foot breaking wave, the wind helps me over as it blows the top off the wave into a rainbow of spray droplets around me. I scan the horizon for the next wave and see a set starting south at 20th street. As it approaches me, I paddle to where I think the peak will be, wait, and just as it comes, I spin the board around and paddle hard to catch it. The strong wind is now my enemy as it is blowing in my face, slowing down my efforts to catch this big one. One extra burst of paddling, and I feel the board now moving on its own. I jump to a squat and turn the board into the rising face. Just as it is about to break, the wind, now my friend again, holds up the wave into a perfect barrel, and as I scream along the wave face for about 50 yards, it covers me for about 5 seconds before it catches me and throws me ‘over the falls’. Yes!!! Awoooh!!! I’m hooting with joy as I come up for air, slide back on my board and go out again for more. It doesn’t get any better than this! For the next two hours, this is the bliss of surfing Del Mar beach breaks on a South swell with the Santa Ana winds!