Surfing along the Central Coast can be exceptional at certain spots, and many of them are easily accessible.
Pismo Beach offers a variety of surfing spots, though the pier is a popular spot that typically has a good break at high tide, with the best swell direction from the southwest.
Pismo Beach is usually the most consistent and shapely of all beach breaks in the county and is suitable for all ability levels. The bottom is sandy with no protruding rocks.
The pier is 1,250 feet long and is usually fully lit, allowing for night surfing. It is located in a slightly northwest swell and is not as exposed as many other sandbars in the area, making the area less windy.
The south side of the pier is usually better for surfing than the north side, and the further south you walk from the pier, the more secluded the surf tends to be. Nice rides can also come from the south and the waves tend to be best when they range from knee-high to a few feet overhead.
Pismo Beach is approximately a 10-minute drive from Cal Poly traveling south on U.S. Highway 101.
Morro Bay is another surfing location that offers a clean break along the Central Coast. Surfing is usually best on the north side of Morro Rock, the 576-foot-tall remnants of a volcano. The Rock, as locals refer to it, has been designated as a state preserve because of the endangered peregrine falcons that nest in its cliffs.
The beach faces due west; because of this, swells hit the sandbars and create a variety of different breaks. The waves tend to have more consistency and power further north.
The best-sized waves for surfing are knee-high to several feet overhead, and the best swells come from the west when the wind is coming from the east. The optimum time to surf is when the tide is medium to high. Surfing at Morro Bay is best for beginners to intermediates.
Tourists typically flock to Morro Rock and the nearby campgrounds, but the water itself is not usually crowded. Morro Bay is approximately a 15-minute drive from Cal Poly.
Cayucos is a beach town (the name means “kayak” or “canoe” in Aleutian) and during certain swells can provide adequate surfing. The town was founded in 1867 by Captain James Cass. He and his brothers built the 953-foot long pier.
The town itself is sheltered from winds that come from the north, so it is usually warmer than other local seaside towns. The pier at Cayucos also provides a nice break off the pilings.
The surf is best when the tide is high and the swells come from the southwest while the wind comes from the northeast. The cleanest wave size is waist-high to a few feet overhead, and the break is good for beginners to intermediates.
The bottom is all sand, but there are a few protruding rocks far to the south. Cayucos is less crowded than Pismo Beach and is approximately 20 to 25 minutes north of Cal Poly on California Highway 1.
Though the town of Cambria attracts its fair share of tourists, nearby Moonstone Beach is one of the more secluded Central Coast surfing locations. The best spot is on Moonstone Beach Drive near the mouth of the Santa Rosa Creek.
The waves are usually best when there is a strong swell from the west to southwest while the tide is low and the winds are from the east to northeast.
The best waves are waist-high to about two feet overhead, but when the tide is high, the conditions are not as conducive to surfing as there is typically a shore break. The bottom is sandy, but there are protruding rocks in certain areas, making this location more appropriate for intermediate surfers.
Moonstone is approximately a 30- to 40-minute drive up California Highway 1.
San Simeon is just 10 to 15 minutes north of Moonstone on California Highway 1. The coastline in this location is unpredictable and changes often. Also, parts of the beach are often closed to the public when elephant seals come ashore.
The best surfing spot is Pico Creek, found south of San Simeon. This spot has a reef break that can be nice on both big and small days.
The reef is located just in front of a creek mouth and allows for a smooth ride that peaks on the outside and often reforms on the inside. This spot is most reliable when the swell is bigger than chest-high to a few feet overhead.
The waves are best when the tide is low and there is a southern swell with wind from the northeast. The bottom is sandy with intermittent rocks, which makes this another location best suited for intermediate surfers.
Wave cameras and current surf condition reports can be found on Web sites such as Surf Line (www.surfline.com) and Wave Watch (www.wavewatch.com). Reports are typically updated throughout the day to provide accurate conditions.
San Luis Obispo Surf
Detailed San Luis Obispo surf forecast maps and the latest eyeball surf report from local surfers in the region. Near-shore swell is shown on the map together with the surf forecast rating for spots in San Luis Obispo. Find the best places to surf in offshore conditions by selecting the wind option on the forecast map. Windsurfers and kite surfers can also use this option to find more favorable cross-shore conditions in San Luis Obispo. Our local Wavefinder indicates where some of the best conditions are likely to be found in San Luis Obispo over the next 7 days. Surf photos from San Luis Obispo and reviews of the best spots and surfing conditions have been provided by local surfers.
San Luis Obispo Surf Forecast
San Luis Obispo Surf Forecast map for predicting the best wave and wind conditions across the region. For surfers, the map shows the most powerful swell tracking across near-shore open water and not the peak waves experienced by boats out at sea. Move your mouse over the ocean swell symbols or the surf breaks on the coastline to see a more detailed surf forecast including wave period and wind conditions. The forecast updates every 6 hours and most live weather reports update every hour. You can animate the San Luis Obispo Surf map or show live wind and wave conditions as reported from wavebuoys and local weather stations. Surf breaks shown along the San Luis Obispo coastline are also listed below.
San Luis Obispo Photos
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San Luis Obispo Surf Breaks
San Luis Obispo has a mixture of sand and reef breaks. It might not be top of a California surfers 'to hit' list, but can offer some decent waves if the right conditions collide. The area has few sheltered spots and is usually blown out by mid day with NW prevailing winds. A few will have a sideshore/offshore condition from a NW but most breaks will need an SSE wind which usually comes with a storm. Morro Bay faces W giving it the best of most swells which on a good swell can light up the whole beach with A-frames and fast barrels, be prepared for crowds though. Hazard Canyon on it's day is epic although is unbelievably unforgiving, almost as much as the locals can be if you turn up in numbers. Pismo Beach is one of the more popular breaks which works best on a SE wind but with an array of shops and restaurants around the pier expect some big crowds when it's working.
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Freshwater at risk on small islands
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Surfing – SLO Local Beaches
Mar 07, 2020
This day trip is the perfect opportunity for beginners to learn how to surf or for advanced surfers to hone their skills. Trip leaders will teach you the basics of surfing, including everything from paddling into a wave to duck diving.
- SLO has about 80 miles of coastline—each area having its own unique beaches and surfing experiences.
- Some of the most popular surfing spots in San Luis Obispo include Pismo Beach Pier, the Rock in Morro Bay, Cayucos Pier, Oceano, and Shell Beach.
- Because the winds pick up in the afternoon, we will be starting our trip early in the morning to get as much time in the water as possible!
- Meeting Location: One of SLO’s Local beaches
- Transportation: Personal transportation to the beach is required
- first aid kit
- easy up for shade
- surfing lessons
What to Bring
- medical insurance card
- warm clothes to change into
The Rental Center at the Cal Poly Recreation Center has all of the gear you need for your next adventure! ASI Poly Escapes trip participants receive a 50% discount with your reservation. Explore our selection online, then come down to the Rental Center to equip your trip.Learn More
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