How to choose the right beginner surf beach
When it comes to learning how to surf, picking the right spot is as important as putting sunscreen on or strapping your board to your ankle. Pick the wrong spot, and you are already hindering your session and setting yourself up to fail.
Here are five factors to consider when choosing a good beginner surfing spot.
- Know what the swell is doing. 2 -3 foot is perfect for beginners, 5 foot or bigger is not! One thing beginners don’t realize is that some beaches can be bigger or smaller than others nearby, depending on how protected the beach is, even on the same day. Do your research.
- Some spots can be better than others to surf when the tide is at a specific depth. Some places only work on one tide or another.
- Crowd is a huge factor to your session. You don’t want to go to a competitive break at a competitive time because you are not going to get waves. You also don’t want to go to a beach with too many beginners because tons of newbies on top of each other means accidents and injuries. Try surfing at off hours. Most beaches have a popular times to surf. If it is too crowded in the am, try noon. If it has a sunset after-work crowd, try 3pm and wrap up your session when the local crowd is just paddling out.
- You’re looking for a place to go without tons of rocks, urchins or other hazards. It’s just not worth it at this stage in your surfing.
- Double check that the waves are easy and the local crowd is friendly. Wait for someone getting out of the surf and introduce yourself. Tell him or her that you are relatively new and you want to stay out of the way if the waves are pumping. On the other hand if it’s good day for beginners, maybe he or she can point out the best spots on the beach.
Of course any beach on the right day can have dangerous waves so it is always important to check the surf forecast. You can do so on multiple sites online: Surfline, magic seaweed, there are plenty.
As Onewavesurf is based in SoCal, we are going to list some beginner beaches and explain the qualities of a few in LA area.
Manhattan Beach- This beach can be great for people starting out on their first day, all the way from total beginners to those who are dropping in on waves for the first time. Low tide is perfect here for long white water rides, and the higher tide is great for people trying to catch softer, unbroken waves. In the summer this beach always has something to surf, but in the winter it can get gnarly. If the waves get big or heavy there are other spots. Crowds can be a factor too, but if you walk north or south from the main parking lots, you can often find yourself a much less populated area.
Venice Beach- Venice has different areas for different talented surfers, and different surfers at different stages of their learning curve. The breakwater and pier being a spot that should only be visited by people who completely understand the rules of Surfing and know how to handle themselves safely in a crowd. Just south of the pier can be almost as good, and you will find yourself situated among many other beginners. If there is a very big swell in the water, the very south end, by the marina jetty, is more protected and is recommended for beginners.
Sunset Beach- This is not a spot to go on your first day. But once you get to the point that you are tired of going straight in the white water and are ready to start riding the wave parallel to the beach, this place is perfect for you. You will notice that you will not be able to go straight due to the rocks, so learning how to bottom turn is essential. The spot only works on low tides. Keep in mind Sunset is usually smaller than other breaks around, so it is also a great place to visit when Venice and Manhattan Beach are too big. Be mindful of the rocks, the crowd is very easy going, but the closer you move to the top of the point – Gladstone’s – the more competitive things become. Best to stay south by the beachy area. At least until you are ready to handle a talented crowd. This can be the perfect place for you to catch a “real wave” for the first time in your life.
Bolaa Chica State Beach – It’s a bit outside of town, but often worth the drive for beginners. When the waves are 3 foot or bigger, there are tons of long rolling peaks everywhere. A great place to try empty green waves without the danger of rocks or crowds. Parking is $15 though.
And of course there are a plethora of more spots around here, and we always recommend that you go out and adventure, just be careful of what you are getting yourself into. Always pack a smile and understand the power the ocean has. Lots of beaches can be good for beginners on the right days, and vice versa. Understand some days you may not be able to find the best place to practice your new love of wave riding. That doesn’t mean you can’t go somewhere and work on your pop ups and timing in the white water.
Good luck on finding the waves that help you get you through the learning curve. Pay attention to the patterns of the crowds and the surf forecast. Eventually you will get a good flow and knowledge of when is it best for you to paddle out.
Get out there, be safe and have fun!