Best Santa Barbara Surf Spots

Santa Barbara is a wonderful place to surf. But if you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up an an expert-level location without the experience to surf it. Luckily, there are many Santa Barbara surf spots for every level of surfer. So don’t be afraid to get in the water and try it out!

Winter is the best season to surf Santa Barbara, thanks to the west swells breaking into the coast. The weather and water are perfect, and if you catch the swells right, you can surf for hours in great conditions.

If you’re looking to catch some waves this winter, here are some of the best Santa Barbara surf spots.


Rincon is halfway between Santa Barbara and Ventura, and its easy accessibility makes it a popular location. Don’t let its popularity scare you away, though. Because of Rincon’s structure, the waves tend to be longer, which lets more people surf at once.

Surf at Rincon is broken into three take off spots:

  • Indicator picks up the most swells because it’s so exposed. The downside is that because of its exposure, the conditions can be rougher than in other areas
  • River Mouth waves are generally shorter than the ones at Indicator. Crowds are generally the thickest here, so be warned.
  • The Cove tends to produce knee to waist high waves, but is at its best in the winter. During the winter, this is the place to be, with the best swells and longest rides.

Occasionally, if you’re very lucky, you can catch a swell that connects all three spots, and ride it from Indicator to The Cove. This happens rarely during winter, so if you’re looking for this chance, winter is your time to visit.

This is not a spot for beginners, however. If you are a beginner, there are other surf spots for you to check out.

Leadbetter Point

This is an ideal surf spot for beginners. If that’s your skill level, look no further. All kinds of beach people come to Leadbetter: standup paddlers, longboarders, sunbathers, and of course, surfers. 

The waves here are calmer and not as powerful as the beaches nearby. This makes it perfect for beginners to take their time and gain experience on easier waves before heading to more difficult Santa Barbara surf spots.

Campus Point

Campus Point offers great breaks and is one of the best spots in Santa Barbara. This is another great place for beginning surfers. Since it’s located so close to University of California Santa Barbara, there are often many students who are just learning to surf at this point.

If you’re a beginner, check out Campus Point for great waves and learn to master the sport of surfing.

El Capitan

Once you’ve mastered surfing, check out El Capitan for some of the best waves around. While it isn’t always reliable for waves, when they do break, they’re incredible. El Cap gets crowded when the waves are just right, but it’s worth the trip if you have surfing experience.

Because of the dangerous take off area, this isn’t a good idea if you’re not an advanced surfer. If you’re still learning, stick to Leadbetter or Campus Point.

Santa Barbara has many great surf spots, but these are some of the best, for both beginners and experts. Take advantage of the winter’s great surf conditions and head to Marina Beach Motel for a stay near the Santa Barbara coast.

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21 thoughts on “Best Santa Barbara Surf Spots

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