California Waves, Beaches And Surfing

By: Lindsey Gregory

Published: November 8, 2006

“Everybody loves surfing… surfing U.S.A.”

The Beach Boys had it right when it came to surfing in California. From the explosion of surf culture in the 1960s to the Baywatch Babes of the 1990s, California surfing has attained an almost mythical status. While there are undoubtedly plenty of beaches along the coastline to catch some California waves, surfing in southern California tops them all.

Take the Los Angeles County, for example. It is home to more than 18 luxurious miles of California beaches. Though southern California may get crowded during the summer months, at least there is plenty of space to surf.

September through November is the ideal season for catching southern California waves. The air and ocean temperatures are still summer warm, but the tourists have started to vacate the California beaches.

Winter is another renowned season for southern California surfing. The water is cooler, requiring a wetsuit. But the surf is consistent, making it a great time for newcomers to pick up surfing.

Mavericks, near Half Moon Bay, serves as a Mecca for surfers seeking big waves; the waves there usually peak at 20 feet.
Some of the world's biggest waves, however, break off the coast of southern California.

Specifically, the biggest waves are located at Cortes Bank, 100 miles off the coast of San Diego. Deep beneath the ocean at Cortes Bank is a 17 mile mountain range. In order to catch that perfect wave, weather conditions amounting to the perfect storm are needed. The biggest wave there measured a towering 60 feet—the height of a six-story building. This happened in January 19, 2001. After soaring six stories, the wave then traveled more than 100 miles to Black Beach where it was only 25 per cent smaller.

Such conditions are caused by a variety of factors like wind, tide and swell, affecting a California wave’s size and scope. Wave swell occurs when wind blows over a large area of open water. Wind force determines the size of the wave. Wind quality has an important role when people surf California, since wind conditions affect the wave quality; for example, choppy waves are caused by blustering wind. Tide is perhaps the most important factor for catching California waves, since it can affect both wave quality and surfing safety.

Surfline/LA County. Surfline/Wavetrak, Inc. 6 November 2006. id=20/
Malloy, Betsy. California's Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave Ever Ridden. About, Inc. 6 November 2006.
Surfing. 6 November 2006. Wikipedia. 6 November 2006.