Where to Surf Like a Local in North County San Diego

If you're headed to North County from out of town you may be wondering which of the many breaks are worth your while. We've got you covered with a guide to our local surf spots from Cardiff State Beach north to Ponto State Beach.


Thread Spun guide to surf at Cardiff State Beach.

Thread Spun guide to surf at Cardiff Reef.

Thread Spun guide to surf at San Elijo Campgrounds.

Thread Spun guide to surf at San Elijo Campgrounds.

Thread Spun guide to surf at Cardiff State Beach.

Thread Spun guide to surf at San Elijo Campgrounds.

Seaside Reef: This popular break used to be a trailer park with good sandbars. Then they put the parking lot in and poof, there went the sand. Made popular back in the late 80's and early 90's by Rob Machado, this is a tricky reef with a fast takeout and soft shoulder. It's full of talented short board kids and the wave can be hard to read. Take the time to learn the wave and be rewarded. The left is often better at this break. *Pay to park in the State beach parking lot.

George's: This is a pretty friendly beach break and super sandy on the bottom. It works really well in the summer on the south swell. Can be punchy and barrely but the majority of the time it's a fun wave for an intermediate rider. No crowds but parking is somewhat of a hassle. Note: You've gotta be willing to brave the sewage pipe. This is some dirty stuff according to a friend who measures water quality. Enter at your own risk and don't blame us if you grow an extra toe.

Cardiff Reef: This is the right hand break off the reef and an iconic spot visited frequently by pros. Probably because it's one of North County's only spots that holds when it gets a little bigger (along with Swamis). Can be crowded with long boarders and stand uppers because it's easy to paddle around the reef. Can get dirty from estuary runoff. *Pay to park

Suckouts: The left hand break off Cardiff Reef. This is a shelf break with the bottom dropping out quickly when the wave hits the reef. Fun wave but technical takeoff, experienced surfers only.

San Elijo Campground: This includes a handful of reef breaks including Tippers, Turtles, 85 60s and Pipes. All fun but Pipes is the best known spot breaking more consistently year round. This is a left and a right wave but the left is a little better and full of longboarders. Breaks are a mix of reef and sand so it can be fun on a smaller board on certain days. Camp above year-round and grab a burrito at Bull Taco for the full experience.

Brown House: This is the beach break in between Cardiff Reef and Swamis. Usually lacks shape and size making for a good beginner wave where you don't have to worry about the crowds. Left and a right here but the left is usually best.


A view of Swamis Break from San Elijo Campgrounds.

Swamis beach and surf break in Encinitas.

Ready to surf at Swamis in Encinitas, California.

Local culture at Swamis beach park in Encinitas.

Swamis break in Encinitas, California.

D Street surf break in Encinitas.

Swamis: This is the best wave in North County, and also the most crowded. But there's a reason. This is the only spot that can handle very large surf in North County. It's easy to paddle out so all levels will be happy here, but be prepared for a lot of attitude from the locals. Good mix of short and longboarders, even if it's big the reef is breaking. This is mainly a right wave.

Boneyards: This is the mellower continuation of the reef at swamis.  Great for intermediates who wanna skip the crowd. Solid left and right.

D Street: A punchy and fast beach break. Popular among local teenagers-be prepared to be amazed. Fun spot for intermediate and advanced surfers. Left and right.

Leucadia to South Carlsbad

Walking the path to Beacons surf break in Encinitas.

Beacons beach in Leucadia.

Grandview beach in Leucadia.

Ponto State Beach lifeguard tower

Ponto State Beach, California.

Stone Steps: Fun little beach break with a left and right, although summer is mainly a left. Solid spot for beginners and intermediates. This was an old famous spot for a beer drinking/surf competition now banned by the city. Bummer.

Beacons: Beach break very friendly to beginners and intermediates with a really soft wave. You'll find a left on the South end and a right on the North. This is a very slow and forgiving wave. There's a parking lot here but it fills up quick.

Grandview: Cool mix of reef and beach break. For some reason locals here can be aggressive, but it's usually a pretty fun wave for everybody, especially short boarders. Good parking lot and street parking where you can usually find a spot even in summer.

Ponto: This is a State Beach off the estuary, so the runoff builds a cool sandbar that becomes a really advanced wave when it works. The majority of the time the waves are small and it's a fun little spot for everyone with a sandy bottom. Beware the estuary runoff. Paid and free parking that fills up quick in summer.

Get out there, and grab one of our handmade artisan surfboard bags while you're at it. You'll look like a local in no time.

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