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Surfing LingoWhere to Surf

surfing - oregon coast When one thinks of the hottest surfing spots, the West Coast of the United States often comes to mind, specifically California.  And while California certainly has some of the best surf around, many surfers don't realize that other parts of the West Coast have great surf too.  Here's a rundown of surfing regions along the West Coast and some of their characteristics.

A wilderness seashore runs through Alaska and British Columbia, starting at the Aleutian Islands in the west, running through the Gulf of Alaska, and ending up in the islands and peninsulas in Canada's Pacific coast.  While there is lots of surf to explore in this area, access is limited and only for the adventurous.  The weather is extremely unpredictable, the coast is jagged and raw, and the waters are frigid.  Because of the bays, channels, estuaries, and fjord-like covers, surfers can find some manageable waves along this coast.  The surf culture in this area is still evolving, although hardcore surfers have braved these waters since the 1960s.

surfing at santa cruz, california The northern coastlines in Washington and Oregon are unbuffered by offshore islands or the continental shelf found on the East Coast, which allows swells to reach the shore without a loss of energy.  The waters in this area are known to be rugged and rough, and not for the faint of heart.  A basic rule is that the farther north you go, the rougher it is.  Diehard surfers who surf these areas can expect lots of rain, frigid water, harsh terrain, and long drives between surf spots.  So why do surfers bother with this area at all?  Because when you find a great spot, it's, well — great!  Surfers who ride the waves in this area are known for being adventurous, and there's a sense of camaraderie.

Northern California, because of its wild landscape, is known as one of the United States' most difficult surf destinations.  In addition to strange weather patterns and giant swells, there's a large shark population.  How large are the waves?  Well, in winter it's not unlikely for the National Weather Service to report groundswells more than 20, sometimes 40, feet.  Even in winter, the surf here is unmanageably huge.  There are a few serious, hardcore surfers who come to this area to try their luck, but all in all, the breaks of Devil's Gate, Shark Pit, Deadmans, and Obituaries are aptly named.

surfing - la jolla, california The Central California coast has some of the most varied and diverse surf around.  It is attractive to a wide variety of surfers, despite the very cold waters and fickle wave quality.  The great thing about Central California is that, whether you are a beginner or an expert, there's something for you.  Expert surfers might try the 25-foot swells at San Mateo County's Mavericks, while beginners might find Cowells in Santa Cruz more their speed.  Central California is often seen as the essential surfer's paradise, and has been home to many famous surfers throughout the years.

When it comes to the West Coast, Southern California has some of the weakest surf because of early morning offshore winds that tend to diminish the size of approaching waves.  However, there are plenty of places to surf, and Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties have some areas that are decent.  That being said, the waves are consistent in Southern California and the weather is almost always beautiful.  And since Southern California is the birthplace of surfing, it's a great place to visit if you really want to absorb surfing culture and history.

Pacific Coast Surf Shops, from Washington to California

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