Santa Cruz is one of the world's finest surfing areas.
Here's the Good Times guide to surfing & surf training.
Capitola Jetty , The Hook , Manresa/La Selva
Privates , Pleasure Point
Cowell , Steamer Lane , Natural Bridges
Three Mile , Scott’s Creek , Waddell Creek , Four Mile
See reviews of all by area
When the swell is up, this spot deserves more than a passing look. A nice left careens in front of the jetty and to the right can go on forever, assuming your skag doesn’t hit the kelp-infested water. Also, about a block and a reef away is the infamous Toe’s Over, which needs a huge winter swell and a minus low tide to break.
Named for the copious amounts of kelp in the lineup that “hooks” around skags and booties, this nice little point break also has a lot of surfers that are “hooked” to the spot.
Manresa is a mélange of peaks, valleys and sandbars. But a lot of the time the place is epic, breaking left and right and all over. Expect a long, grueling paddle during the wintertime to the outside.
Longboard paradise. Clean right-facing lines peel off and make for a great ride that will take you all the way into the break known as Trees, and into the Capitola Wharf area.
Like its moniker, this place pleasures just about everyone. As a result, it’s generally crowded with everyone from groms to experts, longboarders to ripping ultra thin-glassed rippers.
SANTA CRUZ AREA
Everyone’s got to start somewhere, and this place is it. The bunny slope of surfing gets its fair share of beginners but it also has nice sloping waves that go on forever. Easy access and easy attitudes give Cowell a ride that, once mastered, leads to many more beautiful things.
One of the best classic breaks in the world, Steamer Lane more than lives up to its reputation. With four reef breaks rolled into one spot—The Point, Middle Peak, The Slot and Indicators—the Lane, as it’s affectionately called, has it all. There’s even a surfing museum in the lighthouse.
The best tube rides available anywhere when the conditions are just right. It’s a speedy right that peaks over an outer reef and peels toward the beach. There are always the butterflies in the park above the break, if you miss the surf.
Primo reef break that is usually uncrowded (until now), especially during the weekdays. Three Mile, as with most North Coast spots south of Davenport, includes a long walk through Brussels sprouts fields.
Scott’s dishes out about every challenge a surfer can handle when it gets pumping. From long paddles and strong currents/rips to sharky waters and unpredictable peaks, Scott’s isn’t for the faint of heart or arms. But when it goes off, it’s heaven on water.
Similar conditions for Waddell Creek as for Scott’s, except during the summer and early fall when Waddell is one of the world’s premier wind and kite surfing spots. Catch this right-breaking break early in the morning or keep on driving when it’s blown out.
This one is much more popular with a local contingent that tends to stare hard and long at newcomers. Because
of its bluff protected location, Four Mile isn’t aff ected (as much) by the inevitable afternoon summer winds
as most spots on the North Coast. Reaches its full potential during west, northwest 10-foot and above.
Adventure Out 800-509-3954 or adventureout.com An impressive entity run by a local who just loves the outdoors and wants people to catch the vibe. Check out the many surf clinics but take note of other standouts—mountain biking, backpacking and rock-climbing.
Club Ed Surf School and Rentals, Inc. Call 831-464-0177 or visit club-ed.com Great for locals and visitors. Located at Cowell Beach between the Wharf and the Dream Inn. Open during the summer 8am to 5pm.
Cowell’s Beach ’n’ Bikini Surf Shop 30 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-427-2355, cowellssurfshop.com Surf lessons, rentals and close to the best beginner break in the area.
Freeline Surfshop 821 41st AVE., SANTA CRUZ, 831-476-2950, freelinesurf.com Surfboard rentals and more – everything from foam or soft-top boards and fins, flippers, wetsuits and even stand-up paddle boards. All at reasonable prices.
O’Neill Surf Shop 1115 41st Ave., Santa Cruz; 110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz; 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz; 831-475-7500, oneill.com Jack O’Neill is well known locally, and internationally. His three local shops are the perfect spot to acquire all you need for your surfing experience. With three great locations, there’s plenty to choose from here—great clothing options and more. Don’t miss this local treasure.
Richard Schmidt Surf School, Inc. Call 831-423-0928, richardschmidt.com If you want to surf with the best, then Richard Schmidt is your man. He’s world-famous for tackling some of the biggest waves ever ridden.