SLO County’s best surf spots

Surfing along the Central Coast can be exceptional at certain spots, and many of them are easily accessible.

PISMO BEACH

Pismo Beach offers a variety of surfing spots, though the pier is a popular spot that typically has a good break at high tide, with the best swell direction from the southwest.

Pismo Beach is usually the most consistent and shapely of all beach breaks in the county and is suitable for all ability levels. The bottom is sandy with no protruding rocks.

The pier is 1,250 feet long and is usually fully lit, allowing for night surfing. It is located in a slightly northwest swell and is not as exposed as many other sandbars in the area, making the area less windy.

The south side of the pier is usually better for surfing than the north side, and the further south you walk from the pier, the more secluded the surf tends to be. Nice rides can also come from the south and the waves tend to be best when they range from knee-high to a few feet overhead.

Pismo Beach is approximately a 10-minute drive from Cal Poly traveling south on U.S. Highway 101.

MORRO BAY

Morro Bay is another surfing location that offers a clean break along the Central Coast. Surfing is usually best on the north side of Morro Rock, the 576-foot-tall remnants of a volcano. The Rock, as locals refer to it, has been designated as a state preserve because of the endangered peregrine falcons that nest in its cliffs.

The beach faces due west; because of this, swells hit the sandbars and create a variety of different breaks. The waves tend to have more consistency and power further north.

The best-sized waves for surfing are knee-high to several feet overhead, and the best swells come from the west when the wind is coming from the east. The optimum time to surf is when the tide is medium to high. Surfing at Morro Bay is best for beginners to intermediates.

Tourists typically flock to Morro Rock and the nearby campgrounds, but the water itself is not usually crowded. Morro Bay is approximately a 15-minute drive from Cal Poly.

CAYUCOS

Cayucos is a beach town (the name means “kayak” or “canoe” in Aleutian) and during certain swells can provide adequate surfing. The town was founded in 1867 by Captain James Cass. He and his brothers built the 953-foot long pier.

The town itself is sheltered from winds that come from the north, so it is usually warmer than other local seaside towns. The pier at Cayucos also provides a nice break off the pilings.

The surf is best when the tide is high and the swells come from the southwest while the wind comes from the northeast. The cleanest wave size is waist-high to a few feet overhead, and the break is good for beginners to intermediates.

The bottom is all sand, but there are a few protruding rocks far to the south. Cayucos is less crowded than Pismo Beach and is approximately 20 to 25 minutes north of Cal Poly on California Highway 1.

MOONSTONE

Though the town of Cambria attracts its fair share of tourists, nearby Moonstone Beach is one of the more secluded Central Coast surfing locations. The best spot is on Moonstone Beach Drive near the mouth of the Santa Rosa Creek.

The waves are usually best when there is a strong swell from the west to southwest while the tide is low and the winds are from the east to northeast.

The best waves are waist-high to about two feet overhead, but when the tide is high, the conditions are not as conducive to surfing as there is typically a shore break. The bottom is sandy, but there are protruding rocks in certain areas, making this location more appropriate for intermediate surfers.

Moonstone is approximately a 30- to 40-minute drive up California Highway 1.

San Simeon is just 10 to 15 minutes north of Moonstone on California Highway 1. The coastline in this location is unpredictable and changes often. Also, parts of the beach are often closed to the public when elephant seals come ashore.

PICO CREEK

The best surfing spot is Pico Creek, found south of San Simeon. This spot has a reef break that can be nice on both big and small days.

The reef is located just in front of a creek mouth and allows for a smooth ride that peaks on the outside and often reforms on the inside. This spot is most reliable when the swell is bigger than chest-high to a few feet overhead.

The waves are best when the tide is low and there is a southern swell with wind from the northeast. The bottom is sandy with intermittent rocks, which makes this another location best suited for intermediate surfers.

Wave cameras and current surf condition reports can be found on Web sites such as Surf Line (www.surfline.com) and Wave Watch (www.wavewatch.com). Reports are typically updated throughout the day to provide accurate conditions.

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