Spring Surf and Endless Summer Adventures

My Southwest Surf column from May 11, 2011:

I paddled out this morning at around 8 a.m.

From the end of Elm Avenue the surf looked fun. After watching a glassy and clean 3’ set roll in next to the pier with left and right corners, I put on my wetsuit and grabbed my board.

Unfortunately it was one of those days in which it looked much better than it was. After catching a few waves on the north and south sides of the pier I caught a wave in.

The surf was horrible.

Sometimes spring can bring consistent and surfable waves up and down the beach that break all day. A plethora of wind swells can come together to create A-frames up and down the beach.

Add either

Beach camp in Baja.

southerly and northerly sideshore winds and you have the classic springtime surf scenario.

Unfortunately the lack of any large swells this winter has meant that the bottom along the beach is almost uniformly flat. That is not a good sign for the south swell season. No inshore holes can mean long lines and closeouts.

The only good news is that the water is warm. It has been close to two years since we’ve experienced water in the normal range. With temperatures hovering in the low 60s’, it is time to dust off the springsuit or short-arm fullsuit.

So while Southern California can be so-so in the spring, destinations to the south, in the southern hemisphere and across the globe, are receiving lots and lots of southern ground swells.

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

So get out the map and plan a trip to either a warm water or cold-water summer surf destination.

Your best bets for the south swell season include:

Baja: South of the Border vets know that early season southern hemis consistently pound the East Cape and places like Scorpion Bay and Punta Abreojos.

Mainland Mexico: If you like long lefts, head to Sinaloa and northern Guerrero. If you are into getting giant barrels, surf either Pascuales or Puerto Escondido.  Michoacan offers up cobblestone rivermouths like La Ticla and Nexpa, but Narco-violence can make travel there sketchy.

Surf camp in 1982 at at La Ticla, Michoacan.

South America: Lots of cold-water power is on tap in Chile and Peru during their winter. Southern groundswells offer up consistent and overhead waves. There are waves everywhere and few crowds.

Indonesia: Perfect waves, tropical waters and non-stop surf. What more do you need?

Hawaii: Warm water, lots of surf and Aloha. We’re heading to Kauai and the South Shore of Oahu in August. For me, even the leftover waves in the Islands are fun.

Australia and New Zealand: If you want rugged coastlines, friendly people, insane waves of every variety and tons of wildlife and national parks then head Down Under.

Beachie in NSW, Australia.

South Africa: This is arguably the coolest surf destination on the planet. Where else can you see elephants, lions, wildebeests and surf J-Bay.

So get off the couch and start learning why there is nothing better than spending a few days or weeks surfing perfect waves somewhere on a coast that is not your own.


  1. Love your work Serge, nice site with a moral imperative, lovely. I wondered if I could ask you some questions regarding surfing the Baja. I’m an Aussie living up in frozen Canada. My friends and I are planning a trip to Tijuana for a wedding Sat June 24. Coming down the Tues before, I wanted to stay somewhere between Ensenada and Tijuana, traveling into Tijuana for the wedding – but otherwise staying put. Surfing my ass off – it’s been 9 months, I’m frothing like fourteen year old grommet.

    Sorry to just blurt all this out, the three of us want to find a cheap spot to stay, that’s near good beach-breaks and hopefully a point-break I hear the area is legendary for. I’d walk 20min to surf beachbreaks too. Can you help a fellow land-locked surfer find the spot!

    Any suggestions?
    Cheers mate.

    PS: ‘Piss off’ is a perfectly acceptable answer.

    • Hi Dave:

      Thanks for your comment. I literally just crossed the border and surfed this afternoon at a left near Ensenada after a morning of meetings.
      I think your best bet is to find the spot know as K-38s. In the arroyo/ or spot to the north there is a parking area (it is the beach side of the bridge that is north of K-38s). I think there are still cheap rooms there. You can surf K-38s and the reef right in front at high tide. There are also lots of spots around there too. The other option would be to find cheap rooms at La Fonda which is further south. You need to get a map or something with the surf spots on it. There really aren’t that many people surfing down there–but on the weekends K-38s will have more Mexican locals out. But there are lots of other spots to surf. In June the water there is still rather cold–so at least a 3/2 fullsuit or short-arm full. And maybe booties if you don’t like rocks. There are also lots of cheap hotels between San Miguel and Ensenada near the surf spot called Stacks (but I wouldn’t stay there). Overall the K-38s area is your best bet. Imperial Beach where i live is also an easy place to stop and surf on your way to TJ–as long as the water is not polluted.

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