Tacking on to our series of HOKALI surf spotlights, today’s article will teach you everything you need to know about: SANTA MONICA.
If you are at all familiar with L.A. and the city’s attractions, then you have definitely heard of Santa Monica.
Recently named in the top 10 beach cities in the world, Santa Monica is an 8.3 sq. mile region of West L.A., and 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Right on the water, Santa Monica is composed of all the quintessential L.A. checklist items: California palms, shopping, beach, roller skating, great food and drinks, and of course, the famous Santa Monica pier. It is an amalgamation of natural beauty, residential districts, commercial areas, and recreational venues.
Whether you are seeking out a beautiful park to picnic, you may recall images of the famous ferris wheel and Pacific Park, featuring an entire amusement park on the pier.
This carnival style fare captures the essence of Santa Monica.
And, as you can probably already guess… Santa Monica can be an excellent place for beginner surfers! The waves are consistent year round and easily accessible.
Where as South Bay and Malibu can get highly territorial and hectic for beginners and first-timers, better suited for intermediate/advanced levels, Santa Monica tends to be much friendlier even when the line up is crowded.
Unlike many other surf spots that require a 1+ hour drive each way (or more), Santa Monica is right in the heart of West L.A. and highly accessible to Los Angelinos (natives of Los Angeles), and visitors alike.
There is a reason it has such an outstanding reputation. The strip is lined with rental shops and surf academies, and it is also not a far drive from the outskirts of Venice Beach, another L.A. must-see location, and home to additional surf spots.
Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Manhattan Beach are arguably the most popular beginner surf spots in Southern California – not to mention, offer over 300 days of sunshine a year!
Read on to learn more about the history and tradition of surfing in Santa Monica!
Santa Monica has been an iconic L.A. destination since the turn of the century (end of 19th century, beginning of 20th), and even earlier, when San Franciscians flocked to the shores of west L.A. in wake of the gold rush. Since then, the city has developed a name for itself.
Surfing in Santa Monica: what to know
As mentioned, temperatures tend to be moderate and very tolerable even during winter months.
During the early mornings, the line ups will normally be much less crowded and the wind will be lighter, contributing to glassy conditions, however, you may experience a layer of California fog. This will usually burn off by the afternoon and you can enjoy sunny skies and profit off some necessary vitamin D!
It is advisable to check Surfline or a similar surf forecast app to stay informed of the current tide, weather, and wave height.
Because Santa Monica is a beach break, wave heights will not be as affected by the tides and cannot get as big as many other point breaks or reef breaks. The surf will provide a whole lot of fun no matter the tide.
The only time it may not be advisable to surf is following a prolonged period of heavy rain. As you can imagine, this can lead to runoff and contamination of the nearby waterways, including Santa Monica beach and neighboring beaches. Other than that, rain or shine – get out there!
A great option if you are with friends and/or family is to book a group lesson (a popular offering on HOKALI’s platform)!
Make sure to take advantage of the discounted group rates and have a day of it
One of my favorite memories in L.A. involves an all-day birthday extravaganza, beginning with a group surf lesson! No matter your experience level, or the experience level of those in your party, everyone is guaranteed to have an awesome time!
Parking: Beachfront parking is available for a $10+ fee. If you are planning to rent a board in the area, Uber/Lyft may be your best bet! Depending on the commute, this may be the most time- and cost-effective.
Start by scoping out the rental shops and stands that offer the best pricing and convenience and go from there (or book through HOKALI!)
Alternatively, if you are driving and/or planning on bringing your own board, you may be able to find reasonable meter parking, or parking in a garage that offers validation (Simply purchase a coffee after your lesson/surf session).
As far as attire is concerned, it is recommended to wear a shortie (or spring suit) during the summer months (where temperatures can reach up to 70º F), and a full 4/3 wetsuit during winter months.
Thankfully the water does not get as cold as other parts of California, so a 4/3 wetsuit should suffice even during the coldest winter months (52º – 62º F).
Santa Monica in the winter
Though Santa Monica stays pretty warm throughout the day, even in the winter, its coastal location means that temperatures can drop in the evening, once the sun has gone down (disclaimer: I am biased, as a Hawaii local).
If you are visiting in the winter, don’t be too fooled by the never-ending sunshine throughout the day! Make sure you have an adequate jacket, covered shoes, and even a hat. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
What to do in the area
Santa Monica is a vibrant and exciting neighborhood of L.A.
You will observe many runners and fitness and nature lovers who profit from the sunshine and warm weather.
Apart from surfing in Santa Monica, you can venture down to the beach to play beach volleyball or explore a pub or bistro in the area.
Winter time provides excellent offerings as well! Around Christmas time, there is also a man-made outdoor ice skating rink that can be a welcome holiday tradition.
By now, I hope you are convinced to make Santa Monica your next surf destination!