Santa Barbara

Dusk at Rincon | Photo: Maassen

Santa Barbara Surf Spots

Point Conception divides Santa Barbara into two distinct sections: North County and South County.  When most people say Santa Barbara, they’re referring to South County.

The climate north of Point Conception is classified as cold-temperate and the weather is almost always windy.  A Mediterranean climate can be found south of Point Conception and the wind usually only picks up in the afternoon.

List of North Santa Barbara County Surf Spots


North County Santa Barbara consists of everything north of Point Conception and the Gaviota Pass (remember the tunnel scene from The Graduate?).

santa barbara surf spot jalama
sunset at Jalama Beach

This area is a glimpse into what California looked like hundreds of years ago, before urban sprawl, before smog and pollution, before Kim Kardashian.  It’s hard to believe that this place exists just two hours away from Los Angeles.

North County surf spots seem like they should be 300 miles to the north, in Santa Cruz.  Cold, wind-swept beaches sit against steep rocky cliffs.  The land is open, untamed and beautiful.  The water is cold, and there is a great white shark is somewhere nearby.

The surf spots here are hard to access.  The 22 square-mile Vandenberg Air Force Base hugs most of the coastline.  Which means most spots can only be reached by boat.  If you decide to wander onto the beach, you risk being prosecuted, or shot.

Despite the inaccessibility and the sharks, North County surf spots are frequented by surfers because they pick up so much swell.  The coast line here is wide open which results in consistent waves.

List of South Santa Barbara County Surf Spots

South County is home to several world-class waves: Rincon, The Ranch and El Capitan.  In fact, most of the right points in Santa Barbara have ability to get perfect… if only they could pick up enough swell.

The Channel Islands block all south swell, so summer in Santa Barbara means NO waves. Most surfers make an exodus north to Jalama or south to Ventura.

Point Conception makes it tough for northwest swells to creep into the Santa Barbara Channel, which means Santa Barbara surf spots really come to life during direct west swells.  And when these waves do come to life, it might just be one of the best 50 mile stretches of surf on earth.