El Capitan State Beach

Surfing El Capitan State Beach

El Capitan, or “El Cap” as it’s affectionately called, is one of the premiere right point breaks in California…. when it actually breaks.  It takes a big west swell under with a period of under 14 seconds to really get going.  This fickle wave is a legend of sorts in the Santa Barbara surfing community.  Shaun Tomson claims to have gotten some of the longest waves in his life out here (and he grew up surfing  J-Bay!)

A perfect, barreling waves reels through El Capitan in Santa BArbara
A perfect, barreling wave reels through El Capitan. Source: Flickr | Elayon

Like Rincon to the south, the wave at El Capitan can break for hundreds of yards when the stars align.  But unlike any other wave in the Santa Barbara area, the waves that reel into El Cap’s cove have the potential for a serious barrel.  If only this wave broke more often!

Easily visible from Highway 101 and complete with a parking lot, El Cap is often crowded when it’s working.  A local crew from the Santa Ynez Valley and another crew from nearby Goleta are the first ones to check it whenever the offshore buoys show a hint of solid West swell.  On good days, the crowded lineup forces the takeoff section dangerously close to barnacle-ridden rocks at the top of the point.  In the Santa Barbara area, only Little Rincon (Mussel Shoals) has a more dangerous takeoff section.  If you’re not an advanced surfer, or you just discovered El Cap through this site, it’s best you surf elsewhere… the locals here will tell you the same.

El Capitan waves picture gallery – click on image to enlarge

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El Capitan State Beach Surf Map

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