Sandspit Wave – Santa Barbara

Surfing Sandspit, Santa Barbra

“Sandspit, Sandspit, Sandspit.” If you say it three times and tap your booties together, it just might decide to come to life. That, or you can wait for a rare big west swell to reel its way into the Santa Barbara Channel from the Pacific.  And when Sandspit does decide to roar to life, it is a spectacle to see.

Like the Wedge in Newport Beach and the Superbank on the Gold Coast, Sandspit is a magical wave that was (accidentally) created by human engineering. In 1929, a breakwater for protecting the Santa Barbara Harbor was built.

Over the years, the north-to-south flow of sand was impeded by the breakwater and sand began to build up on the west side of the harbor creating the modern version of Leadbetter Beach. The sand eventually built up to the breakwater wall and started moving towards the opening of the harbor. Behold, Sandspit was born.

Sandspit is a bit of a mutant wave and can offer thick, hallow barrels that seem to break below sea level.  Watch out for the rocks… and the backwash too!

When the stars align and Sandspit does break, almost every surfer in the Santa Barbara area will be in the lineup, trying their luck at a 6-second barrel. And that includes Tom Curren, who knows this wave better than anyone [see video].

If Sandspit is breaking, it generally means the point breaks up and down the Santa Barbara coast are pumping (and probably just a little less crowded).

Trivia: In September of 2012, a surfer was chased out of the water at Sandspit by a 14-ft great white shark.


Video: Tom Curren Surfing Sandspit

Sandspit Wave Photos

empty wave sandspit santa barbara big wave sandspit big wave sandspit sandspit empty barrel in santa barbara

How Sandspit Was Created

Sandspit is the product of the Santa Barbara Harbor breakwater, completed in 1929.   The breakwater was extended out from a point on land called Castle Rock (near modern day Castillo street) and then bent towards Stearns Wharf.

The natural flow of sand was altered and a beach (now called Leadbetter Beach) began to form.  There is a great article on the history of the Santa Barbara Harbor area here.

santa barbara aerial view 1928

Above: 1928

santa barbara harbor aerial view

Above: 1930s

santa barbara harbor after breakwater

Above: Leadbetter Beach forming after the breakwater was built

santa barbara harbor aerial view

Above: Santa Barbara Harbor as it looks today

Sandspit Surf Map


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