A description of the epic surf spots in Santa Cruz and the story of how I came to call this rad place, also know as surf city, home.
Right point breaks, reef breaks and beach breaks
Coves and river mouths
Consistent year round
The birthplace of mainland surfing in the US
A place I feel lucky to call home!
Ok, ok, fineeeee, Huntington Beach officially won the name surf city but in my eyes the title definitely belongs to Santa Cruz!
A magical Santa Cruz sunset
The Briefest History of Surfing in Santa Cruz You’ll Ever Read
The first waves surfed in the mainland US were ridden in Santa Cruz by brothers Jonah, David, and Edward Kawananakoa in 1885. The town has had a thriving surf scene every since!
A Break Down of the Surf Spots in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz has it all! The coast is conveniently shaped to ensure there’s always a spot to absorb swell from just about any direction.
From beginning to advanced waves, a reef, beach and point break, Santa Cruz has got it all! Fall through spring is mostly northwest swell, and spring through fall is mostly south swell. Santa Cruz is shred-able almost every day of the year!
Cowells – best for beginners.
Long, gentle, cruise-y, crumbly right point break ideal for long boarding. Sandy bottom. One of the best beginner spot in all of Cali! Definitely crowded, with lots of beginners and surf schools. Vibe is party wave friendly. Biggest danger here is other people surf boards.
Natural Bridges – advanced
Hollow, fast and powerful right reef break.
When conditions are on, which is not that frequently, it’s similar to Steamer Lane, without the crowds.
Steamer Lane – World Class.
Fast and powerful. Sand bottom with rocks. Four reef breaks rolled into one spot – The Point, Middle Peak, The Slot and Indicators. The most famous surf spot in Santa Cruz. Best for folks that know what they’re doing and locals. Consistent and consistently croweded.
The Point – It’s waves after waves after wave on this magical strip of East Cliff known as Pleasure Point. Mostly right point breaks and reef bottoms, with the occasional left.
Pleasure Point. Right point break, reef bottom. First peak is mostly shortboarders and second peak is mostly longboarders. Jacks (in front of Jack O’Neill’s house) is a very beginner friendly, longboard spot.
The Hook: Right reef break. Hollow, fast, fun. Draws a lot of crowds because of the parking lot right in front. Southern tip of Pleasure Point. Down the stairs at the end of 41stAve. Long and short boarders.
Sewers: coming soon!
Capitola Jetty: Coming soon!
Right and left reef break, sand bottom (mostly long or short boarder???).
perfect longboard waves when conditions allow. It’s pure left- and right-breaking bliss. It probably won’t be as crowded as Cowell’s, but there are a lot less wave to go around. There is plenty of parking down in the village, but watch out for Capitola meter maids.
My Personal Story of How I Came to Call Santa Cruz Home
I first surfed in Santa Cruz in the summer of 2010. I was still living in Cali and came to Nor Cal to visit my fam. I’d gotten massively hooked on surfing, earlier that year, living in Israel (more about how I started shredding in Israel here).
I surfed all over town that summer. And had never ever seen waves like that before. So long. Sooo, sooooo, sooooooo long!!! South swells in Santa Cruz are absolutely positively magical. The waves go on for dayzzzzz. They’re so long that your thighs start burning while you’re still on them!
The next time I returned to Santa Cruz, spring of 2012, I was 7 vertebrates down and a whole lot of hardware later. I’d moved back to Cali with this new (limited) body.
I drove down to visit a super good bud from high school, Jeremy and his wife, Jessica. Freshly out of my body brace and not able to surf, lets just say I cried a lot cruising down on Highway 1. Looking out the window at all the waves I couldn’t shred broke my heart a bit. But made me all the more determined to heal enough to be able to get back on them!
Can please surf Doc?!?! I begged and pleaded. Doc was kinda confused since I was just supposed to be focusing on re-learning to walk. I was that girl, immobile in the hospital, that asked the Doctors when I’d be able to surf again before I asked when I’d be able to walk again!
When I say I got the surf bug bad… I really, *really mean it!!!
I’m also an irrational optimist and truth be told I didn’t ask the Docs when I’d be able to walk again simply because I assumed I’d just be able to do it the day after the surgery. Needless to say I was wrong. Very wrong. Story for another time.
Anyhow, back to me begging and pleading my Doc to let me surf. Why not?!?! I totally have the walking thang down again I bragged. The reason went like this:
I had 7 vertebrates fused. I was still fragile. So fragile that I wasn’t allowed to fall. For example, I was allowed to take spinning classes but I couldn’t actually ride a bike outside. Cause if I fell it would break my fusion. And I’d have to get re-fused and start from the beginning all over again.
Ok… fineeeee…seemed like a legit reason. I’ll not shred. And wait. And wait some more.
My goal was to be back on a surfboard 6 months post surgery. And I can be stubborn. As in, watch out world when I set a goal… ain’t nothing getting in my way!
But I still wasn’t allowed to surf or fall at the 6 months mark. Let alone, carry the freaking surfboard! I could barely lift a few fins!
But my good bud that lives there, Jeremy, and our friend Lisa, supported me in achieving this goal! On a super flat, no swell, as flat as Santa Cruz gets kinda day, they carried my surf board for me and we paddled out. And it was glorious! The pic of that milestone is below!
Then I got the OK to surf 1 foot waves in 2-3 feet deep water. As in my body could handle that fall but nothing else. Then 2-foot waves. I was rehab-ing in Bolinas at this time. Then 3 foot waves… you know what that means?!?!
Santa Cruz here I come!!!
It was the fall of 2012, and I crashed with Jeremy and Jessica for a few days and shredded every single day. And it was AMAZZZZING!!!
And the end of the few days I asked if they wanted a new roomie (ME!). I didn’t wanna go back to SF! But they weren’t too stoked about me moving in since they has just gotten married and lived in a tiny studio.
So… do they know anyone that wants to do a trade or rent a room part time or… what could I sort out? I still had my full time tech job in SF, but was working mostly remotely.
Long story short: I sorted myself out with accommodations and have been living in Santa Cruz, part time, ever since those few EPIC days of surfing in 2012.
Have ya enjoyed this post? I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment below and if you’re on a farm in the Hamptons take a pic and tag it on Instagram with #wavesinthekitchen cause I’d love to see it! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more colorfully delicious food and all sorts of awesome adventures!
Hope to see ya in the water sometime and lets make waves in the kitchen!