RV Life: Surf Trip up the West Coast
Most RVers dream of slowly cruising along the entire west coast of the United States. It’s a bucket list type of trip that will leave you in awe of the beauty and seclusion on this rugged coast.
Most Surfers dream of the cruising the west coast and hitting the waves along the way. However, it’s usually in a surfer van that is a little bit better than roughing it.
We decided to go surfing for 6 months on a Border to Border trip up the west coast, but instead of roughing it in a camper van, we would have all the modern comforts of home along with us on our trip.
The goal was to start at the Mexican Border and slowly head up the west coast until we can see Canada.
The Start – San Diego
We left Minnesota in December, shortly after Ella was born, to sunny San Diego. I couldn’t wait to hit the waves! We were staying at a campsite where there was nothing between us and the Mexican Border other than a mountain. My goal was to start surfing right at the Mexican Border in Imperial Beach but right when we got there it rained. Apparently it washed a bunch of sewage and toxic waste from Tijuana into the ocean and they shut down the beach… I still saw a couple of people enjoying the water though, but I wasn’t about to put myself in that situation…
Luckily San Diego is just a few miles north, close enough to go and hit the waves and far enough to stay away from the Tijuana junk that made them shut down the beach. There’s a lot of great beaches in San Diego and during our visit, we visited a lot of them. One of the benefits of going surfing in a metro area is you have lifeguards watching over many of the beaches.
The next stop was Orange County. We stayed at the Newport Dunes RV Resort in Newport Beach which is centrally located and in my opinion, perfectly located to visit all the great beaches of the OC. Orange County has a lot of world class beaches that it’s difficult to choose which ones to spend time at, so I hit the waves at all of them.
Starting from south county, is the world famous Trestles. This is one of the best surf spots in the world and where they hold the Hurley Pro each year. It’s a little bit of a hike to get to the beach but it’s secluded, beautiful and offers consistent quality waves. If you’re new to surfing and the waves are good; it’s best to avoid this spot cause you’ll be battling some of the top sponsored surfers and things can get pretty heated if you make a rookie mistake or cut into the lineup.
Doheny State Beach is a good spot to bring the family, relax and hit the waves. On a nice weekend this beach can get real busy but it’s a relaxed atmosphere. A big highlight of this spot is often the water color will turn emerald green and is absolute paradise.
It’s known for being on TV and for being a very affluent small town in Southern California, but the beaches here are TOP NOTCH! They offer everything from a relaxing atmosphere, tide pooling, excellent snorkeling, to great waves to ride. Much like any surfing town in So-Cal, it’s comprised of many small beaches so you’ll want do your research on the current wave status and what you’re looking to accomplish to figure out which specific area you want to visit. Our favorite spot is called Wood’s Cove. It’s a very family friendly area with a wide variety of things to do.
This is one of the most famous surfing/bodyboarding/skimboarding spots in the world because of the freakishly large waves it produces (google image the wedge). I’ve been lucky enough to bodyboard this incredible place and been even luckier to be a spectator as some of the top riders in the world paddle out while a 25 ft wall of water is about to come crashing down on them.
It probably goes without saying that it’s not a place for beginners. More importantly, locals and pros are very hostile to people who don’t play by the rules and I’ve seen fights break out here. But on a day where there are mid-sized waves, someone who has an intermediate skill level can have the time of their life being tossed in the air by this massive shore break.
Another world famous surfing community is Newport Beach. Many of the top surfing brands are from this area and it seems like everyone’s a surfer. With miles of beach to explore, consistent waves, and an overall fun atmosphere; it’s one of our favorite places in the country. When a storm rolls in off shore, monster waves can occur so, as always, make sure you check the surf report. Surfers here are generally friendly, but if it’s crowded you may want to head to a different section to avoid battling for the waves.
Surf City USA
Huntington Beach is called “Surf City” for a reason. It has a great surf culture and fantastic waves. The locals can get territorial near the pier so if you’re visiting you may want to head further down the beach, which is fine cause it has miles of beaches.
Each year they host a dog surfing competition where you’ll see all different kinds of dogs catching some waves.
Heading up to Central California is the iconic surf city of Santa Cruz. Although, Huntington has the official label, many consider Santa Cruz to be the unofficial surf city. The surf culture is strong here, and so are the waves. I spent a good amount of time surfing the beaches here and Bailey even joined me one day. Cowells Beach is a great spot for beginners and longboarders. It’s been said to be one of the top places in the world to learn how to surf. The waves are gentle and offer a long ride.
Just a mile or so north is steamer lane. It’s one of the coolest places I’ve surfed and many people jump off the cliff to hit the spot. It’s dangerous and the locals are VERY aggressive so make sure you know your stuff and play by the rules. If you want to be a spectator this spot offers incredible views from the cliff of the surfers below.
What would an iconic surfing trip be without stopping in at the Mavericks in Northern California? I’m not a big wave surfer, in fact I’m not even a very good surfer, I just enjoy it. The day I came here there were 30 ft waves and there were a few surfers who braved their way out. However, they were just wrapping up their day when I got there. I never got to see anybody take any waves. I’ll be back…
Point Reyes Seashore
This is such a beautiful and rugged area. The waves were really rough the entire time I was here and I’m sure at some point they calm down, but the unique part is that it’s windy more often than it’s not and it’s an ideal place for wind-surfing. There were A LOT of wind surfers and there was A LOT of wind.
When I get to a new area I do a lot of online research before I head out on an adventure. I was really excited because when I found out we were staying in Klamath, CA I read that it has some of the best surfing in California. I then found out that it’s extremely dangerous from a mixture of big waves, a massive seal colony, oh yeah, and it’s one of the highest populated areas of Great Whites. This is due to the massive amount of marine life where the Klamath River dumps into the ocean. It’s such a remote area that if I did take my chances here, I’d not only be the only person in the water, but the only person on the beach. The risk vs reward just wasn’t worth it.
So, I opted to head 15 miles up the coast to Crescent City Beach which is a flat, wind protected beach. It’s a large beach with plenty of room to find seclusion to ride the wave of your choice.
When we were in central Oregon, I hit up Agate Beach. It was pretty rough and the waves were pretty big. The beach was nice and big with a bustling crowd.
Lost Creek State Beach
This was a true gem. We stayed at the Whaler’s Rest RV Resort in Newport, Oregon. Our campsite was just on the other site of some trees to the beach.
I couldn’t find ANYTHING online about anyone ever surfing here before and the rangers told me they’ve never heard of anyone surfing here. So I scoped it out at low tide to look for any rocks and found a spot where I’d give it a go.
It was awesome! We were there for 3 weeks and I had the entire spot all to myself. I could walk right out from the RV and I only had to share it with a seal who kept visiting me while I was paddling out.
Short Sands Beach
This is paradise and one of my all time favorite beaches! The hike in is a 1/2 mile trail that opens up to a wild and rugged beach that’s sheltered by a cove blanketed with a lush forest that’s lined with volcanic basalt and sandstone cliffs. My pictures don’t do this place justice, it literally took my breathe away. I was surprised how many people were here for such a remote location.
Located just north of Cannon Beach is Indian Beach. A beautiful drive ends with an even more beautiful beach. There were quite a few surfer vans with groups of people hitting the waves. There’s a lighthouse in the distance and it was such a great moment to watch the sunset behind it while waiting for the next set.
Olympic National Park
I was blown away at the rugged beauty of Olympic National Park. To be able to surf here is on another level of awesome. First Beach offers the chance to hit the waves with the backdrop of large cliffs. It makes you feel very small.
Ending the Trip – The Canadian Border
On one of the last days before leaving the coast I wrapped up this big surfing adventure by paddling out at Salt Creek County Park. It was right by the campground we were staying at and if you look in the distance you can see Canada!
It was the perfect way to relax in the water waiting for the sun to dip below Canada in the horizon. What a way to end the perfect West Coast Surfing Trip!