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+ Many right pointbreaks
+ Good wind patterns
+ Great weather
+ Entertaining area
- Swell shadows
- Constant competitive crowd
- Relatively cool water
- Pollution
- Urban atmosphere

Ventura County - West, Southern California, USA, NORTH AMERICA

Rincon, Rob Gilley

Surf Spots

Rincon Point
La Conchita Beach
Little Rincon/Mussel Shoals
Hobson County Park
Faria Beach
Pitas Point/Faria County Park
Solimar Reef and Beach
Ventura Overhead/Emma Wood State Beach
California Street (C Street)

The Surf

Although the Santa Barbara area is on a south-facing coastline, the swell window to the S and SW is entirely blocked by the presence of the four large Channel Islands. Point Conception further narrows the window of opportunity to W and NW swells that wrap around the cape and bend into Santa Barbara. When this happens, what's lacking in quantity is made up in quality at an unrivalled series of right pointbreaks. This set-up is the best in California on a medium to large SW-W swell. Straddling both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, this south facing coast is tricky; you can burn a lot of miles chasing a wave. The east part of Ventura from 'C' Street to Oxnard is clear of island shadows on direct S swells. On the extreme west end of the area, the Hollister and Bixby ranch areas near Point Conception are clear of the islands and pick up swells from due S to full N, depending on the spot. North of Conception, the west facing coast is exposed to prevailing winds and more swell, making spots like Jalama, Surf Beach and Point Sal classic for S wind or early morning sessions.

Significantly more exposed to most swells than Santa Barbara, the scenic Ventura County coast is a haven for summertime S pulses, wintertime NWs, and just about everything in between. Consistent and high quality surf is not uncommon, and there is a diverse wealth of surf spots to choose from on any given day, from pounding beachbreak barrels to slow beginner’s waves. Down here, the Channel Islands don’t have as prominent a swell-shadowing effect as they do in southern Santa Barbara County, which can be waist high during a big summer swell while Ventura County is double overhead. However, due to the angle of the coast, onshore winds are usually stronger here than in Santa Barbara, and all Ventura spots blow out fairly easily. Fortunately, strong offshore winds are common, especially during the winter in the Oxnard area, creating classic conditions. Rincon Point is generally considered a Santa Barbara break, but it’s just over the Ventura County line. In fact, there’s a series of points and reefs all along the county’s northern shores, from Punta Gorda (Little Rincon) to Pitas to California Street. These loosely-populated areas south of Mussel Shoals along Highway 1 usually offer some sort of uncrowded option for waves. You’ll find a much denser pack at the Overhead and California Street. From the city of Ventura south, there are some world-class beachbreaks like the Santa Clara River mouth and Hollywood-by-the-Sea/Silver Strand. S swells do better at the Oxnard/south county spots like Point Mugu, which is off-limits to anyone without military ID. W swells typically have the most power and are more lined-up at most county spots. The sandbar at the Santa Clara River mouth forms after heavy winter rains and can be the best rivermouth break in California. The locals are not nice, however. The best NW-swell spots are at the county’s north and south ends – Rincon and County Line. Most waves in the county can been seen from Highways 1 or 101 and are easily accessible. Ventura offers a fun variety of surf and a range of experiences, from extreme localism to good-time camaraderie. Bottom line: whatever you’re looking for, Ventura County has it.

When to Go

The primary source of swell comes from the NW lows out in the Aleutian Islands in winter (Oct-Mar). Waves can reach 12ft (4m) but average 3-8ft (1-2.6m) on W to NW swells; Point Conception blocks NW-N swells. SW groundswells and hurricanes off Mexico are mostly blocked by the Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa), especially in Santa Barbara County. Either side of summer, frequent 2-6ft (0.6-2m) W groundswell or windswell can occur. Calm days and offshores are common in winter even though the E Santa Ana winds tend to blow in late summer. Dominant winds are NW-N, NW - 28% (Dec) to 39% (Aug) - bringing choppy conditions from noon till dusk and sometimes earlier. Glassy days are more common here than elsewhere on the West Coast, with a noticeable difference between Santa Barbara and the frequently strong winds in the Point Conception area. Tides vary gently from 4ft-7ft (1.3-2.3m), getting a tide table is easy.

dominant swell W -NW W -NW W -SW W -SW W -NW W -NW
swell size (ft) 4 3-4 1-2 1-2 4 4
consistency (%) 60 60 20 20 60 60
dominant wind W -N W -NW W -NW W -NW W -NW W -N
average force F3 F4 F4 F4 F4 F3
consistency (%) 63 60 65 66 66 66
water temp (C) 14 14 16 17 16 15
wetsuit 4/3 4/3 3/2 3/2 3/2 3/2
Santa Barbara - 100,000

Santa Barbara - 41km (25mi)

GMT -8hr

Travel Information


Southern California is famous for its idyllic sunny weather. It seldom rains from spring to fall, but morning fog is common. Spring-early summer dense fog and low clouds are common, often cleared by light afternoon onshores. The driest and sunniest time occurs when the easterly Santa Ana winds blow from the desert, usually late summer. Winter is mild with a few rainy days, but bigger swells and favourable winds common. Water temp is cool, requiring a fullsuit year round, even hoods in the winter. El Ninos bring much warmer water, lots of swells (maybe too much), along with flooding rain.


Arrange a trip to the Channel Islands for surfing (there are spots), fishing or whale watching. Inquire at SB harbour. SB entertainment includes zoo, theme restaurants, beach volleyball, hiking trails to mountains & nightlife.


Most pointbreaks are visible from Hwy 101 will be packed if breaking. Oxnard beachbreaks less crowded but some highly localised. Mind private properties. Granite boulders can hurt. Sharks cruise only in Nth SB County.


Don't bother bringing a gun. Shortboard costs $350. Heaps of shops offer cheap gear: Al Merricks Channel Island boards and Yater is in SB downtown.