How To Actually Get Waves In Los Angeles
What to look for and where to search with LA’s Noah Collins.
Traffic jams that turn single-digit drives into triple; Wavestorms, SUPs and the occasional kayak cleaning clocks at Malibu, Topanga, and the Venice Breakwater; two primary beach breaks, El Porto and Zuma, nothing more than consistent closeouts’; always allowing an extra ten minutes for parking: surfing in Los Angeles is a chore.
Many resign themselves to the treks north to Ventura or south to Orange County—the waves are better and, all things considered, the drive is often only slightly longer. But, if you choose to hop counties, depending on what time of day it is, that journey can take from 45 minutes to two and a half hours.
However, there are a few local surfers who, whenever the waves are good, seem to always be in the right spot, without straying too far from home, and 21-year-old Manhattan Beach native, Noah Collins, is one.
We tapped Noah for a guide to how to actually find waves in LA. (Although, we still think you’re better off just getting out of town.)
Don’t follow the crowd.
“Most people pull into the lot at El Porto and park at the first peak they see people surfing,” Noah tells Stab. “Keep driving. There’s usually a sandbar down the beach that is just as fun. When the tide starts to come up, a lot of the beach breaks in the South Bay have a double-up rip bowl on the inside. So while everyone sits on the outside, you can find a less crowded double-up.
The majority of people that surf in LA just moved here and went out and bought a surfboard. They surf El Porto three times then become super entitled to their “Home Break,” and get all aggressive because they think that’s how surfers are supposed to act.
I guess you could be aggressive back but it’s best to just paddle down the beach and find your own sandbar.”
It’s okay to burn people… sometimes.
“Sometimes people are just paddling from the wrong spot for a wave, or someone has just burnt you or your friend, or they are just being super eggy and paddle out and around you to the top of the peak. All those reasons are good enough to ignore them like they’re not even there.”
Follow the runoff.
“If it’s raining, wait for the tide to come up and find a storm drain. The most blown out storm drain will make the best sandbar. Basically, when you find the ugliest, brownest, dirtiest water next to a storm drain, you’ll find the best waves. If it’s pumping NW swell, raining and offshore, the South Bay can get really good. On its day, you can get very barreled.”
Avoid Palos Verdes and San Pedro.
“I’d recommend avoiding surfing in PV or San Pedro. Also, I’d avoid Lunada Bay [which is in PV]. I don’t even try to go down there. Unless you want to get hassled and your car fucked with, don’t surf in San Pedro.
My buddy, who’s super mellow and respectful, went out there by himself and got heckled, sent to the beach and they screwed with his car—and all over the most average beach break. It’s just not an area you want to be, you can get into some interesting situations there.”
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