The once sleepy town of San Clemente is now literally ground zero for the surf industry, housing a number of the biggest US surf magazines and brands. The town hosts a world tour event every autumn, but the party never really stops, as an endless stream of pros, groupies and wannabes flock to San Clemente on a year round basis. And no wonder—some of the best waves in California are on offer, set against the backdrop of a historical series of beaches that are now virtually overrun with beach front palaces and every amenity one could want. The non-surfing attractions are just as sought after as the waves are, and those visiting California’s favorite beach town are usually looking for equal parts surfing and nightlife.
Below we have outlined a number of San Clemente’s most popular surf spots and dives, equipping you for your next trip to the heart of wave riding as a commercial sport.
1) Lower Trestles: Some say Lowers is the most high-performance wave in the world. While others may contest this point, there is no arguing the fact that some of the most progressive surfing of the season goes down at this cobblestone point/peak every September during the world tour event—not to mention the other 11 months of the year, when any number of rippers fight for waves and strut their stuff in front of the ever-present array of cameras and pundits.
2) Cottons/Uppers/Middles: For those who don’t care to mix it up with the most competitive lineup in the world, Trestle’s offers a number of other options—all fun, rippable peaks with a fraction of the crowd at Lowers. From north to south, try Cottons, Uppers, and Middles.
3) State Park (Calafia): Located just north of the Trestles region, State Park is a stretch of beach break with a nice breaking righthander that peels towards Cottons.
4) San Onofre: One of the first spots ever surfed in California, San Onofre is important for its historical significance, if nothing else—but that isn’t to discount the legitimacy of the wave. Old Man’s and the various Trails are all soft but user-friendly peaks and points that are a blast on a longboard, fronted by convenient campsites and one of the best beach scenes in the US.
5) T-Street: Better known for consistency than it is quality, T-Street is the go-to spot when the swell or wind isn’t cooperating. You’ll always find something to hit there, which is probably why the wave has produced some of the gnarliest aerialists and fin chuckers in the history of the sport—guys like Matt Archibold, Christian and Nathan Fletcher, Chris Ward, Shane and Gavin Beschen, and more recently Kolohe Andino.
6) San Clemente Pier: Located a few hundred yards from T-Street, the pier is another good option if the swell isn’t exactly pumping—it serves as a magnet and picks up any scraps the ocean will throw at it.
7) Senór Pedros: For a cheap satisfaction of your post-surf craving, you can’t beat the pseudo-Mexican/fast food of Senór Pedros. It might not be 100% authentic, but the potato burritos and “famous fish tacos” are about as good as bad food gets—which is to say that they’re delicious. Conveniently located five minutes drive from the parking lot of Trestles, four minutes from a number of massive surf outlet stores, and literally right next door to The Sugar Shack—San Clemente’s other legendary post-surf culinary option.