Avoiding Surfboard Dings at the 5 Most Crowded Waves in California

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Avoiding Surfboard Dings at the 5 Most Crowded Waves in California

Whether you’re just looking to stay away from hectic lineups or hoping to avoid surfboard dings, it’s probably worth taking a look at our list of the top 5 most crowded waves in California. 


There are potentially more than 35 million surfers in the world according to the International Surfing Association (ISA). California has a population of roughly 40 million and Los Angeles alone gets about 50 million visitors each year. Needless to say, a huge portion of these people are beachgoers and a growing ratio of those are at least attempting to paddle out.

Boasting one of the most surfable coastlines on the planet, California waves get consistently swamped by kooks, pros, and everyone in-between. It stands to reason that the more people there are in the water, the more likely boards are going to get damaged. Surfboard dings are never 100% preventable, but their likelihood can be mitigated with some basic crowd avoidance. Plus, who wouldn’t rather have the waves to themselves? 

California beaches are famously packed during the summer months, especially the further south you get. Unfortunately, the actual surfing crowd never really diminishes, even as the casual day-trippers travel back to Arizona when the water cools off. The most crowded waves in California pretty much stay that way year-round, with a few exceptions. 


Do Crowded Waves Really Lead to More Surfboard Dings

There aren’t really any studies out there that can prove whether or not a crowded wave causes higher volumes of surfboard dings. However, there are some dry-land scenarios that we can pull from. For example, there is a direct correlation between the rate of vehicle traffic congestion and the likelihood of multiple vehicle accidents occurring while on the road. 

Most surfboard dings are caused by natural (or at least inanimate) elements like reefs, rocks, piers, powerful waves, etc... Still, the propensity to accidentally hit these obstacles becomes more prevalent as more people enter the water. The bigger the crowd, the more likely everyone is to make a mistake. 

On top of that, really intense crowds obviously increase the likelihood of your board hitting someone else’s. Even worse, they can create dangerous scenarios where your body ends up hitting your own board. Hopefully, you're more concerned about yourself than your gear at that point, but it all depends on the situation. 

Regardless of your ability to avoid dings while in a hectic lineup, you’ll still want to take a look at the five most crowded surf spots in California just to know what you’re in for.  


Top 5 Most Crowded Waves in California (Where You’re Most Likely to Ding Your Board) 


Let’s Take a Trip Up the Coast 

1. Lower Trestles, San Onofre 

Located at the northern tip of San Diego County, Lower Trestles (Lowers) is a world-renowned wave and a frequent stop for the World Surf League’s Championship Tours. Despite its somewhat inconvenient beach access, Lowers is almost always crowded. Add to that the fact that it’s a near-perfect point-break and you end up with dozens of surfers sitting shoulder to shoulder fighting for the same wave. 

If you can manage to avoid any board-on-board dings, you’ll still need to take some precautions when walking in and out of the water. Trestles is famous for its rocky seafloor where the “Rock Dance” makes everyone look a little silly while awkwardly sidestepping and shuffling. 


2. The Wedge, Newport Beach 

If you drive about an hour up the coast from Trestles, you’ll get to an infamously precarious and accurately named wave called The Wedge. This whomping shore-break is almost more fun to watch than it is to surf. With its powerful slabs and shallow bottom, The Wedge would be an easy place to ding your board even if no one was out. Massive, tightly-packed crowds of bodysurfers, bodyboarders, and surfers just add to the potential danger. 

3. Surfrider Beach, Malibu 

Ever since the seminal 1959 film Gidget, Malibu has been a world-famous California surf destination. Surfrider Beach is located between the Malibu Pier and Lagoon and is an absolute classic wave. It’s a long, right-handed point break that’s frequently dominated by longboarders and very heavily trafficked. Given its user-friendliness, Surfrider Beach is often littered with beginners creating unanticipated surfboard ding hazards. 


4. Rincon, Ventura/Santa Barbara

Driving north from LA and into the Ventura/Santa Barbara area, you’ll come across a wave that’s not-so-beginner friendly. Rincon is often considered one of the best waves in California and deserves all of the recognition that it gets. Another right-handed, point break, Rincon is similar to Trestles in its perfection but suffers from a lack of consistent swells. This inconsistency doesn’t really stop it from being swarmed by surfers year-round. 

Rincon is fairly notorious for its unforgiving locals. Fortunately, that tends to mean most people paddling out there understand basic surf etiquette, making it not too difficult to avoid collisions. Still, aggressive surfers crowded together while jockeying for position on a near-perfect and occasionally heavy wave can lead to some serious dings. 

5. Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz 

Most people will agree that Nor-Cal surfing offers a very different experience than the warmer waters down south. Steamer Lane is no exception with its cold, sharky, and highly-localized waves. The crowd at this wave is known to be territorial and the frequently heavy swells, consistent sets, and giant adjacent cliff don’t soften its edges very much. 

If you do end up paddling out at Steamer Lane, you’re going to have to avoid local veterans dropping in on you, the sporadic kayaker, and some friendly seals and sea lions joining in on the fun. Also, definitely keep an eye out for any stray fins popping up out of the water. 

As we mentioned at the top, there’s no shortage of crowds at California beaches and the numbers are always going up. This list is just some of the waves we find to be crowded on a consistent basis. Regardless of where or how you surf, surfboard dings are always going to happen. The best thing you can do to protect your quiver is to ensure it’ll be taken care of when those accidents do eventually happen. Click here to learn more about how you can purchase a surfboard protection plan with Surfcare and keep your board in near-perfect shape without breaking the bank. 

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