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Surf's Up: Great Surf Spots in Southern California

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Southern California's rich surf culture dates back to the early 1900s -- probably 1907, when a Hawaiian surfer gave a demonstration in Huntington Beach. The endless beach breaks formed by reefs and sandbars created ideal waves for surfing in this area, attracting pioneers to pave the way for modern surfing. Individuals like Tom Blake set the foundation for the '50s post-war surf culture to emerge, inspiring generations of surfers to catch the perfect wave (surf movies and music of that era certainly helped to bolster the culture as well). Eventually, Malibu in particular became a mecca for boarders.

Traditionally, surfboards were made of heavy and cumbersome hardwoods. New materials, such as fiberglass, developed during World War II, which led to the the development of the "Malibu Board" -- a lighter, 10-foot, single-finned fiberglass surfboard that enabled surfers to "hot dog" and ride "toes to the nose." In the '70s, boards began to shift, becoming both shorter and faster, and continued to evolve in the '80s, when short boards took over the waves completely.

Today, modern surfing greatly resembles contemporary skateboarding. Small and ultra light surfboards allow for big aerial maneuvers. Despite decades of innovation, classic long boarding seems to never fade away, and, many would say, is making a comeback.

From Santa Barbara to San Diego, Southern California offers world-class long board waves that are ideal for beginners, old timers and everyone else in between. Here is a list of the best long board surf spots Southern California has to offer:

Orange County: Santa Onofre State Beach, San Clemente
This Southern California surfing staple maintains its early '60s beach vibe -- welcoming and family-friendly, with a lively tailgate party scene. Within the long stretch of beach, The Point, Old Man's, and Dog Patch are classic longboard breaks. Old Man's is a great place for beginners. Here novice surfers will have fun and quickly gain confidence with the soft and slow waves. Reach out to an old timer in the parking lot to get a quick history lesson on everything this iconic surf spot has to offer. A number of campsites are available.
Location: Old Highway 101, San Clemente, CA 92672
Parking: Day Use: $15; Annual Pass: $195; free parking on HWY 101

Los Angeles County: Surfrider Beach (Malibu Lagoon State Beach), Malibu
Located on the north side of the Malibu pier, the historic Surfrider Beach breaks in three sections. Short boarders surf the Rivermouth while First Point offers waves of flawless shape and speed, often referred to as the perfect longboard wave. The drawback is the crowds, and the experienced surfers here are more aggressive, but its fun to sit back and watch the enormous amount of talent that surrounds you.
Location: 23050 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Parking: Winter $3.00 to $8.00, Summer $3.00 to $12.50; free parking along PCH

Ventura County: Rincon Point, Ventura
Often referred to as "Queen of the Coast," Rincon Point does not break often, but when it does, consider this an ideal short boarder spot. The remainder of the time, Rincon is known for a fun, gentle, and well-shaped wave that can be ridden from the point to the PCH on the right day. The crowds can be intense, and locals sparingly relinquish waves, but newbies can carve out a spot in the inner cove, and enjoy long easy rides from sun up to sundown.
Location: Exit the US Hwy 101 at Bates Road, Ventura, CA 93001 and head west for Rincon Point parking lot.
Parking: Free

San Diego County: Cardiff State Beach, Encinitas
The vibe at Cardiff State Beach is both mellow and inviting, typical of San Diego surf culture. This popular point breaks both left and right, steep, smooth, and consistent, perfectly suited for long boarders. The shallows have a safe, sandy bottom, ideal for new surfers.
Location: One mile south of Cardiff on Old Highway 101.
Parking: Day Use: $15; Annual Pass: $195; free parking on the PCH

Honorable Mentions: Sunset Point (Pacific Palisades), Bay Street (Santa Monica), C Street (Ventura) and Swamies (San Diego).

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