August 16, 2022
body surfing san diego

Body Surfing San Diego

San Diego is one of the best surfing destinations in the world. However, you may not be aware of the low-key body surfing San Diego scene.

Well, generally mild ocean temperatures and beautiful sandy beaches combine for optimal body surfing conditions. In this post, learn what makes a good body surfing wave and where to find the best body surfing in San Diego. For those new to the sport, we’ll even share how to body surf a wave.

So, join us in this full featured review of body surfing San Diego and have the most fun you can have without a board!

What is a Good Body Surfing Wave?

Before sharing the best waves for body surfing in San Diego, I will share some general characteristics of a good body surfing wave. That way, you’ll be able to identify a good body surfing wave outside of this list and wherever you go!

Sandy Ocean Floor – Because let’s face it, no one wants to body surf head-first into a rock. Rocky or reef bottoms are not good body surfing waves. Most importantly, they aren’t safe. You will easily cut, scrape yourself, or worse. A soft sand bottom will allow your body to hit the ocean floor with more minimal risk of injury.

Gradual Sloping Shoreline – This is another characteristic of a good body surfing wave. Reason being, is that a gradual shoreline allows the wave to break more gently. While it is possible to body surf steeper facing shorelines, it’s best to leave those kinds of waves for body surfers with more experience. A gradual shoreline break is the best kind of body surfing wave for a beginner.

Peaky Waves – It’s best to look for waves that pitch both to the left and right rather than closing out all at once. This will allow you to have a longer ride down what’s called the ‘shoulder’ of the wave rather than body surfing straight into the sand! Also, I don’t recommend body surfing in waves larger than five feet. You can more easily get picked up and slammed to the ocean floor in larger surf; especially when you aren’t on top of the water like with normal surfing.

body surfing wave
Peaky waves like this allow you to body surf down the corner of the wave

Best Body Surfing San Diego

Generally speaking, the best body surfing in San Diego will be found at any beach break. Check here for a list of all San Diego beach breaks and how they are different from a reef break or point break. With that said, my top 5 recommended spots for body surfing in San Diego are as follows:

Marine Street Beach: Arguably, the best body surfing in San Diego is found at Marine Street in La Jolla. It’s a heavy, pounding shore break where experienced body surfers can really get pitted.  As such, stay away if you are a novice. For novices, spectating is a blast and this also one of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego. For a nearby mellower alternative, check Windansea. Although, Windansea is typically crowded with surfers. On the other hand, a bonus of Marine Street is it never has surfers because the break crashes so near to the beach.

Oceanside Pier: A vast and open beach break. This break caters to all levels of body surfers. Sometimes, the waves will wedge off the pier allowing for a nice ride.

Scripps Pier: Another easily accessible beach break that sits off a pier. Piers are usually good for body surfing because the bottom is normally sandy, and piers provide structure that adds better shape to waves.

Avalanche Jetty Ocean Beach: A fun, peaky wave that wedges off Avalanche Jetty in Ocean Beach. Also, another beach break.

D Street: A very fun and fast breaking beach break in Encinitas, part of North County San Diego. Here, go just North of the staircase to find a swimmer’s only section so you won’t have to compete with surfers.

In summary, Marine Street is the best body surfing in San Diego for advanced body surfers while the other breaks are great for all levels. Just remember, you’ll normally have to mix in with surfers at most of these spots.

How to Body Surf a Wave

In this section, learn how to body surf a wave for first timers.

In fact, body surfing a wave is a lot like learning how to surf. However, you don’t have the buoyancy of a board, so you are going to have to work harder to create more momentum.

When I teach people how to body surf a wave, I tell them to imagine like they are running/swimming from the wave as fast as they can.

First, you will turn your back to the wave to get into position as you see it approaching. Next you will either take a few bounds along the ocean floor or plant your feet and push as hard as you can off the ocean floor. This will start your forward momentum.

Next, you will want to take hard, deep strokes as you paddle as fast as you can to continue your momentum with the wave as it picks you up.  

how to body surf a wave
A body surfing hand plane is your best friend as you stretch out across a wave

Finally, point your head down the line as the wave picks you up and extend your leading hand in front of you. This will create the downward momentum you need to help guide yourself down the wave.

That’s the quick step by step to learn how to body surf a wave. Now, just go try to catch as many waves as you can! In no time at all, you’ll be body surfing in San Diego’s best breaks!

Body Surfing Equipment

Yes, you are able to body surf with nothing, literally just your body. However, as your skill level progresses, it helps to be prepared before you go body surfing in San Diego. In this section, I’ll share some of the most common body surfing equipment.

Firstly, we have the body surfing hand plane. This is an essential piece of body surfing equipment. It comes in all shapes and sizes but the important thing to know is a hand plane will really allow to pick your direction down the wave; as well as staying on top of it. A pretty standard body surfing hand plane is below. I’m an Amazon Affiliate so I appreciate your purchases 🙂

Another essential piece of body surfing equipment is a set of flippers. Flippers will help you swim faster and catch more waves.

Finally, don’t forget a good action camera like a GoPro to capture yourself thrashing through the waves.

In conclusion, good body surfing equipment will help to take your body surfing to the next level!

Conclusion on Body Surfing in San Diego

In conclusion, body surfing in San Diego is super fun and the area is ripe with plenty of good body surfing spots. If you are really looking to get in touch with the ocean, body surfing is one of the purest ways to do that.

While I still prefer surfing San Diego’s best surf spots, it’s also fun to body surf a few waves when hanging at the beach with friends.

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