January 29, 2023
best surf piers in san diego

Piers in San Diego – A Guide to Seeing the Ocean from Above

There are a number of piers in San Diego. However, there are only select beach piers in San Diego where surfing is possible. In this post, I’ll cover all the pier surf spots in San Diego.

How Many Piers are in San Diego?

Actually, there are five total piers in San Diego where surfing is possible. However, including the two non surfing piers brings the total to seven San Diego piers. Similar to my post on Point Breaks in San Diego – I present you a list of all piers in San Diego from North to South. The 5 surf piers in San Diego include Oceanside Pier, Scripps Pier (La Jolla), Crystal Pier (Pacific Beach), Ocean Beach Pier and Imperial Beach Pier. The two non surfing piers include Coronado Ferry Landing Pier and Shelter Island Pier. Both of these piers are in San Diego Bay.

Surprisingly, surfing piers can be quite fun. Piers provide some structure in the water to help with wave shape similar to a point break. As such, waves sometimes will break off the pier creating a fun ride. If you are brave, you can even try to shoot the pier.

Read on for a complete overview for each of the five piers in San Diego.

5 San Diego Piers for Surfing

In this section, find a complete list of all surfing piers in San Diego from North to South. I’ll share how to get to each pier and if the waves are any good or not.

Oceanside Pier Surf Spot

Firstly, I’ll cover the Northernmost pier in San Diego. In addition to being one of the San Diego beach piers, Oceanside Pier is also one of the better fishing piers in San Diego.

Oceanside Pier is 1,942 ft long and is found at the following address: Oceanside Fishing Pier, Pier, Oceanside, CA 92054. Oceanside Pier has both free and metered street parking nearby; allowing for easy accessibility.

Most importantly, let’s talk about surfing at Oceanside Pier.

To begin, I would classify Oceanside Pier as an average wave. It’s a beach break that breaks off a sandbar created from the pier. Summer is the best time of year to surf Oceanside Pier. Actually, summer is the best time of year to surf pretty much anywhere in North County San Diego. Oceanside Pier is somewhat unique because surfing is allowed on both the North and South side of the pier. At some other piers, surfing is only permissable on one side of the pier.

Overall, surfing at Oceanside pier is a fun, consistent beach break.

Oceanside Pier Restaurant: Ruby’s Diner. Update: Ruby’s Diner is now closed. The city will be announcing a new tenant soon.

Oceanside Pier Tip: Take a walk on Oceanside Pier to watch the sunset. They also have lots of cool shops and stalls as you walk the pier.

oceanside pier
Oceanside Pier in San Diego

Scripps Pier

Next, we’ll travel South down the coast to cover surfing at Scripps Pier. Scripps Pier is another beautiful San Diego pier. However, this concrete pier is closed to foot traffic as it an active marine research facility. In fact, Scripps Pier is part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and is one of the largest active research piers in the world.

To get to Scripps Pier, type in 8650 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037 to your smartphone. Parking at Scripps Pier is pretty accessible. At this location, free street parking is available. Additionally, there is a small lot near the pier for surfers and beachgoers.

As to the wave itself, surfing at Scripps Pier is actually pretty good. Firstly, Scripps Pier is a beach break. The waves can get fairly peaky here. Similar to Oceanside Pier, surfing at Scripps Pier is allowed on both the North and South sides of the pier. Generally, the South side is favored for higher quality surf.

Scripps pier
A view of Scripps Pier from the line up!

Occasionally, Scripps Pier will receive a solid winter swell that comes from the right direction. When this happens, the waves won’t close out like they typically would while surfing Scripps Pier during larger surf. Luckily, I’ve scored Scripps Pier on a day where the wind was offshore. It was pretty epic.

Overall, surfing at Scripps Pier is a good bet. The waves are consistently quality and the multiple breaks allow for crowds to spread out.

Scripps Pier Restaurant: While not actually on the pier, but overlooking the pier. Check out Caroline’s Seaside Café.

Scripps Pier Tip: Take a short walk down the beach to La Jolla shores for one of the best beginner surf spots in San Diego.

Crystal Pier Surf Spot

Next, we’ll find Crystal Pier not much further South in Pacific Beach. Crystal Pier is one of the most popular San Diego piers. Also, it’s another fishing pier in San Diego.

To get to Crystal Pier, punch in 4500 Ocean Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 to your smartphone. Pacific Beach is a popular and crowded beach city. As such, parking can be difficult. You may have a decent walk from your car to the beach. With that said, most of the street parking is free!

As mentioned, Crystal Pier is probably the most popular beach pier in San Diego. Dense crowds of beach goers will pack both sides of the pier, especially during summer.

Now, let’s talk surfing at Crystal Pier. Unlike the previous piers, surfing at Crystal Pier is only allowed on the North side. The South side of the pier is designated for swimming only. Normally, waves wedge up against the North side of the pier creating a nice left off the pier. Oftentimes, the take-off zone right next to the pier is crowded with sometimes aggressive surfers. If you don’t mind sitting off the pier a bit, you can still catch some fun waves with less a crowd. Crystal Pier classifies as a beach break and surfing at Crystal Pier is best when the tide is falling.

Generally, Crystal Pier Surf Spot is an intermediate wave. Although, it’s fine for beginners when smaller. In fact, it’s one of the surf spots I learned to surf at. It’s conveniently located South of Tourmaline Beach, the best beginner surf spot in San Diego.

Overall, surfing at Crystal Pier is fun; although not super consistent. It’s best during a combo swell which will most often happen in the Fall season.

Crystal Pier Restaurant: While not on the pier itself, Kono’s Café is a great post surf breakfast immediately next to the Pier.

Crystal Pier Tip: Crystal Pier is super unique in that there are cottages on the pier. You can sleep above the water!

beach piers in San Diego
Christmas on Crystal Pier in San Diego!

Ocean Beach Pier San Diego

In this section, learning about surfing at Ocean Beach Pier. Ocean Beach Pier is the longest pier in San Diego at 1,971 feet! Because it’s so long, it is also a popular fishing pier in San Diego. I definitely suggest walking all the way to the end of pier to watch the surfers and enjoy views of Ocean Beach.

To get to OB Pier, punch in 1850 Ocean Front St, San Diego, CA 92107 to your smart phone. Generally, parking at OB Pier is pretty easy. There is a free lot immediately next to the pier. When the lot is full, look for street parking in the eclectic neighborhood of Ocean Beach San Diego.

surfing piers in san diego
Ocean Beach Pier of San Diego

Okay – how is the surfing at Ocean Beach Pier? The surf at OB Pier is probably the best on this list. Ocean Beach Pier is a beach break like the other surfing piers in San Diego found on this list. While you can surf on both sides of this pier, the surf is best and most consistent on the North side. Surfing on the South side of pier is limited due to waves normally breaking South to North. As such, chances are you are trying to shoot this pier when surfing on the South side.

When surfing at Ocean Beach Pier on the North side, you have a chance to catch both lefts and rights. This pier can hold an overhead swell. As such, surfing at Ocean Beach pier is best during wintertime North/Northwest swells.

Overall, the quality of surfing at Ocean Beach Pier is fair to good. I also wrote a comprehensive review of Ocean Beach Pier Surf Spot for all the finer details.

Ocean Beach Pier Restaurant: Check out Ocean Beach Pier Café – can’t beat breakfast above the water!

OB Pier Tip: Since this is the longest pier in San Diego, it’s a great pier to take a walk and enjoy the expansive views of the coastline and city of San Diego!

Imperial Beach Pier San Diego

Finally, the last and Southernmost pier in San Diego on the list – Imperial Beach Pier. IB Pier is a wooden plank pier; 1,491 feet long. It also a fishing pier in San Diego.

To get to Imperial Beach Pier, punch 10 Evergreen Ave, Imperial Beach, CA 91932 into your smart phone. There is paid parking at Portwood Pier Plaza and also some free street parking available.

Surfing at Imperial Beach Pier is not for the faint of heart. Imperial Beach Pier Surf Spot is the most advanced pier wave on this list. The sandbars in this area create incredibly hollow waves during powerful swells. As a result, it is possible to get a barrel here.

Surfing at Imperial Beach Pier is allowed on both the North and South side. Generally, the lineup is not very crowded due to the level of surfing and it’s far Southern location. Furthermore, the water is polluted at times due to it’s proximity to the Tijuana River.

In summary, surfing IB Pier is for experienced, hungry surfers.

Imperial Beach Pier Restaurant: The Tin Fish sits on the end of the pier and is a great place for grub.

Imperial Beach Pier Tip: It’s so close to Mexico! When surfing at IB Pier, take the extra time to drive across the border and check out TJ for some real good street tacos!

piers in san diego
The Tin Fish at the end of Imperial Beach Pier is a great place to eat!

Ranking the San Diego Piers from Longest to Shortest

  1. Ocean Beach Pier – 1,971 feet
  2. Oceanside Pier – 1,942 feet
  3. Imperial Beach Pier – 1,491 feet
  4. Scripps Pier – 1,084 feet
  5. Crystal Pier – 872 feet
  6. Shelter Island Pier – 500 feet
  7. Coronado Island Pier – 377 feet

Which Piers in San Diego Have Restaurants?

Three piers in San Diego have restaurants on them. They are Ocean Beach Pier with Ocean Beach Pier Cafe, Imperial Beach Pier with Tin Fish, and Oceanside Pier with Ruby’s Diner. However, Ruby’s diner recently closed and a new tenant will be announced by the city soon.

What to be Aware of When Surfing Piers in San Diego

Overall, surfing piers in San Diego is a fun experience. Generally, there are a few things to keep in mind whenever surfing at any pier.

  1. Watch out for fishermen

Generally, most piers allow fishing. As such, watch out for hooks and lines which can sometimes be near the surfing area.

2. Watch out for the pier!

Yes, normally you are surfing away from the pier. However, sometimes you take off right next to the pier in close proximity. Bold surfers will try to shoot the pier. Be careful if you try this.

3. Select your waves wisely

The structure of piers consistently creates waves that break away from it. Conserve your energy to catch the best waves. Also, the takeoff area is usually busy with other surfers. Know your priority and respect others in the water.

Follow these rules and you will have fun surfing the five piers in San Diego or surfing at any pier around the world!

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