November 28, 2022
santa ana winds southern california

Santa Ana Winds Southern California Surfing

California is the Golden State. Surfing here is a classic experience. However, the Santa Ana winds Southern California surfing experience is special. We are lucky enough to be able to surf Santa Ana winds in San Diego!

In this post, learn about Santa Ana winds, how they got their name, and which months they occur. If you haven’t experienced them yet, this post will provide the clues so you can surf the Santa Ana winds of San Diego for your first time!

What is Santa Ana Winds?

Before we talk about surfing in the Santa Ana winds of California, first let’s define ‘what is Santa Ana winds.

To begin, Santa Ana winds are often characterized by a blustery, warm, and dry wind. Secondly, this blows out of the desert valleys and East towards the coastline. Yes, Santa Ana winds are normally hot, but the cause of Santa Ana winds starts with cold air in the desert. When this happens, a high pressure builds over the Great Basin causing the cold air to sink. While the air starts as cold, it’s forced downwards which compresses and warms the air.

As a result, the air becomes dry and warm. When it begins to pass through canyons, the air picks up speed. The result effect creates the strong wind episodes that San Ana winds get their name for.

cause of santa ana winds
Santa Ana winds blowing offshore to the Pacific Ocean

In summary, Santa Ana winds are hot, blustery winds. The cause of the Santa Ana winds originates in the desert valleys before blowing east to the Pacific Ocean.

Why is it Called Santa Ana Winds

When surfers in Southern California hear the name Santa Ana winds, they get excited. However, the origin of the name Santa Ana winds actually has two stories. 

Most commonly, the winds get their name from the Santa Ana canyon of Orange County. The canyon is south of Los Angeles and near the city of Santa Ana! Since the Santa Ana winds originate inland, this name has become widely accepted.

Alternatively, some longtime LA residents believe the true name is the ‘santana’ winds before it changed to Santa Ana by newer Los Angeleans. However, one thing is for certain among beachgoers in LA, Santa Ana Winds + Southern California surfing go hand in hand.

What Months do Santa Ana Winds Occur?

Surfers taken note. We talked earlier about where the Santa Ana winds come from. Now, find out what months Santa Ana winds occur. That way, you know the window when to surf the Southern California Santa Ana winds.

As mentioned above, these winds are most common during the cooler months of the year in Southern California. Typically, this means September through May. However, I often find that September through November is the best window for surfing Santa Ana winds. Autumn is when the temperature cools inland most rapidly. This effect is what causes Santa Ana winds and is also why they are most common during this period.

Note, while the winds originate from cool air, the air warms. This creates the hot air during these months along the coast.

Ultimately, Santa Ana winds make for great Southern California surfing. Read on for more.

Surfing Santa Ana Winds San Diego

Surfing the Santa Ana winds of Southern California equal good waves and surfing in San Diego!

Firstly, why are surfing Santa Ana winds so desirable? For one, the easterly blowing wind is called ‘offshore’ wind. Offshore wind grooms the water surface, keeping it smooth. Also, the offshore wind holds up the lip of the wave. Normally, the lip of the wave falls quickly forward or crumbles in normal or onshore wind conditions. However, offshore wind helps keep the wave upright.

This is desirable for surfing because it creates an open, smooth face of the wave that is incredible for ripping turns and carving. Furthermore, the open face holds up for barrels which is the green dream room for every surfer. Finally, I love the spray off the lip of the wave. There’s nothing like a perfectly groomed lineup as the result of Santa Ana’s.

santa ana winds southern california
Santa Anas blowing offshore in San Diego

As a result, Autumn is one of the best times of year to surf in San Diego!

If you are looking for other memorable surfing experiences in San Diego, try surfing the red tide!

Where to Surf Santa Ana Winds in San Diego?

EVERYWHERE! Literally, just go surfing when Santa Ana winds are present. Santa Anas make for all time conditions. If you need a few ideas for surfing Santa Anas in San Diego, I recommend top surf spots like Blacks Beach, Swamis, and Windansea.

In summary, Santa Ana winds are a rare event. As such, the Santa Ana winds Southern California experience is a special one for surfers. You should also try surfing one of San Diego’s top 10 waves during Santa Ana winds. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

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