The Military has access to some of the best waves in all of San Diego. Surfing Camp Pendleton CA waves primarily include exclusive access to Del Mar Jetty and beach access to Lower Trestles.
In this post, find out where Camp Pendleton is, how to get on base, and what the waves are like on base surfing at Camp Pendleton.
Where is Camp Pendleton in San Diego?
To begin, I’ll tell you how to get to Camp Pendleton and how to get on base. Since Trestles is open to public access for anyone, this post will focus on surfing Del Mar Jetty. Del Mar Jetty is on base and only available to military or civilians with military access and their guests.
To get to Del Mar Jetty, use Del Mar Beach and Marina in your smartphone. The physical address is Bldg 2101841, 12th St, Oceanside, CA 92058.
Access to the gated entry is just off the I-5 heading North from Oceanside to San Clemente. Follow the signs for Camp Pendleton which will lead you to this gate.
It is patrolled 24-7 by military personnel so don’t even try to get in if you aren’t with someone who has military access. As long as you are in the car with someone who has military access, you will be able to get in. To be safe, bring your driver’s license or passport. The guards don’t always ask the passengers but better to be safe than sorry.
After entering base, follow the signs to Del Mar Beach and Marina. On the way, you’ll pass several military vehicles.
Parking is free at the beach where you can begin your experience surfing Camp Pendleton!
Camp Pendleton CA Surf Spot Overview
In this section, find out what the waves are like surfing at Camp Pendleton.
While surfing Camp Pendleton includes Trestles and parts of San Onofre, this overview documents what it’s like surfing Del Mar Jetty. Or, as locals like to put it; ‘surfing DMJs.’
There are other waves inside Camp Pendleton but DMJs is one of the favorites for military and non-military folks alike (if they can get access of course)!
While surfing DMJs, expect crossed up peaks stretching the span of this beach break when the tide is right. Surfing DMJs includes the area from the Southernmost jetty and all the way to the North until you reach military warning signs. Do not cross the line or you will get cited by the military.
The South jetty waves will wedge off the jetty on the right swell. Otherwise, the wave here is surprisingly mushy for a jetty.
However, you can expect fast, hollow waves down the rest of the beach. Beware of backwash during a high tide. The steep grade of the beach creates a pretty substantial backwash on a high tide. As such, surfing Del Mar Jetty is best on an incoming tide from low to medium. In terms of wave height, most of the beach will max out on overhead surf but the South jetty can handle a bit more swell.
In my experience, surfing DMJs is best for the intermediate surfer and up since it a fast and somewhat powerful wave. The section of wave near the jetty is probably better suited for your beginners.
Overall, you will enjoy surfing Camp Pendleton along this section known as DMJ’s. It’s a fun, fast beach break with plenty of peaks to hone your skills.
Surfing Camp Pendleton Quick Facts
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Wave Height: Waist to Head High
Tides: Rising low to medium
Water Temperature: Average 64° F. Water temperature in San Diego varies each month.
Swell Direction: S, SW + NW – combo swells are great
Wind Direction: E or NE Santa Anas.
*The nearest live, daily surf report is from Oceanside Harbor. Surfline does not have a camera on base at Pendleton.
When is the Best Time of Year for Surfing Camp Pendleton?
In this section, get your seasonal guide on the best time of year to go surfing at Camp Pendleton.
Winter: Honestly, winter kind of turns off when you get this far North up the San Diego coastline. You’ll still get some shots of W swell but South county is a better place for waves in winter.
Spring: During springtime, Camp Pendleton begins to see signs of energy as new S swells begins to awaken for the season.
Summer: Now, summertime is the time of year to target surfing Camp Pendleton! S + SW swells frequent the coast and get better and bigger the further North you go. As such, Camp Pendleton receives some of the largest surf in San Diego during summer due to how far North it lies.
Autumn: Del Mar Jetty is a beach break after all. As such, combo swells will create peaky waves down the entirety of this beach.
In summary, the best time of year to go surfing at Camp Pendleton is summertime followed by Autumn. I suggest avoiding during the winter.
Which Board to Bring for Surfing Del Mar Jetty?
While surfing Del Mar Jetty on Camp Pendleton, it’s important to make sure you choose the right board.
Due to this beach break being a bit racy, it’s typically best to ride your shortboard here. The drop in can get a bit dicey so riding your fish may be questionable.
With that said, there are sections of surfing DMJ that are slower than others. For example, near the jetty is oftentimes slower. Here, you can more easily ride a fish or even size up to your longboard.
In conclusion, a shortboard is most often going to be your best choice for surfing DMJs to help deal with the speed of the wave.
Crowds While Surfing Del Mar Jetty
Lastly, find out what to expect from the crowds while surfing Camp Pendleton.
The thin surfing crowds of Del Mar Jetty is what really make this spot special. It is possible on days when the surf is pumping to get an empty or near empty line up. This of course is due to military access being a requirement to get on base.
The results are great waves with not that many surfers. Even when it does get a bit busier here on a crowded summer day, the beach is long. This allows surfers to spread out along the beach. I suggest walking North where there tends to be less surfers and the waves are still great.
Finally, since most of the surfers out here are part of the military – show some respect. You are likely on base due to a connection with someone so don’t be a you know what in the water. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to surf a good wave in San Diego with sparse crowds.
Surf Breaks Near Camp Pendleton
If you don’t have access to surfing Camp Pendleton and Del Mar Jetty, here are some other good surf breaks nearby.
Closest to the South in Order:
- Oceanside Harbor
- Oceanside Pier
- Wisconsin Street
- Buccaneer Beach
Closest to the North in Order:
- San Onofre State Beach
Not to worry, plenty of good surf in North County San Diego!
How Many Camp Pendleton’s Are There?
Surprisingly, there is more than one Camp Pendleton. In fact, there are two! More surprisingly, both have surfing on Camp Pendleton.
Firstly, we have the Marine Corps Pendleton base in San Diego discussed in this article. The San Diego Pendleton base has more than 42,000 active duty marines and sailors.
Secondly, there is another Camp Pendleton on the East coast in Virginia Beach. This base is also a military base spanning the size of 325 acres.
Camp Pendleton Surf Spot Review1.0 out of 5.0 stars
Accessibility: Only accessible by military or friends + family of military.3.5 out of 5.0 stars
Waves: A racy beach break comprised of several peaks and a wave wedging off the jetty.5.0 out of 5.0 stars
Crowd: If you are lucky enough to get access here, you will score an uncrowded wave.3.8 out of 5.0 stars
Scenery: Surprisingly, one of the widest and more scenic beaches in San Diego.3.8 out of 5.0 stars
OVERALL: Enjoy this gem if you are able to on base. It’s a very good wave, not the best but enjoying it without many surfers is awesome.
Bottomline: Is Camp Pendleton in our top 10 surf spots in San Diego? No. But, check the spots that made the list.
Find all San Diego Surf Spot reviews here and subscribe to get new surf reviews like this one below:
Please keep your parks and beaches clean by picking up after yourself. Do me a favor and surf Camp Pendleton and DMJs how you found it. Check out Surfrider San Diego if you are looking to participate or contribute to a charitable ocean cause.