May 25, 2024
surfing dawn patrol

Why Surfing Dawn Patrol is the Best?

When your alarm goes off early in the morning, it’s never easy to get up. However, if you want to be surfing dawn patrol, no snoozing allowed. Trust me, it’s worth it!

In this article, I’ll describe what surfing dawn patrol actually means and why it’s so darn good. After reading this, you may never sleep in again!

What is Surfing Dawn Patrol?

Quite simply, surfing dawn patrol is when you wake up early enough to go surfing at the crack of dawn. The exact time of when qualifies as a dawn patrol surf has probably been skewed over the years. While some argue, it’s being in the water as the sun crests; many consider it being in the water during that hour just after sunrise.

With that, you basically need to set your alarm before sunrise and while it’s still dark in order to earn and surf a true dawn patrol session. That way, you give yourself enough time to get to the beach and paddle out as the sun is rising. So, that begs the question; why is surfing dawn patrol so desirable?

Cleaner Conditions: Most importantly, you get to take a crack at surfing waves during what is likely the best conditions of the day. The wind is always calmest during the early part of the day allowing for clean surfing conditions. It doesn’t take long after sunrise before the wind picks up creating a chop on the water. As such, your window for a successful dawn patrol surf is small.

Less Crowds: While most experienced surfers know that dawn patrol is best, many still aren’t able to shake themselves out of bed at that hour. As such, the crowds are typically lighter than they will be by mid-morning. Rule of thumb is the earlier you go, the better chance at lighter crowds. However, if you are surfing solo before lifeguards – be aware of rip currents.

Peace and Beauty: Waking up before the rush and noise of the day is another award winning factor for dawn patrol. Couple that with being on the water to watch the sunrise and dance over the waves; it’s hard to beat. If you are lucky, you’ll even get a chance to witness a moonset! Lastly, the sun is not as strong on your skin.

what is dawn patrol surf
A moonset at sunrise is something to witness!

In conclusion, surfing dawn patrol is always done early in the day and is the generally the best time of day for surfing conditions.

Surfing Dawn Patrol vs Sunset

In this section, we’ll explore the pros of surfing dawn patrol vs sunset.

To begin, you need to identify the best time of day for surfing. Yes, the tides, winds and swell can all play into the surf conditions on any given day. However, the best times of day for surfing are generally either early morning or just before sunset.

Surfing dawn patrol and surfing at sunset share many similarities. Firstly, winds are generally calmer. During the early morning hours, winds haven’t picked up yet while at sunset; the winds begin to slack off. Secondly, you typically encounter fewer crowds both right at sunrise and also righter after sunset. If you stay out after sunset late enough, most surfers head in as the light dims. However, you still have a small window to catch surf with less crowds before it becomes completely dark. Lastly, sunrise and sunset both share striking colors and horizons as the sun rises and falls. Undoubtedly, these are the two prettiest times of the day.

surfing dawn patrol
Clean waves and lighter crowds at dawn

After comparing these different factors, I will say that surfing dawn patrol wins because conditions are most often best at dawn and there are usually less surfers at dawn than sunset. The one factor where surfing sunset might win is the views of the horizon.

In summary, surfing dawn patrol is better than sunset but depending on the day; it’s quite possible to have an amazing glassy sunset session too!

Dawn Patrol San Diego

While I have surfed over the globe, most of my dawn patrol experiences are in San Diego. Dawn patrol in San Diego is just as good as anywhere else around the world.

Let’s face it, getting up early is hard. I want you to make the most of this experience if you make the effort so that you can experience the sun rising over the water yourself.  In order to do so, check the current San Diego dawn time. By rule of thumb, you should be putting on your wetsuit at first light or earlier. In order to do so, you should be setting your alarm at least 30 minutes before the stated sunrise time. This of course will also depend on how far you live from the water and how much time it takes you to get ready in the morning. Wear your surf watch to to help sync up.

As long as you give yourself ample time, you will be able to experience why surfing dawn patrol in San Diego is so special. Below, find a few of my favorite spots for dawn patrol surfing in San Diego:

Black’s Beach – Probably the most scenic surf spot in San Diego due to the towering bluffs of Torrey Pines. Watching the sunrise over these bluffs is an experience.

San Elijo State Beach – While the bluffs are not as large in San Elijo as Black’s – the characteristics are similar and sunrises just as good.

Ocean Beach – Watching the sunrise over the OB Pier and light up Ocean Beach is a special experience.

san diego dawn time
A peek at dawn in San Diego

There are of course many other surf spots to catch a good sunrise in San Diego. The key is being there early enough!


In conclusion, get up and go early! You’ll be glad that you did. Plus, you can always nap after that early surf and breakfast burrito 🙂

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  • Gavin Bechtold

    Gavin has been living and surfing in San Diego for over a decade. He loves the ocean and is lucky to call San Diego home. Frustrated with mainstream reviews, he set out to create the best source of surf reviews for San Diego beaches. Check the About page for more info!