Pacific Beach, or "PB", is the college age version of Disneyland. Don't be surprised by how little you surf while visiting this locale. PB is known for nightlife, beautiful people, and as a fine place to make poor decisions. If you can rally and get to the beach, PB can offer a variety of surf. Like most places it can get good, I mean really good, but for the most part expect mediocrity. PB should be on every traveling surfer's list and even if the waves suck, expect to leave with a smile on you face and an empty wallet.
What Makes It Great
PB surfing is great because it isn't pretentious. PB is a breath of fresh air in a pretty stale culture based on the mantra, “we are cooler than you.” The majority of PB surfers are pretty mellow and know the score, so just paddle out and have a good time.
There are a variety of breaks in PB: Tourmaline, Law Street, Crystal Pier, and PB Drive. Tourmaline and Law Street are popular with long boarders. Crystal Pier is a decent left, and closer to PB Drive is Open Beach break. There is also a boardwalk that stretches the length of this coastline so don't be afraid to strike out on your own and find a peak.
In terms of conditions, the best bet is to surf PB Drive and beach breaks with a higher tide, and to surf the Pier, Law street, and Tourmaline with a more low to mid tide. However if the tide is too low, meaning 0.0-1.00ft , forget about surfing and get a beer instead.
The wind in PB can be annoying, and it's either windy or glassy and there is no in-between. Spring / Summer bring early morning south wind so you best bet is Fall/ Winter. Bring a wetsuit as water is in the high 50’s in the winter and high 60’s/low 70’s in the summer. Look for a NW windswell for quality, otherwise PB gets every type of swell.
Who is Going to Love It
PB is for everyone, and that will be apparent from the minute you pull up to the beach. Don't be surprised to see all manner of surf craft in the water. PB is a place for both beginner and advanced surfers to enjoy the beach. Plus, if surfing isn't your thing you could always play beach volleyball, cornhole with the bros, or just throw on your shades and admire the view!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
No booze on the beach! Thanks to riots and over zealous Cornhole Bros (see above) nobody can enjoy a glass of merlot as the sun dips into the Pacific. It is all good though as PB is pretty much a free for all. No real hazards here either, just avoid diving into the shallow water and don't assume everyone is single, and you'll be fine. There are a few ways to get to PB but heading west on Garnet Avenue or Grand Avenue will get you squared away. Parking is free in neighborhoods, and PB is extremely bicycle friendly.