Insider's Guide to Surfing Campus Point

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The swells are soon to come. Will you be ready? You can catch waves anytime of year in Santa Barbara, but the peak season for good surf is just around the corner, beginning in late summer and lasting until early spring. At Campus Point the surf typically starts to gain consistency in September, and just gets better and better as the winter swells rise. Most of the time you will see waves of 2-6 feet, although there have been some peak December days when the point sees 15 footers! No matter your skill level or riding style, Campus Point and its surrounding breaks offer some of Santa Barbara’s best surfing. In case you’re not quite prepared for what’s to come over the next few months, RootsRated has created an Insider’s Guide to help you find the best experience possible at Campus Point.

1. The Breaks:

Jansen Dahill

The feature break is a right-hand point break that peels off of some rocks and moves toward the cliffs above Goleta Beach. When a swell comes, the point will feature the best waves, and bigger is better. The point can get fast and hollow especially with low tide, and gives long rides when it’s on.

Just a couple hundred yards down the beach is “Poles” which picks up the leftover currents from the point to produce a great longboard wave through the kelp forest. If longboarding or standup paddling is your style, Poles offers a consistent wave slightly smaller than the point that can give longer, slower rides, making it good for beginners. On the bottom there are a few rocks, but mostly sand and kelp beds.

Jansen Dahill

Around the top of the point is a beach break known as “Depressions” where you can typically catch a higher quantity of waves, though the ride will be shorter and the waves generally close out. If you want more options for your surf-ari, two miles up the coast are some more of our favorite breaks, Devereaux and Sands . These two are typically better with a high tide, so be sure to check charts before you go.

2. The Suit:

Jansen Dahill

Unless you have the skin of a Harbor Seal, you’ll most likely need a full wetsuit to surf anywhere in Santa Barbara. On warmer days in summer and early fall, you can get by with a spring-suit or just a pair of boardshorts on rare occasions when the water warms up to the mid-sixties. But for late fall, winter, and spring months, a 4/3mm full suit is ideal but a 3/2mm may suffice for water temperatures in the mid to high fifties.   

3. Parking:

The easiest place to park is on UCSB’s campus right by the point. However these spots are metered and will set you back $3-9. Unpaid street parking is available in Isla Vista, but you’ll have to walk about half a mile with your board to get to the beach.  

4. Where to Refuel:

It’s only fitting to replace calories claimed by the ocean at Backyard Bowls because this eatery actually has some of its origins in the water at Campus Point. It’s named after a favorite surf break in Hawaii, but the founders met in the dorms at UCSB. Their blended bowls topped with fruit and granola are designed by surfers for surfers and anyone with an active lifestyle. Filling, healthy, and energizing, a Backyard Bowl goes great before and or after a session on the water, so be sure to make a stop at their Goleta location on Calle Real just a few minutes from the beach.

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