Top surf spots in San Diego: Garbage Beach

Bobby Dyer

Wave Quality: Rating 4
Type of Wave: Reef break
Direction of Wave: Right and left
Bottom: Rocky reef
Difficulty: Intermediate surfer
Crowd Level: Packed
Hazards: Rocks, Locals, Rips


Best tides and forecast

Best breaks at medium and low tides. For forecast check out the Surfline report!



Garbage beach is one of the top spots to surf in San Diego located in Sunset Cliffs.


Beach Access

The beach has the easiest access by using the stairs also paddling out is easy just right off the stairs with minimum duckdiving, it is just a long paddle out.


Swell Direction and beach breakdown

The surf breaks in two primary spots north and south. North garbage produces long rights with a fast left. South garbage produces long lefts and good rights. Almost every time we have swell this is the place to surf. Garbage can stay clean longer due to the kelp beds beyond and it can handle any swell. If you are lucky enough to surf Garbage on a big swell you can get some insanely long rides.

Although its a reef break you have to be very unlucky to injure yourself due to you having to paddle pretty far out. The waves here are pretty powerful so always use caution. Probably best to avoid it on low-negative tides.


Surfboard and wetsuits

Usually people like to surf longboards here but you can surf anything that gives you good paddle speed as it is a long paddle in and hard to catch wave. Wetsuits in the Summer is better to use a 3/2mm and for the winter a 4/3mm.


Look out kooks!

Always make sure before you paddle out to spend a little time looking at other surfers paddle out as it will give you a sense of direction on the channels you can be using. The only downside to Garbage is that it can get insanely crowded on a good swell. The takeoff zone can get pretty concentrated. Also on a crowded day you have to be sure you are making the wave and surf with confidence or you will get eaten alive by the locals.

Be careful with some sneaky sets as the can really shake you up. Use caution, respect the locals, and you will have a good time.

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Cofounder of ITH Hostels. I love traveling, hosting, gardening, golfing, fishing, and sailing.