by Dan Ketchum
In Malibu, surfing has been part of our culture, heart, and soul since at least the 1920s. A hundred years later, the world has changed, but the breaks stay the same. Malibu’s surf community welcomes riders of all walks of life, and there’s no need to worry if you’re just dipping your toes in or need to wax the proverbial board a little — our community partners (and fellow dreamers) at Boardriders offer lessons that’ll get you into the whitewash in no time.
Ready to hit the waves? Here are our five favorite surf spots in Malibu.
1. Surfrider Beach
Yeah, you’ve heard of it, but it would almost be offensive to mention Malibu surf spots without honoring Surfrider Beach, the place where the iconic Malibu surf culture of the 1950s was essentially born. The home of surf counterculture and Gidget herself, Surfrider is still a focal point of surf society. While tourists now pack its shores, the three breaks that made the beach legendary — First, Second and Third Point — haven’t changed.
2. County Line
Way up in northern Malibu, County Line offers a little something for everyone. It is the perfect place to start because the Line itself welcomes beginners with open arms, and it’s beach break is a great place to gently ease in. The point break right at its northernmost top is also capable of generating plenty of swell for seasoned surfers, especially during the winter season.
3. Topanga Beach
You know we couldn’t let this slide by without a shout to Rockwell Kitchen’s home beach. While the rocky shore inhibits a lot of swimming, you’ll get waves breaking on both beds of sand and stone here at Topanga, with the latter break encouraging a longer ride. And that long, low ride fits the vibes here, which are a little quieter than some other Malibu surf options. An added bonus? Once your surf session is over, you can grab an organic chicken Caesar wrap from us while you’re here — wetsuits welcome.
4. Leo Carillo
Angelenos know Leo Carillo as the archetypal West Coast family campground, but everyone else will recognize it as the backdrop for dozens of classic surf flicks (as well as some major blockbusters). In this rocky cove, surfers seek out a particular right-hand wave affectionately dubbed Secos, which peaks near the big rocks before reforming into an energetic inside section. The cool waters of this scenic beach are best enjoyed on a medium tide.
5. Little Dume
If you’re looking for something that’s off the beaten path, head to Little Dume. The break forms in a crescent in a cove below the bluffs and mansions of Little Dume Beach that you can only access if you are lucky enough to know (or be!) a local with a key to the private beach. Once you get there, you’ll find that moody sandbar peaks churn out heavy tubes and lots of shorepound best left to pros. One of the best surf spots in the world and beloved by Malibuites, Little Dume is an acquired taste, often one savored by old-school surfers, where the surf is good when conditions are just right — but the views are always gorgeous.
In addition to his experience as a mixologist, menu designer, bar manager and traveler, Dan has been a freelance writer and Los Angeles resident since 2009. He has previously written for Everything Food, Farmshelf, Hunker, Out East Rose, Salon.com and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, among others.