In this guide to windsurfing in California we look at where, how and why to visit the Golden State for a windsurf holiday. You are in for a great trip, regardless of whether you visit a single destination such as Davenport Beach or explore the 11 best Cali windsurf spots in an RV/campervan.
Thanks to the Beach Boys and others, California will always have a pre-eminent place in surfing mythology. Less often is it associated with windsurfing, even though the sport has been popular here since the 1960s.
With great tourist infrastructure and facilitates, plenty of sunshine and good weather adventure holidays in California are very popular. Combine that with reliable winds, nuking surf and protected bays it means it’s a great destination for windsurfing vacations.
Whatever level of windsurfer – from complete beginner to pro – there are spots suitable for you. It doesn’t matter if you are into waves, flatwater, freestyle or speed you can find a Cali windsurf spot to suit your needs.
Perhaps combine your windsurf trip with a city break in San Francisco or LA. Or turn it into a road trip travelling around the state to the best Cali windsurf spots. You can, of course, be a tourist along the way visiting sights such as Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Hollywood.
Possibly the best option it to get a campervan, or RV as it’s known in the US, to explore the Golden State and camp in parks, on beaches and anywhere you fancy. The law regarding boondocking – parking up for the night in a non-designated spot – vary from place to place, so be sure to follow the rules.
A campervan is idea for windsurfing as you’ll have plenty of room for your gear. Also camping near beaches means you can hit the water when conditions are best. If you have any prangs on route you’ll find great RV repair in Orange County, just south of LA, near some of the popular windsurf spots below.
Given its vigorous watersports economy, fine weather and plethora of top beaches, California is the ideal place to learn how to windsurf. Most schools teach you the basics topic-by-topic: Understanding the Equipment, Sailing, Turning Out, Rules of the Road, etc.
If you are an experienced sailor then windsurfing in California offers untold riches! There is wave sailing up and down the coast and if the wind is blowing you can rock up and hit the water almost anywhere – if you are good enough.
Here are 11 of the best Cali windsurf spots for both beginners and experts. The destinations below are roughly in order of difficulty. So if you are looking for beginner windsurfing in California look at the top few. For experts look lower down. In the middle are a few spots that work for all levels.
It’s a fact that novices spill. So it’s a huge bonus that at Crown Beach Alameda, on the San Francisco Bay, has shallow and warm water. Boardsports School offer courses to 13-year-olds and above. They guarantee that you’ll be launching independently within 48 hours.
California Windsurfing can beat that – most of their students are ripping within three hours. The windsurf school is based in Foster City on the coast of San Francisco Bay. Offering flat, calm and safe inland waters with mild on-shore winds.
For those who want formal instruction, the non-profit Cal Sailing of Berkeley offer various levels of certification. These allow you to windsurf in protected areas and, if you’re a youngster, to use the camber-induced sailboards. The more epic amongst you can train for the Senior Windsurfing Rating.
Windsurfing was banned here for 10 years due to pump station construction. But since 2014 Lake Hodges has become one of the top spots for windsurfing in California and is one of the best adventures in San Diego. It’s strength is that it caters to various skill levels. The west side is generally best but with regular winds between April and October the entire lake can be a windsurfers playground.
In the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains you will find Lake Isabella which is blessed with strong winds. The wind usually blows steadily from the south and draws windsurfers to the lake. “The Ghetto,” near the auxiliary dam has the most consistent spot but there are launches all around the lake.
Directly south of the more famous Huntington Beach in Southern California is Newport Beach. You can expect fairly low winds and calm waves which makes it good for a leisurely formula ride. Beginners can sail inside the harbour and more experienced windsurfers can enjoy the ocean.
With a rock promontory that blocks swells but not wind, Half Moon Bay is well known as a breezy but clear spot for windsurfers. Situated south of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast in San Mateo County, during storms the wind can reach 40 knots. Easily one of the best Cali windsurf spots.
Consistent year round winds in San Pedro, Los Angeles make it one of the best windsurfing spots in Cali. Its combination of harbor, cliffs, and hills create the most robust winds and it is well known for “Hurricane Gulch” which attracts windsurfers from all over the world. Within the breakwater are calmer conditions for newbies, while outside the harbor can challenge the most seasoned windsurfers.
Characterised by smooth honey-coloured sand as much as it is by broken masts. Leo Carillo experiences windspeeds of up to 20 knots and boasts a nukin’ south swell whose first 100 yards can be very challenging. If you fail badly, don’t panic – there are state lifeguards all around. Busy in the high season with up to 80 surfers, kiteboarders and windsurfers sharing a half mile stretch of beach.
Davenport Beach is found just north of Santa Cruz – home of The Lost Boys – and is known for incredibly strong winds. Suitable for highly experienced sailors only there can be great swells for top-notch windsurfers to show what they can do. May to August is peak season but worth a visit when the wind blows year round.
One of the best Cali windsurf spots is also the most difficult and dangerous – Crissy Field. It is world-class spot for expert windsurfers as it’s well-known for its strong currents, fog and gusty winds. The launch can be tricky but you can sail under Golden Gate Bridge. Dozens of windsurfers are rescued here each year by the US Coast Guard so be careful!
We hope you found the guide to windsurfing in California interesting and useful. Check out our United States activity holidays for ideas of other things to do in this great country.