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Surf's Up: The Best Places to Watch Surfing in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Surfer inspired by Maxfield Pariash


Santa Cruz, CA is known as "Surf City, USA" for good reason - it's a world-renowned surf destination with a long history of producing some of the world's best surfers. Even if you're not a surfer yourself, watching the experts ride the waves can be an awe-inspiring experience. Here are some of my favorite spots for catching a little surf action. 

  1. Steamer Lane: One of the most iconic surf spots in Santa Cruz, Steamer Lane is known for its powerful waves and world-class surfers. The best place to watch the action is from the cliffs above, where you can get a bird's-eye view of the surfers navigating the waves. During big swells, the atmosphere at Steamer Lane is electric, with crowds of surf fans cheering on their favorite riders.
  2. Pleasure Point: This laid-back surf spot is known for its long, consistent waves and friendly atmosphere. The best place to watch surfers at Pleasure Point is from the beach, where you can watch the action up close and feel the energy of the surfers as they catch their waves. The beach itself is also a great spot for a picnic or a sunset stroll.
  3. The Hook: Located just down the beach from Pleasure Point, The Hook is a great spot for watching surfers up close. The waves at The Hook are a bit more challenging than at Pleasure Point, so you'll see some impressive maneuvers from the experienced surfers who come here. And if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a sea otter or two playing in the waves.
  4. Cowell's Beach: If you're looking for a family-friendly spot to watch surfing, Cowell's Beach is a great option. The waves here are smaller and more mellow than at some of the other spots on this list, making it a great spot for beginner surfers and families with children. There's also a long pier that juts out into the water, providing a great vantage point for watching the surfers.
  5. Santa Cruz Wharf: The Santa Cruz Wharf is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, offering stunning views of the beach and the waves. You can watch surfers from the wharf as they catch waves and ride them in towards shore. And when you're done watching surfing, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants on the wharf.
  6. Natural Bridges State Beach: This picturesque beach is known for its natural rock arches and stunning sunsets. It's also a great spot for watching surfers, particularly during the winter months when the waves are bigger. There's a large parking lot right by the beach, making it easy to park and watch the action.
  7. Pleasure Point Park: This small park overlooks Pleasure Point and offers some of the best views of the surfers in action. You can sit on the benches and watch the waves roll in, or bring a picnic and make a day of it. There's also a small beach at the bottom of the park, which is a great spot to watch surfers up close.

No matter which spot you choose, watching surfing in Santa Cruz is sure to be an unforgettable experience. So grab your camera, find a spot to sit, and get ready to be amazed by the power and beauty of the waves.

Greg Milligan
Photographer & Owner
Santa Cruz Art Prints

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