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Franko's Map of Orange County Surfing
Side 1 shows Franko's Map of Orange County Surfing for the whole county, from Seal Beach to San Clemente, with an additional inset for the Trestles to San Onofre surf sites (which are technically in San Diego County, even though Orange County surfers seem to claim them). Major surf spots all the way down the coast are named, and then their descriptions are given in a geographically ordered list. It starts all the way up at Seal Beach with Ray Bay and the Seal Beach Pier, then works down the coast through Surfside, Sunset Beach, Bolsa Chica, Old Man's, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Crystal Cove, El Moro, Crescent Bay, Rockpile, the Street Beaches, Aliso Beach, Thousand Steps, Salt Creek, Strands, Doheny, Killer Capo, San Clemente Pier, T Street, Riviera, Cotton's, Trestles, Churches, San Onofre and Trails. If that's not enough, well I only listed about half of them. The nature of the break, the physical features that make it that way, the best time of year, swell directions, tides and other factors for optimum surfing conditions are noted. Although much of the notes are dedicated to surfing in general, there are also notes about longboarding or shortboarding in particular, about the best bodyboarding spots, as well as skim boarding. Side one omits the details of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, because they are featured up close on side two of the map. Side one also features a few choice photos, including one of particular note - it was a winter's day in 1983, when the so-called El Nino storm swept in off the Pacific and pounded California not only with rain and wind that blew down trees everywhere, but with immense waves that brought water and sand clear across Pacific Coast Highway in many places, and damaged or destroyed 118 piers in the Golden State. This photo shows a ridiculously huge wave crashing right over the end of the Huntington Beach pier, which wound up absolutely totaled that day, with parts of it just disappearing as it crumbled beneath the surf. The major roads and freeways of Orange County are mapped to show the surfer just how to get there as well. Spots that have webcams or surf reports are noted.
Side one captions are as follows:
DESCRIPTIONS OF SURF BREAKS (North to South):
RAY BAY: Northernmost end of Seal Beach, "Ray Bay" is a warmed by effluent power plant waters. It is generally a small, mushy beginner spot, but on a gargantuan S or SW swell it turns on, producing 100 yard rights with multiple sections in dirty water. Beginner to Intermediate.
SEAL BEACH PIER: Fickle beachbreak, good for tourists and bodyboarders much of the summer, but really only gets good during the winter. When everywhere else is rejoicing in overhead surf Seal Beach is usually knee-high & weak. However, with a direct winter W swell and offshore winds it is possible to tap into pristine barrels giving way to long, rippable walls. The S side of the pier is the better bodyboarding spot, while the N side is your best surfing bet. Best Season: Winter. Direction: W. Size: 2'-6'. Tide: Medium. Wind: E. Bottom: Sand, Stingrays. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
SURFSIDE CLOUDBREAK: Low-latitude NW swells over 8' produce a cloudbreak along the jetty at the south end of Seal Beach. Optimal when the tide is low and the swell is between 8' & 12'. A big wave board is necessary. Advanced.
SURFSIDE: There are three named breaks in Surfside: THE BOWL is right next to the jetty. The more southerly the swell the better, as swells reflect off the jetty and combine with the same swell to produce one of the hollowest waves in Southern California. The main surfing area in Surfside is called THE HOLE, which implies that it's a dredging, sand-filled barrel with infinite possibilities. Just beyond The Hole is ANDERSON, a nice beachbreak at Anderson St. (by the water tower house). Rating: Advanced
SUNSET BEACH: Typical beach break with puny, mushy waves, until a big NW or SW swell hits, then it can be a great ride anywhere along the beach here. Rating: IntermediateTOWER 33: On the north end of Bolsa Chica, this spot is named for adjacent lifeguard tower. It features puny surf much of the year, but excellent peaks during the big SW swells of summer & fall. Intermediate.
BOLSA CHICA STATE BEACH: Desireable series of beachbreak waves in front of vast wetlands. The beach curves NW & the surf is smaller than the rest of Huntington during the summer. However, during the winter and spring the main lifeguard tower handles northwest swells very well and is a favorite wintertime hangout for the graying crew, & a great learning spot for school kids. Intermediate.
EVERETT'S: Like boxcars, Everett's is a rare cloudbreak right in front of the main lifeguard tower of Bolsa Chica. This wave only breaks a few times each decade and only if the swell is 12-15 feet plus and from the west. Experts only.OLD MAN'S: On the S end of Bolsa Chica is a favored by the older crowd. It is packed by experienced surfers with their assortment of classic wave-riding vehicles.
CRYSTAL COVE: The State Park has great breaks on it's north end, including TREASURE COVE & PELICAN POINT (foremerly HORSE RANCH), plus BONEYARD & RIVERMOUTH at the Historic District 1930's Beach Cottages. Pelican Point has three parallel reefs as you go further out. The State Park also has breaks at it's south end, including A-FRAMES & SAMMY'S right above REEF POINT (aka SCOTCHMAN'S COVE), plus EL MORO BEACH & ELEVATORS. During Hurricane swells, or macking New Zealanders, the north end of the cove, including Sammy's & A-Frames can produce a quarky left point impersonation, puncuated by endless boils. Most of the time Scotchman's Cove is a typical, weak beachbreak. El Moro is a small beachbreak much of the time, but when the swell is double-overhead, this break becomes a classic barrel, especially the big lefts at Elevators near the cliff wall on the S end of the beach. It can get dangerous out there with size, use caution. This spot is rated Intermediate to Advanced.
CRESCENT BAY: This is much better diving territory than surfing, but the close-outs make for exciting bodysurfing for a gazillion tourists, & skimboarding is great for kids.
ROCKPILE: Laguna is famous amongst surfers for never breaking, except for the shorebreaks that bodyboarders & bodysurfers enjoy. However, when it is on, Rockpile at Heisler Park creates a most scenic, extraordinary heavy right with a take-off right in front of a protruding rock & a rocky slalom to add to the challenge. Advanced.
MAIN BEACH: Summer waves are usually small & break right on the beach. They are usually unsurfed except by bodysurfing & bodyboarding visitors, who congregate here from everywhere in the world. When the surf picks up, the beach break closes out, & these visitors have a chance to learn what "going over the falls" can do to them.
STREET BEACHES: THALIA ST. needs a large S swell to work, but is a fun reef break when it does. ST. ANN'S is a hollow reef break too, when it is on. Both are good bodyboard spots. BROOKS ST. is usually the best waves in Laguna Beach with a powerful left breaking over a jagged reef. The larger the S or SW swell the better. Brooks Street's take-off zone moves out to a second and even a third reef when it's pumping and the tide is low. A sharp, unforgiving reef is evident by multiple boils and warpy impressions coming up the face. Figure out where these spots pop up before you paddle out and you'll not only have a better time, but your skegs will thank you for it. Heavily localized so mind your own business and don't do anything foolish. Pay close attention to the line-up and you could score some gems. Best Season: Summer. Direction: S, SW. Size: 6'-10'. Tide: Medium. Wind: E. Bottom: Rock, Sand. Rating: Advanced
PEARL STREET: Only a few locals have the patience to wait for a good surfing day here, but the local skimboarders have a haven, especially at low tide.
VICTORIA BEACH: Not much chance to surf on this heavy duty shorebreak, but it sure makes for the best skim boarding around.
ALISO BEACH: Fast shorebreak popular with advanced bodyboarders who welcome the heavy barrels & backwash punch. Aliso is most known as the home of the "Annual Unofficial Skimboarding Contest".
THOUSAND STEPS: Another Laguna shorepound that is good for a few daring bodyboarders, but mostly for the skim boarders. In fact, some claim this is the best skimming beach of all.
SALT CREEK: Located at PCH & Ritz Calrton Dr. Three surf breaks here are called GRAVELS, MIDDLES, & THE POINT:. Shifting sand & gravel changes Gravels into board-busting barrels in knee-deep water at the whim of nature, otherwise it is an unsurfable closeout. Although it's a huge closeout, during the right swell and angle it can turn on into some of the squarest tubes imaginable. Don't ride your new board out there as dings, buckles, and outright breaks are the norm. Middles is a virtual skatepark, full all year of left & right peaks over a sandy bottom. Summer blackballing turns this into a bodyboarder favorite. The Point, which is at the S end of the beach, has a ridiculously narrow take-off zone, and comes to life on large southwest swells and east winds. It is always crowded and hard to get waves but most of the time it's worth the hassle.
DANA STRANDS: Surfing here requires a quad-burning hike down an elongated set of stairs. Located at PCH & Selva Rd., there are two surf breaks: STAIRS & THE POINT. STAIRS is a reef break between the beach entry & the Point to the south. It is best at high tide on S swell. The Point has great bodyboarding at the S end of the beach.
DOHENY: At PCH and Dana Harbor Dr. there are four surf breaks here called FIRST SPOT, SECOND SPOT, BONEYARDS, & RIVERMOUTH. Doheny of pre-1970 was THE premier surf spot of California, until the harbor was built. Now, instead of Pipeline tubes, you get small, slow, mushy surf. An ideal beginner's wave, Doheny is a favorite among longboarders & families alike. The waves here are always smaller than surrounding areas because of jetty blockage; however, Doheny is still perfectly suited for long, mellow rides no matter what the size. The bottom consists of both sand and rock so be careful out there if it's low tide. Rating: Beginner. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
KILLER CAPO: Rarely breaking peak right in front of private homes on empty Capistrano State Beach. Often a big shorebreak, but when the S or W swell is double-overhead high it won't close out. Intermediate plus.
POCHE: At PCH and Camino Capistrano, S swells gives an outside left or right break over a rock reef, & a reforming inside break for shortboards or longboards. Rating: Intermediate
204 BEACH: Off Avenida Aragon a long stairway leads to beach with generally tame, mushy waves. However, with a big S swell the waves transform into a screaming barrel. Advanced.
LINDA LANE: At Palizada & Seville, just N of the pier, a long line of beach breaks is great, mostly for bodyboarding. Surfing is blackballed from 11a.m. to 5p.m. all summer.
SAN CLEMENTE PIER: Typical beachbreak on both sides of the pier. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
T STREET (TRAFALGAR STREET): T Street is a complicated set of reefs and sand which produces some of the most consistent & often performance-minded waves along the coast. There are three main areas to surf depending on the swell direction, each one offering everything from fast, down the line surfing to slow, gutless mush. When it's micro everywhere else give T Street a check & you're bound to find a little something. Bodyboarding 11a.m. until 6p.m. all summer. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report
RIVIERA: Located at Avenida la Costa. Breaks in all flavors of swell due to sand bar created by stream runoff. Numerous breaks disperses crowd. Some barrels.
COTTON'S: Located just north of the Trestles beach trail. During large S or SW swells over 6 feet Cotton's is one of the best kept secrets on the coast. While most people head for Trestles, the long left walls of Cotton's go virtually unmolested. Cotton's is primarily a left point style wave breaking over sand & rock but it does have a short right depending on the swell direction. It is quite susceptible to onshore winds but if you get on it early you should have no problem. Best Season: Summer. Direction: S, SW. Size 5'-8'. Tide: Medium. Wind: E. Bottom: Rock, Sand. Rating: Intermediate
UPPER TRESTLES: Very similar to Lower Trestles, Uppers as it's more commonly referred, is a rock reef with three distinct take-off zones. Most people prefer the long right off the point for lengthy rides but there are still two other peaks that hold their own even when it's small. Before paddling out weigh your options, whatever you choose you won't be disappointed. Heavy crowds but generally peaceful. Best Season: Summer. Direction: S, SW. Size: 3'-6'. Tide: Medium. Wind: E. Bottom: Algae Covered Rock, Sand. Rating: Advanced. Daily Surf Report
LOWER TRESTLES: Easily one of the most high performance waves in the world, Lower Trestles lives up to the rumors & the hype. During a solid S or SW groundswell this rock strewn point transforms into every surfer's dream wave as one hundred yard rights shoot down the line begging for punishment. Even when the swell isn't raging Lowers still offers a lengthy right & punchy left perfectly suited for multiple tail-sliding hits off the top. If you're comfortable surfing in a crowd & aren't afraid of a long, anxiety filled walks, then Lowers is the place for you. Best Season: Summer. Direction: S, SW. Size: 2'-10'. Tide: Medium. Wind: E. Bottom: Algae Covered Rock, Sand. Rating: Advanced. Daily Surf Report
CHURCHES (CHURCH): A long right point broken up into several take-off zones. All of them have the ability to fire but it's those rare, giant northwest swells that occasionally connect all the sections together that makes this wave so amazing. Churches is often choked with overzealous longboarders, beware.
SAN ONOFRE: Actually in San Diego County, San Onofre is a great place to camp and hang out on the beach, & it offers a variety of waves for the wave hungry traveler at: THE POINT: Good right break, popular with the older guys;. OLD MAN'S: Longboarder spot, which breaks way out & then reforms to break again inside. Often the whole San Onofre area is referred to as "Old Man's"; DOG PATCH: Just S of Old Man's, it is mushy beginner surf; NUKES: Nukes is right in front of the power plant, & is a break over its coolant pipes; SIRENS: Just S of Nukes & offers fun peaks & clean sections. The extreme south end of the San Onofre, including TRAILS has less accessible but fun peaks and clean sections at low tide while the north end is the perfect place to grab a cooler, your family, a longboard & relax. San Onofre is always crowded so don't expect to surf alone.
Side 2 shows Franko's Map of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach Surfing with details of some of the most heavily used surfing spots on earth. Everything from Bolsa Chica to Corona Del Mar is shown, with lots of detailed description for each and every notable spot. This includes my own favorite spot, 56th St., Newport Beach. It also includes Huntington Cliffs, Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington State Beach, Santa Ana River Jetties, Newport Jetties, Blackies, Newport Pier, Newport Point, 15th Street Newport, Schoolyards, Balboa Pier, Cylinders, the infamous Wedge, Big Corona Jetty and Beach, and Little Corona. There are many tens of thousands of surfers who frequent these spots. Back in 1969 when I started surfing in Newport Beach in particular, plus San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, I soon learned that there were no secret spots left. Sorry, but there just ain't. It is crowded just about everywhere, especially when it's good, but the shear length of the beaches helps to spread the crowd out a bit. This side of the map also has a seasonal overview, in which the conditions are generalized and the nature of the changing season and how it affects our passion for surfing is explained. This is a map, but it is like a guidebook.
Side two captions are as follows:
HUNTINGTON BEACH SURFING:"Surf City U.S.A." was so-named by Jan and Dean in their "Surf City" song of 1969. 12 million people come to Huntington Beach every year, with more than just a few wanting to share the waves with the local experts. Huntington Beach is surfing on a scale that is surpassed only by Oahu. Huntington Beach does well with surf of all varieties, & if there is any surf at all, it is being surfed somewhere in Huntington Beach. The great surfing only adds to the city's festive mood. However, it is after the crowds have gone, when the seasons have changed to Fall and Winter, that Huntington Beach's surf really goes off. The beaches are just enough west-facing to receive the gifts of winter. There is no "best spot" when it's on, so the surfers have to decide whether the great waves in front of the cliffs, or take on the consistent break of the pier, or anywhere else from Surfside to the Santa Ana River. There is something for every kind of surfer with every kind of surf-riding vehicle, including bodysurfing. It is fortunate that those incoming Fall and Winter swells also often coincide with calm winds, or better yet, with offshore Santa Anas. It doesn't get much better.
ORANGE COUNTY SEASON OVERVIEW:Winter: Winter is a gamble in Orange County because it primarily faces southwest. Steep, northwest swells struggle to wrap around the corner of Point Conception and hit Orange County directly, the net result is inconsistent and unpredictable conditions overall. There are still a few good waves to be had at spots open to the northwest; but unless the swell is humongous, your best bet during the Winter is to travel north or south to spots more receptive to northwest swells.
Spring: During the Spring the South Pacific wave factory rumbles back to life. The season's first few south swells combine with built-up sandbars and warmer air temperatures to make life bearable again. The water is still frigid but the possibility to grab a few A-frames is highly likely. Now that more spots are breaking the winter crowds have the opportunity to spread out.
Summer: Orange County in the Summer is summed up in one word, consistent. No matter how small it might be there always seems to be something rideable, even fun, somewhere along this stretch of coast. When a large south swell rolls in, Orange County's breaks stir to life and offer a variety of possibilities. Hardly a secret, Trestles on the San Diego County border is the wave of choice to surfers from all walks of life.
Fall: Fall is the best time to surf in Orange County, period. Late season south swells combine with early season west and northwest swells to form beautiful peaks up and down the entire coast. The afternoon onshore winds of summer have disappeared giving way to afternoon glass-offs cherished by everyone. During the months of October, November, and December Santa Ana winds blow in from the east giving surfers a chance to duck into some rare, wind-groomed barrels.
NEWPORT BEACH SURFING:In general, Newport Beach is divided into two main areas, West Newport & East Newport. East Newport is more susceptible to W and NW swells, while West Newport fares better with S or SW swells. The waves in West Newport are a mix of rights, lefts and peaks, dependent on a string of jetties that dictate the flow of sand. If it's breaking properly Newport Beach offers some of the most exhilarating barrels along the coast (six seconds in a barrel is possible). Most of the time, Newport Beach is a high-performance surfing playground with easy paddle-outs and surprisingly powerful sections. The only downside to surfing here is that it's always crowded with surfers from all over Southern California. The most consistent spot in Newport Beach is 56th St., Best Season: Summer (West Newport) Fall, Winter (East Newport). Direction: All Directions. Size: 4-8 feet. Tide: Medium. Wind: East. Bottom: Sand, except at Little Corona. Rating: Advanced. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
BOXCARS (aka TROLLEY CARS): During low-latitude NW swells over 8' an outside cloudbreak erupts over a submerged, artificial reef on the north end of Huntington Cliffs. Boxcars only breaks decent when the tide is low and the swell is between 8'-12'. It is a long left which occasionally walls up nicely and. or a giant, mushy right. Paddling out can be difficult if you don't time it right. A big wave board is a must just to catch these rolling monsters. When the swell is larger than 12' a few other cloudbreak go off in the immediate area but none of them have a predetermined take-off zone like Boxcars. Rating: Advanced
HUNTINGTON CLIFFS: Huntington Cliffs are another consistent set of sandbars located in front a series of eroded cliffs. This area is more receptive to NW swells than the rest of Huntington & as a result it is often a few feet bigger here than the Huntington Beach Pier during a NW swell. The crowd here is aggressive with an established crew of thirty-somethings who surf here daily. Best Season: Fall. Direction: SW or NW. Size: 3'-6'. Tide: Medium-Low. Wind: E. Bottom: Sand. Rating: Advanced
GOLDENWEST STREET: Easy access, fun beachbreak. Rating: Intermediate17TH STREET: Easy access, fun beachbreak. Rating: Intermediate
9TH STREET. TACO BELL REEF: A decent sandbar in front of Taco Bell. Rating: Intermediate
HUNTINGTON BEACH PIER: The Huntington Beach Pier might be the most consistent spot on the entire coast. No matter how small the swell is it always seems that there is something to ride on one of the sandbars next to the pier. Predictably, the crowd here is vicious as longboarders, shortboarders, kneeboarders, and bodyboarders duke it out for anything even resembling a wave. Both sides of the pier have potential to get good, especially during the fall, but most people think that the NORTHSIDE side is consistently cleaner & more suited for surfing. Blackballing on the SOUTHSIDE side of the pier is from June 15 to Sept. 15, 11a.m. to 5 p.m. Best Season: Summer (Northside), Winter (Southside). Direction: SW (Northside) NW(Southside). Size: 3'-6'. Tide: Low - Medium-Low. Wind: Et. Bottom: Sand. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
HUNTINGTON STATE BEACH: Huntington State Beach is a constantly evolving mix of sand, tides, swell, & wind. Best surfed early in the morning, most people who surf here tend to congregate where the streets such as Brookhurst, Magnolia, Newland & Beach dead-end into Pacific Coast Hwy. Any stretch of this beach can get good, but in general, if it's a S or SW swell head to the S end of the beach; if it's a west or NW swell, head north. Crowds here are low-key and you shouldn't have any problems. Blackballing is from June 15 to Sept. 15, 11a.m. to 5 p.m. Rating: Intermediate
SANTA ANA RIVER JETTIES: The waves here are often hollow because of the sand build-up at the mouth of the Santa Ana River. With a slight offshore wind & any swell over three feet the "River Jetties" are one of the premier-shaped waves in Orange County. Spread out over a large distance & into several distinct peaks, crowds are usually not a problem unless it's a weekend. The only downside to surfing here is high bacteria levels from the river's run-off & sewage plant leakage. Don't surf here after it rains. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
56TH STREET: Depending on the swell direction 56th Street jetty can produce world-class lefts or rights. A strong, S swell will spin off a long left wall that throws squarely on take-off. On the other hand, a solid, W swell will spit out an incredible series of top to bottom rights directly in front of 56th Street and 54th Street. Boadyboarders take over when the blackball flag is raised. Rating: Advanced. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
NEWPORT JETTIES: Lots of good bodyboarding as well as surfing at any of these jetties. Between 40th and 44th is for bodyboarding only. Although the most consistent break is up around 52nd to 56th St., any of these spots can be fun, especially in a big Baja hurricane S swell. Good rights all along here in W & NW swells. Intermediate to Advanced
BLACKIES: Blackies is a classic set of peaks located immediately north of the Newport Pier. Watch out for heavy crowds and aggressive tactics if a clean, W or NW swell is in town. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
NEWPORT PIER: Touristy beachbreak. Watch out for fishing lines. Rating: Intermediate. Daily Surf Report. Webcam
NEWPORT POINT: Newport Point is an exceptional wave that only breaks a few times a year. Powerful, hurricane-driven swells from the direct south light up "The Point" & produce the heaviest beachbreak conditions along the entire Southern California Coast. When it is actually breaking expect out of control crowds in the water & on the beach. Be assertive or you won't catch a thing. Best Season: Summer. Direction: S, SE. Size: 6'-10'. Tide: Low. Wind: E. Bottom: Sand. Rating: Expert
15TH STREET: Most of the year 15th Street is a worthless close-out; but, throw in a short period W swell over 6', add some offshore winds to hold it up, & suddenly 15th Street turns into one of the best right hand barrels on the coast. Closely guarded by Newport's elite when it's breaking properly. Bodyboarders like it here too, especially when the black ball flag keeps the surfers out after 11am. Crowded & advanced
SCHOOLYARDS: Great bodyboarding spot because of the thumping variety of barrels close to shore on S & SW swells, especially when overhead+. Advanced.
BALBOA PIER: Small scale beachbreak is good for tourists & small kids, but it is rarelysurfable. Intermediate
CYLINDERS: A screaming right barrel close to shore, worth a look during a storm surge.The photo to the left was taken here (the bodyboarder survived). Advanced
THE WEDGE: One of the most recognized & feared waves in the world, "The Wedge" seems to be a freak of nature, but it is the angle of the jetty that causes even moderately sized S swells to transform into twice their potential. The wave itself breaks as a horrendous shorepound, which given the right conditions are two-fold magnified by the side-wave that bounces off of the west jetty. It is a spectacular A-frame when it's head high+, & it some-times gives a triple over-head+ spectator show. Board riding of any sort is prohibited May 1 - Oct. 31 from 10a.m. to 5p.m. Rating: Expert only
BIG CORONA EAST JETTY: Corona Del Mar is almost impossible to score. When the swell is pushing eight feet plus everywhere else Corona Del Mar will be barely breaking. However, with a Giant SW or NW swell the east jetty may create one of the most memorable waves of your life as well shaped rights & lefts bounce off the jetty to produce long, powerful rides with only a few diehards out. Cross your fingers. Advanced
BIG CORONA BEACH: Usually flatter than anywhere else during any W swell because it faces south & the jetty blocks the swell. S & SW swells come directly into the beach & usually close out. This place is best for tourists, bodysurfers & skimboarding kids. Bodyboarding can be fast, furious & dangerous for the typical beach visitors when it's head high.
LITTLE CORONA: Fun knee-high waves for bodysurfing & bodyboarding, but it onlybreaks good on a serious S swell. On those days, heavy right barrels head directly over arocky reef, so the ride is short, even if it is sweet. When it gets much overhead it'sdangerous because of the rocks. Intermediate