Modern surfing is all about huge waves, huge tubes, and huge airs. But this list is about knee high crumblers and nose rides. Going huge may be the outer limts of progression, but most of us are searching for the outer limits of fun, and longboards are pure fun. We’re all going to get old some day, and when we do, foam will be our friend. Here are the five best longbaord spots in America.
San Onofre State Beach is practically the epitome of Southern California beach culture. The campsite is home to Lowers, arguably the best high performance wave in the country, and Old Man’s, which is one of the mellowest waves in the area. Trestles and San Onofre are within walking distance but they are really two different surf zones. All the best longboarding is down around San Onofre. San O can be divided into several different spots including Old Man’s, Dog Patch, and The Point. All the waves at San Onofre break slowly and offer long rides and easy takeoffs. San Onofre is undoubtedly the best beginner wave in the area, but the long rides offer plenty of space for experienced longboarders to log some tip-time.
Many consider Malibu to be the birthplace of modern surfing. Hawaii will always be credited with inventing the art of wave riding, but Malibu invented the art of style. Malibu is where surfing transitioned from obscure subculture to mainstream Americana. It’s also a fantastic wave. Malibu’s First Point is practically flawless. It’s a longboarder’s dream wave. Not too fast, not too slow. It’s not critical, but it’s not a mushburger either. The waves at First Point provide the perfect combination of shape and speed to allow surfers to focus on one thing: style. First Point is a wave for the aesthete. It is the home of legends and future kings. It reminds us where longboard style came from, and it shows us where longboard style is going. And, the wave is user friendly enough that if you don’t mind sharing inconsistent sets with three hundred others on a weekday morning, you too can experience perfect trim at First Point.
Cardiff is yet another mellow Southern California reefbreak. Cardiff is a slow, mushy right that breaks for about a quarter of a mile. It’s not quite as perfect as Malibu, but the length and speed of the waves are perfectly suited for longboard riding.
You may be picking up on a trend here. Yes, many of the best longboard waves are in California. The Golden State is blessed with the types of swells and setups that make a wave perfectly suited to the nine-foot plus crowd. Most every east coast spot is good for longboarding most of the time, but not many spots can be considered exclusively or consistently longboard friendly. Ditch Plains, in Montauk, NY is one of the few exceptions. Many old-timers say that Montauk looks and feels like 1950’s California. Montauk has big cliffs and long crumbly A‑frames. It’s a consistent break that picks up swell from every angle. If you’re wondering about crowds, Montauk is connected to Manhattan by train so yes, Ditch Plains gets crowded. However, if you happen to score a perfect left on a crisp crowd day you’ll understand why Montauk has been long considered one of the coast’s favorite anomalies.
Waikiki is the cradle of surfing civilization. It’s not the best wave in Hawaii. It’s not even the best wave in Town. But, it is the link between the ancient pursuit of Polynesian kings and the modern sport of surfing. Nineteenth century missionaries almost eradicated surfing from the Hawaiian Islands. Fortunately for us, the sport lived on in Waikiki, riding out the tide of puritan values before flourishing in the modern era. Surfing Waikiki isn’t just fun–it’s a pilgrimage. It’s also a pretty good longboard wave. You’re not going to score any gnar points by surfing Waikiki, but it’s one of the best places on the planet to learn to surf, so you can most definitely spread the stoke around while taking in a bit of history.
Your Own Beach
When it comes to longboarding, every beach has its day. Regardless of where you live, chances are that swell will occasionally (or consistently) necessitate a longboard. If you live on the U.S. mainland, longboards are a necessary part of your surf quiver. Why struggle in knee high mush when you can have a blast on an old log? The best surfer is the one having the most fun, and quite often, a longboard is the only way to have fun at your local spot.