If you want to lose yourself in the laid back world of spectacular beaches and surf culture, where ocean breezes, waves, salty air and oodles of sunshine are part of daily life, then Orange County, California is the place to be.

Now, if you know something about beaches and surfing, you know this to be true. You may be initially thinking of such surfing meccas as Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Okay, yes, those are great places to hang ten, but if you’ve just moved to the area and are looking for nearby places to hit the water, be sure to check out the beach scene in San Clemente.

The truth is, the southernmost city of OC, San Clemente, is its own very special slice of Cali-paradise. It has everything the Golden State is known for – a perfect Mediterranean climate, breathtaking scenery and a generous stretch of pristine Pacific coastline.

SURF’S UP!

San Clemente has been the birthplace or choice of residence for several world-renowned surfers, and it’s easy to see why. Some of the best waves in SoCal are to be found there, and the overall vibe of the city is a perfect blend of cowabunga and nonchalant, casual friendliness. Among the best beaches for locals who want to catch the waves are

Trestles Beach, which is actually a combination of several breaks. While they can all be surfed, surfers from around the world come to test their skills against one in particular: Lower Trestles. Locals just call it “Lowers,” and many consider it one of the best surfing beaches in all of California. It’s a reef point break that boasts breaks with gentle, flowing faces, creating one of the longest rides in SoCal. It’s so good, in fact, that a professional surfing contest is held there every year.

San Onofre is where many a California kid developed his surfing chops and old-timers think about this place with a twinkle in their eye. It’s dripping with history and nostalgia; decades ago, old Woodies would pull up filled with kids ready to surf. The gentle breaking wave rolls in and is perfect for longboarding. San O boasts actually has three great breaks: “Dogpatch” (the easiest), “Old Man’s,” and the most challenging of the three, “The Point.” The smooth stone bottom creates a break 100-200 yards out, and on days where everything is clicking, you can ride it all the way to shore.

T-Street Beach is where the locals know to head to when the ocean is flat as a pancake at other surf beaches. Sandbars, seaweed beds, rocks and reefs seem to be able to conjure waves out of nowhere, and the unpredictable nature of the surf is the stuff surfers’ dreams are made of. You’ll hear a thousand names for all the breaks, but check out the Reef, Cropley’s and Beach House for some totally epic surfing.

San Clemente is home to over two miles of beaches, and other great surfing locations include The Hole, The Pier, 204, Poche Beach, North Beach, Lost Winds and Linda Lane. With an average annual temperature of 70 degrees and over 300 days of sunshine a year, the beaches are used – and usable – year-round. The city is home to no less than three major surfing periodicals, and it even has its own surfing museum, which presents a comprehensive history of the evolution of surfing and surfing equipment over the years.

AN ENDURING ICON

One of the area’s most popular and scenic spots is the San Clemente Pier. Originally constructed in 1928, the wooden structure juts out a quarter of a mile into the blue Pacific. The pier and beach are a popular meeting and gathering place, and it’s an indelible part of San Clemente’s spectacular seascape. Although it has been severely damaged several times by storms, no one can imagine the town without its beloved pier. Walking, fishing, swimming, surfing and relaxing on the beach are all popular activities there. You won’t find a better place to watch a glorious Pacific sunset on a breezy and mild SoCal evening. And a stroll among the pilings underneath the pier provides a unique and dramatic perspective of the beach and ocean.

A PLACE TO CALL HOME

Located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, the “Spanish City by the Sea” is as picturesque as any town on the California coast. Along with a charming downtown and beautiful views of the mountains, San Clemente’s beachy-surfy vibe is low-key, friendly and a welcome change from the non-stop bustle of the big city. Those who come want to stay. And those that call San Clemente home wouldn’t have it any other way.

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