Surfing in the Santa Barbara South Coast

Rincon Point photo by Mark Weber / Visit Santa Barbara

Countless aquatic adventures await surfers and other water enthusiasts in the Santa Barbara South Coast, the southern part of Santa Barbara County made up of the communities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito and Summerland, which have more than a dozen beaches. Long before it was a world-recognized sport, surfing was a cornerstone of Santa Barbara culture.

Since California’s governor declared surfing as the state sport in 2018 (with an official “California Surfing Day” now taking place each year on Sept. 20), we offer you some tidbits of the Santa Barbara South Coast’s surfing lore and legends:

  • Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax, a leading brand of surfboard wax, was invented in Goleta in the early 1970s. The counterculture-like original logo with the catchy name was designed by Santa Barbara artist and surfer Hank Pitcher, whose oil paintings of surf culture and ocean landscapes are highly sought after (and can still be seen at galleries like Sullivan Goss).
  • Since the 1950s, Santa Barbara surfboard shapers have made important contributions to surfboard technology, including pioneering Reynolds “Renny” Yater of Yater Surfboards, who, now in his 80s, continues to shape boards out of his Milpas Street studio and whose boards continue to be sold out of the Beach House on State Street, and Al Merrick of Channel Islands Surfboards, whose flagship store continues on in the Funk Zone.
  • The classic Ugg boot was created Southern California and has long been worn by surfers to keep warm on early mornings. These days, parent company Decker Brands is headquartered in Goleta and has a designer showcase store where customers can shop and browse the very latest styles of footwear from Uggs to Tevas and more. (Ugg has an UggLife Surf video series that features many people who embody the California surf lifestyle.)
  •  Several pro surfers and world champions, from Shaun Thomson to Kelly Slater have found their paradise in Santa Barbara and have homes here. Former pro surfer-turned-pop singer Jack Johnson attended UC Santa Barbara (a school that many surfers love for its Campus Point breaks), where he also made his first forays into performing music.
  • Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara offers an “Extraordinary Experience” for VIP guests in which they can learn how to surf with surfing world champion Tom Curren (when available).
  •  Endless Summer Bar-Café in the Santa Barbara Harbor is themed after the enduring 1960s surf movie “The Endless Summer,” and contains vintage surfboards signed by surf legends, surf videos and other surf-themed memorabilia. With its view overlooking the Santa Barbara Harbor, it’s a popular spot for local fishermen to “talk story” at the day’s end over a Rincon Burger (named after the local surf spot) or Halibut Tacos, washed down with an Endless Summer Blond Ale or Mai Tai.
  • Just downstairs from Endless Summer is the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, which has a fun exhibit on surfing that includes a surfboard that visitors stand on to simulate a surf experience and video histories of local surfing pioneers.
  • The area’s most famous surf spot is scenic Rincon Point, aka the “Queen of the Coast,” known for its right-hand waves that break around the east side of the point, located at the border of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and home to the Rincon Classic surf championship each January. Sandspit, right off the breakwater at the mouth of the Santa Barbara Harbor, and best for intermediate surfers, offers a stunning view of mountains and sea, which have given Santa Barbara its nickname of the “American Riviera.” For more on Santa Barbara surf spots, visit
  • A surfer’s day would be incomplete without some tasty grinds to nosh on following a surf session. The surfer staple—the breakfast burrito—and its close cousin, tacos, are found at the many taquerias and Mexican restaurants throughout the city. Try Santa Barbara’s taco trail to find your Holy Grail, or, if you dare, head to Casa Blanca Restaurant on State Street for the 8-pound Mega Burrito Challenge.