These 3 epic surfing road trips should be on your bucket list

Now that the kids are almost back in school and the swells are pouring in from multiple directions, it’s a great time of year for a surfing road trip.

surfing road trips
Road trippin’ with pro surfers Cory Lopez and Peter Mendia. Photo: Courtesy of Ruddy/Surfing magazine
With accrued vacation time and incredible surf in mind, here are three classic surfing road trips that every surfer should undertake at least once in their lifetime.

The Golden State

surfing road trips
Putting the golden in “The Golden State.” Photo: Courtesy of Taras/Surfing magazine
With over 800 miles of surfable coastline, California is something every surfer should drive at least once in his or her life.

From the warm and beginner-friendly lineups of SoCal to the towering redwoods and thundering surf found in NorCal, the Golden State has something for everyone — including a great state park system with campgrounds and parks up and down the coastline.

Places to stop: Despite the associated crowds, you owe it to yourself to stop and surf at iconic breaks like Trestles, Malibu, Rincon, Santa Cruz and Ocean Beach in San Francisco. As well, an overnight (or two) in Big Sur is highly recommended. There are all kinds of little coves, beaches and campgrounds that are simply breathtaking in beauty.

What to watch out for: Grumpy locals, speed traps (i.e. the Highway Patrol), the Red Triangle.

Best type of vehicle: With all the state parks and campgrounds a rented camper van is ideal for cruising the California coastline.

Recommended surfboard quiver: A shortboard, longboard and a “step up” (something a few inches bigger than your standard shortboard) for the powerful surf found north of Santa Barbara.

Best time of year to go: September and October are prime time for swells from both the north and south as well as fantastic weather.

Tips: The locals can get a bit surly, so try to be low key when surfing and never paddle out with more than two people. Spend more than one day in Big Sur.

Florida to Maine

surfing road trips
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are the jewel of the East Coast; photo by Ruddy/Surfing magazine
The great East Coast road trip is a 1,300-mile journey that will take you from the Florida tropics to the icy shores of Maine. Littered in between are the best surf spots on the East Coast.

Places to stop: The Outer Banks of North Carolina, Long Beach island (New Jersey), New York City (why not?), and Montauk on Long Island.

What to watch out for: Redneck cops in the south (“You’re not from around here are you, boy?"), blowing all your money during a big night out in NYC.

Best type of vehicle: As soccer mom as it sounds, a nice station wagon makes for a great surf mobile. They’re better on gas than trucks — and you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Recommended surfboard quiver: A fish, longboard and high-performance shortboard.

Best time of year to go: Like California, September is a great time of year to be on the East Coast — it’s also prime time for hurricane surf.

Tips: Hit up friends of friends via social media and score a free place to stay; East Coast surfers are some of the most accommodating and friendly people in the world.

The Baja California peninsula

Take the road less traveled to Baja California. Photo: Courtesy of James Tull
Take the road less traveled to Baja California. Photo: Courtesy of James Tull
A veritable rite of passage for West Coast surfers, the Trans Peninsula Highway is over 1,000 miles of two-lane road that spans from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.

Don’t let the stray cows, shady policía, narrow lanes, semi trucks and the odd bandito scare you off — the Trans Peninsula highway will take you to some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world.

Places to stop: Guerrero Negro is a good midpoint to stay for the night as you head south. Some of the more popular surf spots include Abreojos, Scorpion Bay, Los Cerritos, The Wall and a thousand other spots that you’ll have to find for yourself.

What to watch out for: The above-mentioned road hazards, super-sized potholes and long stretches of road where food, gas, and water are unavailable.

Best type of vehicle: With their reliability and toughness, you can’t beat a 4×4 Toyota Tacoma.

Recommended surfboard quiver: Anything from a longboard to a high-performance shortboard and everything in between — there’s an incredible variety of surf in Baja California.

Best time of year to go: Early summer before it gets too hot; anytime in the winter.

Tips: The real Baja doesn’t start until you get past Ensenada … blast past there and you’re into the wilds of Baja pretty quickly. Stash $40 somewhere handy to get yourself out of a jam with the policía.

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