What is it that is so special about surfing on the backside of Santa Catalina Island? Is it how remote it is? The pristine and beautiful landscape of Catalina, with its unspoiled terrain and clean beaches? Is it the fact that the ocean swells which form waves break here first, before breaking into the smaller swells that reach the California coastline?
One thing is for sure; it takes a dedicated nature enthusiast to reach some of these locations, a few of which are only accessible by boat. During our week long Catalina Island summer camp, students live aboard a fully equipped marine research ship and tour around the various coves of the island, enjoying all the best snorkel and dive locations, beaches and hiking trails, and surf spots.
Surfing at Shark Harbor, Catalina Island
The most easily accessible and most reliable break is found at the beach right next to Little Harbor campground, called Shark Harbor (it is named after a large rock that jets out into the water resembling the head of a shark). A tour bus will take you either from Avalon, or the quaint little island town of Two Harbors to and from this remote but beautiful oasis-like campground. Pitch your tent, and waxes down your surfboards for a comfortable weekend island get away.
A short 5-minute hike to the next cove over from your campsite reveals, Shark Harbor, which has a small to medium sized but fast and powerful break.
Surfing at Ben Weston, Catalina Island
The next most consistent and even more desirable of a surf spot on Catalina is Ben Weston. This location is never crowded due to the extreme remote location of this incredible beautiful and scenic island beach.
As for Shark Harbor, summer is the best time to visit Ben Weston. According to locals, this break is best when the wind is coming from the east; and the ideal swell direction being from the west northwest.
How to find Ben Weston:
We take our teen summer campers to this location, and spend a night or two camping at Little Harbor, and then hiking to the various locations nearby each day.
For those coming on your own, first take the ferry boat to Two Harbors, and book a tour bus to Little Harbor Campground. You will then need to hike the rest of the way along the road (away from town). Be sure to always stay on the right when there are any forks in the road, you want to stay along the coastline and at no point go into the interior. Eventually you will come to the bottom of a canyon and there will be a Catalina Island Conservancy sign pointing towards a trail marked ‘Ben Weston’.
A long nature trail, which follows the canyon creek, brings you to Ben Weston Beach. It has reported to be an excellent long board wave.
It might help to remember these GPS coordinates: Latitude: 33° 22.575′ N; Longitude: 118° 28.749′ W.
There is no other feeling on earth compared to riding a wave, and something just as sweet about coming out of the ocean to rest and relax on a remote beach on the back side of an island only an hour off shore Los Angeles!
Learn more about our 2016 Catalina Island Summer Camp program!