Oceanside is one of the most consistent areas of beach break in Southern California. It is a solid “work-horse” wave…one of those rare places that if there is any swell in the water, no matter how small, you will probably be able to find some rideable surf somewhere along its beach…and if it is flat, well then you are probably screwed because not much else will be working either.
Oceanside is the first town south of the USMC base Camp Pendleton and is located just north of Carlsbad. The beach area is about 3 miles long and is broken up by Oceanside Pier which is located in about the middle of the stretch. The most dominant feature, however, is Oceanside Harbor, which sits on the north end of town and is protected by several large jetties.
The waves around Oceanside are classic beach break waves, and the shape of the wave is determined a lot by what type of swell we have in the water at time. It will be walled and sectiony when there is only a single swell coming in from a steady swell direction and it will get peaky and crossed up when you have a good combo swell doing the work. Like all beach breaks it will be soft on windswells and then turn punchy and hollow when we get a good long-period swell.
Compared to other SoCal beach breaks I think I would probably say that it is similar to a mix between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach up in Orange County. (I know a lot of you San Diego guys just cringed when I started pulling in comparisons to OC waves but here me out.) The surf at Oceanside feels like it pulls the best of both HB and Newps and blends them together…you get the semi-slopey HB takeoffs but with the fast and hollow Newport inside sections…and the paddle to get to the outside is longer than Newport but a lot shorter than the trek to get to the line-up when HB has some size.
Like I said before Oceanside is a very consistent wave…and it is a rare day when the whole beach has gone totally flat…but it still takes a semi-rare combination of swell and weather to really get the place going. Combo swells of W and S-SW swells are definitely the best mix for O-side. You don’t really need both of the swells to be huge…but if one has some power and the other is just in the background helping to break up the primary swell you can get some insane A-frames spread around the beach. Add in a little offshore wind and a little lower tide and it goes all hollow and completely ripable.
Swell Exposure and local winds
One of the reasons Oceanside is so consistent it its swell window. It is exposed to swells from the S through the WNW (175-295)…and it has a wide open exposure to the magic SW (210-220) and NW (290-295) swell angles, which SoCal seems to be able to get any time of the year.
Another great attribute of the Oceanside area is the very consistent offshore morning winds. Really it is almost ridiculous how often the beach gets those gusty offshore breezes. They don’t always last that long but unless there is a strong weather system shifting around the local pattern the odds are that you will have decent winds right around sunrise. (From a meteorological standpoint (geek alert) I haven’t studied the cause of these winds that closely but it looks like it is caused by Oceanside’s location relative to those local coastal-range hills to the N-NE and the passes through them that take you over into the Temecula region.
Oceanside is generally broken up into 4 surfing areas
Those areas are: