Adam Wright
(Sunday) 10.10.10

Trestles Surf Area, California

Surf Break Map: Trestles Surf Area

The Trestles Surf area is easily the most consistent surf area in Orange County (or North San Diego County if you are going to be a picky geo-nazi). It is exposed to a whole range of swell directions, it has rights, lefts, points, reefs, sandbars. There are no houses on the beach, which means it has a little peace and quiet (expect for the occasional train going by), and no super-rich property owners having your car towed. You even get a lovely nature walk when you head down the trail to get to the wave.

Trestles is located along the tip of San Mateo Point, which is just south of the City of San Clemente, CA and north of Basilone Rd. It is part of San Onofre State Beach, which in turn used to be a parcel of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. Trestles gets its name from a series of railroad trestles that span the small pond (lagoon/marsh or whatever they are calling it now) that pools at the end of San Mateo creek.

There are actually several waves in the Trestles area. Each one works better on slightly different mix of swell angles, periods, and sizes. Sand flow and tides also play a big role in the wave quality at each spot.

Besides the plethora (yes El Guapo I know how many are in a plethora) of wave selection at Trestles probably its most important feature is its swell window. Trestles is exposed to a large range of swells. It can take in energy from the SE all the way up through the NW but the key component is that it has an open S-SW swell window. S-SW energy, thanks to the very active and large Southern Ocean, is a pretty consistent swell source throughout the year. Other Southern California surf areas can usually pick up some of the Southern Hemi swell but there are usually some limiting factors, (like blockage from headlands or nearshore islands). Not Trestles…it is pretty much wide open until the swell starts to go past the 220-degree mark.

Access (getting there is half the fun)

Getting to trestles can be a bit of a trek. You have a few options, some of which are better than others depending on things like time constraints and crowds.

1. You can park up around Cristianitos Road and walk down the trail. There is a public parking lot near Carl’s Jr. (and a seriously huge American Flag) along with public parking along parts of the street. You basically get our your gear (it is almost better to deck change at the beach) and hoof it down the trail to the beach. Some people bring bikes with racks (or skateboards) to save some time.

2. You can park at San Onofre State Beach. Head into the park like you are heading to Old Man’s. Park. Then hoof it up the beach to Trestles. It is a long walk but you don’t have to manage a large hill, and as a bonus you pass Church (another surf spot) and can see how it is.

3. You can have someone drop you off at the trailhead right off of Basilone Road freeway exit. Since there is no parking along the road in this area it sort of requires a team effort and a bike. Have your driver drop you off, you carry their boards (unless you had your mom do it…hahaha loser!). Then they go park back at Cristianitos and bike it down the trail. It is a good way to actually get some waves if you are time strapped.


Because Trestles is such a consistent and “quality” wave area it can attract a pretty large crowd. Expect to see nearly wall-to-wall fiberglass when we get a decent SW swell on the weekend. Even weekdays can get pretty frantic during the mornings. Lowers in particular can be brutal…lots of sponsored riders, cameras, and other nonsense when there is a good sized SW swell in the water.

You do see some maneuvering room if we get a solid combo swell mix…it sort of shifts the peaks around at times letting guys on the edges pick off a few more waves. It also improves the quality at the other breaks in the area which can also help to bleed off some of the pack.


There are a couple of big contests down at Trestles along with a couple of smaller ones throughout the year. The guys that hand out the permits for the events are pretty aware of how popular of a surf break the area is so they put limits on the number of events and how many days a contest can take away access from the public. Generally the big events are around April/May and again in September.

Save Trestles

Over the last several years there has been an attempt to build a new section of Toll-Road Freeway through some of the inland parts of San Onofre State Park, which, in my opinion, would have tremendously hurt the quality of the park and the waves in the Trestles surf area. Thanks to the hard work and influence of many people, including organizations like The Surfrider Foundation, the costal commission has rejected the lastest plan. I am sure this will be an ongoing battle for years to come…

You can get all of the latest details or help support the “Save Trestles” cause at http://www.surfrider.org/savetrestles/

The Surf

There are 5 main surf breaks in the Trestles area:

Click on a break below to get more details
Upper Trestles
Lower Trestles

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  • Kyd

    Brings back so many memories… 1959-63…Beautiful waves.– L O N G– rides, being like 3 or 4 guys in the water…and a few Marines lookin’ for some grubby long-hairs surfers… ;-)

  • David

    Are they any beach-front any-actual beach front properties?

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