One of the most famous (or infamous…it’s more than famous!) waves in Orange County. HB Pier has been the home of some notorious characters over the years. It has collapsed in big surf, been ground zero in a surf contest riot, and has been featured in some really bad reality TV. In the summer it has huge contests, crowds, and all kinds of other nonsense, most of which happens on land.
The wave itself is pretty good. The HB Pier basically acts much like a jetty or a breakwall would. It isn’t quite as effective at disrupting the current or the sand flow as a solid structure would but it is long enough and has enough pier pilings that is does create a fairly consistent and solid sand bar.
You always need to break the pier into two sections, the Northside and Southside. The waves are very similar in shape on both sides but you get a very different feel and attitude as you move from one side to the other. The Northside is designated a surfing area, they don’t close it down for blackball like they do on the Southside in the summer, this seems to help create a more stable crew of local guys. The pack on the Southside seems a bit more transient.
You will probably want to avoid the pier if you are not a strong surfer, don’t like surfing in crowds, or don’t like getting dropped in on. You can pretty much count those things happening every time you paddle out at the pier.
Because of the bigger sandbar the pier isn’t quite as pick on the types of swells needed to make it get good. A combo swell with a lot of W and S swell in it will work the best but you can make do with just a large S swell or large WNW swell.
One extra bonus is the pier channel that forms when it starts to get big and you get a strong current forming along the beach. A little pocket will form on the side of the pier opposite of the direction of the current. So if the current is coming down from the NW the channel forms on the Southside. If the current is from the South then the channel is on the Northside. It is a little treacherous though…lots of water moving around, solid barnacle-encrusted pilings and guys fishing from the pier make a not so fun obstacle course at times.
Best swell direction: S, SSW, W, WNW, and combo swells
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand
Best Season: Late Fall through Winter
Crowds: Hell yes it is crowded…it can get totally out of control in the summer and on weekends.