About Sandspit

Created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the breakwater finger sticking into picturesque Santa Barbara Harbor works magic with the local sand flow, arranging those precious grains in such a fashion that they transform ordinary lines of swell into insanely hollow rights that can either peel on and on, or dump squarely onto your back, depositing you straight into the oh-so-shallow bottom. Most surfers think that Sandspit only breaks on the biggest of winter swells with that crazy backwash, chocolate water and frightening double-ups, but you'd be surprised at how many days it's surfable.

Here's how Sandspit works: a set will approach the breakwater, hit the backwash, jack up right in front of some craggy jetty boulders and spin off down the line. The takeoffs are ridiculously steep and are often outright airdrops, so paddle into them like mad, hop up as soon as you can and look to pull-in from ground zero. When conditions are ideal, the wave is a straight tube, nothing else. No room for carves, reentries or floaters. Visualize Kirra, but on a smaller, colder scale. But it's also a dangerous place to surf. Not only is the bottom extremely shallow and the lips are like jackhammers, surfers have been known to get washed over the breakwater and deposited in fetus position on the other side. Watch that backwash.

Source: Sandspit Surf Guide

Ability Level


Beg Int Adv


Local Vibe


Welcoming Intimidating

Not a whole lot of it, but don't drop in on anyone or get in the way.

Crowd Factor


Mellow Heavy

Minimal when it's small, or you can surf it with 25 to 50 of your best friends when it's firing. The vibe is intense, so react accordingly and move quickly.

Spot Rating


Poor Perfect

Sand-sucking tube if you can keep up.

Shoulder Burn


Light Exhausting

Minimal when it is small, treadmill on the hillclimb setting when it is pumping.

Water Quality


Clean Dirty

It's a harbor entrance.

Additional Information


Backwash, getting swept over the jetty, getting pile-driven into the bottom.


Exit 101 onto Castillo Street and drive straight out to Cabrillo Boulevard/Shoreline Drive, where you make a right, drive for a minute, then go left onto Harbor Way. Park in the marked spaces out by the yacht club, but be aware of the 90-minute parking limit. From your car, you have to walk/run for a while all the way out to the end of the breakwater, which is usually slippery, so be careful.

Bring Your

Shortboard, bodyboard, bodysurfing



Best Season


Swell Consistency and Wind Overview

Photos & Videos