About Sunset Cliffs

A thick kelp bed several hundred yards outside the break smoothes the bump out of westerly wind, making the Cliffs an ideal place to surf when the beaches are blown out. To access most of these breaks, rocky cliffs -- and, often, exposed reef -- must be navigated. Long paddles mired by seagrass and kelp are the norm. The Cliffs produce waves during fall, winter and spring on W and NW swells, with a couple of southwesterly exceptions. There are many head-high and overhead days, but most of these spots max out before reaching eight-feet. The speed of these waves is often dictated by tide. Low to mid-tide is best. Depending on the power of a swell, mid to high tide can be slower to nonexistent. Super-low tides dramatically alter the character of the breaks, making things interesting with shifting peaks and new sections. Most of the Cliffs' breaks experience long periods of doldrums in the summer. There are huge channels, and to cover all of the breaks, you'd have to paddle and surf more than three miles. Surfers inexperienced with the area are often unable to get back up the cliff trails during bigger days with higher tides. Some have been battered against the cliffs while trying to exit the water. Also, no matter how big the waves, the cliffs themselves present formidable danger.

Source: Sunset Cliffs Surf Guide

Ability Level

Intermediate - advanced

Beg Int Adv

Intermediate to advanced

Local Vibe


Welcoming Intimidating

Stuffy to downright mean.

Crowd Factor


Mellow Heavy

Moderate to heavy.

Spot Rating


Poor Perfect

Runs the gamut from fun and a little wonky to perfect depending on what reef.

Shoulder Burn


Light Exhausting

Lots of paddling and most of the reefs only really start to work when it's overhead.

Water Quality


Clean Dirty

Typically ok but gets dicey after a rain.

Additional Information


Entering and exiting the Cliffs during high tide and a big swell, local hospitality.


Difficult -- many spots require navigating cliff trails, long walks, and the breaks at the point require boat access.

Bring Your

Shortboard, fish, funboard, longboard


Limestone reef and rock heads with sharp mollusks.

Best Season

Best October-March, but can be good year-round.

Swell Consistency and Wind Overview

Photos & Videos