Featured in many surf magazines and home to several high school surf teams, Salt Creek is a staple of Southern California surfing. The vibe here is generally chill, with intermediate to advanced short-boarders. Known for it's consistent waves and stunning backdrops, Salt Creek should be in any Orange County surfer's regular rotation.
Salt Creek has three breaks, The Point, Middles, and Gravels.
The Point - Left Handers
The Point is pretty easy to locate, when you come down the stairs from the Hill, head straight for the lifeguard tower to your left. Unfortunately, finding it is the easy part.
The Point is primarily a left-hander that breaks over the pile of reef rocks next to the lifeguard tower. On days with S-SW swell, the point will be slammed with surfers. Further exacerbating this, the point has about a 10-15' wide takeoff point. If you can navigate the lineup successfully, the left-hander at the point can be worth the trouble. If the swell is right, there's an opportunity for a solid barrel to develop for about 10 to 20 feet, closing out when you reach the beach. Try this out on a weekday when the crowds are thinned out, as it's the best wave at Salt Creek.
The Point - Right Handers
Sometimes during really large westerly swells, a right-hander will form that breaks towards Strands. If you aren't experienced surfing at Strands, I would recommend to stay clear of the right-hander, as there's a significant amount of exposed rock that could ruin your day.
The appropriately named Middles is halfway between The Point and Gravels. It would be nice if the guy who came up with the name Middles could have spent more than 15 seconds thinking up a new name, but we'll take what we can get. Surf breaks names don't seem to have a whole lot of creativity.
The bottom at Middles is a sandbar that tends to move around a bit. On a moderately sized SW swell or a SW/WNW combo swell, middles can start firing off with some nice hollow waves and quick shoulders. You want to make sure you are on a high to medium tide, when the tide gets too low here, waves will start to close out too quickly.
Middles is definitely a step down in quality from the point. But with a lot more real estate to work with, it may be a good option on weekends when the place is packed. The Point gets pretty jammed packed, so you'll see the majority of the surfers at Middles. Here you can relax and do your own thing until you think you're ready for The Point.
Gravels is just like it sounds, you'll likely leave here with sand and broken shell in your wetsuit. You can find Gravels in front of the houses north of the Salt Creek Beach Park. Mostly, this is a body-boarding spot. You'll see kids and teenagers getting barreled over and over again, somehow impervious to pain. Gravels is typically a right-hander that works best on a western swell with a medium to low tide. This is pretty much your typical shore-breaker. If the swell gets right on the weekend, expect body-board mayhem. Bring your Tylenol.
If you're feeling hungry Zacks is next to the showers. Zacks has a pretty awesome rep around Orange County for having the best breakfast burritos in town. If you're feeling like you need to get your grub on after a hard surf session, definitely give Zacks a shot. If you're looking for a legitimate sit-down restaurant, try the Salt Creek Grille directly across from the Salt Creek parking lot.
Parking is about as easy as it comes at Salt Creek. You will have to feed the meter for $1.00 per hour, but the parking lot is so massive, you can nearly always be guaranteed a spot. There really isn't any alternatives for free parking due to the lack of publicly accessed residential streets in this part of Dana Point. The only downside to the Salt Creek parking situation is that the walk back up the hill after a tiring surf session will leave you cold and tired.
If Salt Creek becomes you regular surf spot, you can purchase an Orange County Beach Annual Parking Pass for $55.00. This make sense financially if you surf here more than twice a month on average. You will also get unlimited access to Aliso Beach Park, Capistrano Beach, and the Dana Point Harbor.
If you're looking for a surf spot that pleases the entire family, Salt Creek is a great fit. The hill is a great place for suntanning, flying a kite, or a relaxing Sunday barbecue. The Salt Creek Bike Trail is a 5 mile dedicated cycling path that starts in Salt Creek Park and ends in Laguna Niguel. Although, if you are looking to teach your little tykes how to surf, Salt Creek may not be the best bet. Be sure to start with a less intimidating longboard spot like Doheny State Beach or San Onofre until they get their sea legs.
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About Derek Slabosz
Surfing is my passion! When I moved to Orange County and wanted to learn, I found a huge lack of information about where to surf. Little by little, I am going to create a comprehensive guide about every surf break in Southern California. Join me on my journey. If you are interested in hiring me for professional drone photography services, please visit Drone Zone.