There's no other way to put it, T Street is an incredible surf spot! Surfing here really gives you that classic, nostalgic, California feel that you get watching Endless Summer. Traveling along the coastline, the historic Pacific Surfliner train chugs by every thirty minutes, blasting its horn cadence on the way to San Diego. The San Clemente pier makes for a fantastic backdrop as you trim your way onto the nose of your board, feeling the summer vibes. It's one of those places that makes you breathe in the salt air and be glad to be alive.
Surf at T Street is some of the most consistent in Orange County. Waves here break best on light to moderate Santa Ana winds and WNW or SW swell. The consistency makes it the best spot to learn to surf in San Clemente. While it's not as beginner friendly as Doheny State Beach, it proves to be a good enough learning environment for beginner to intermediate surfers. Being that this is San Clemente, when you paddle out at T Street, chances are you will be rubbing elbows with up-and-coming surf pros.
On south swell, the reef break is primarily a slow-developing left-hander that gets faster as you head down the line. In the winter, on a NW swell, you'll encounter longer rights that end in a shore breaker. It's pretty common to have body boarders, short boarders, and long boarders in the lineup at the reef. The wave here can't seem to make up its mind, setting up a good ride for whatever 2 by 4 or piece of plywood you've got under you.
Cropley's is named after an awesome bit of San Clemente lore. Dick Cropley (AKA Mr T Street) used to flip burgers here at the T Street snack bar. Local surfers named the break right outside the snack bar "Cropley's", after operating that snack bar for nearly thirty years. Cropley's is mostly breaking in the winter months, providing a really fast, peaky, right-hander that some say is the best wave at T Street. If Cropley's is firing, consider it a treat, because it isn't very often.
Beach house is named after a San Clemente candy shack that was open during the 80's. You can find it just south of the reef, breaking over a large sandbar. If you get lucky, you can catch a sweet barrel here, especially on low tide. You can find fast, peaky lefts and rights that favor short boards and body boards.
If you hate mixing with body boarders or "spongers", T Street is going to annoy the hell out of you. There is a huge bodyboarding scene at T Street. So much so, that in the summer months, the beach will be blackballed from 10AM-6PM on weekdays and 11AM-6PM on weekends. If you're unfamiliar with the term, basically the lifeguards raise a yellow flag with a black dot in the center, signifying that surfers are banned from the lineup.
San Clemente has lots of restaurants that are geared towards ravenous surfers. My favorite, by a landslide, is Pedro's Tacos. There is actually two Pedro's Tacos restaurants in San Clemente and they are about the same distance north and south of T Street on El Camino Real. The Tacos and burritos here are beyond good, especially the Carne Asada Burrito Combo. Be sure to ask for a handful of their signature hot sauce packets. Swing by and try it out the next time you go to T Street, you'll thank me.
The pedestrian overpass is really the only way to get down to T Street, you can find it at the end of Esplanade. Parking here is a mixture of metered and free spots. If you get here early enough in the summertime, you can easily snag a free spot close to the overpass. Past 9AM, I wouldn't plan on getting anything close to the beach. Although you can easily park for free in the nearby residential neighborhoods, if you're willing to walk. If you don't feel like walking, drive all the way down to the end of Esplanade to feed the meter.
T Street is an awesome place for the kids to learn to surf. The vibe in the lineup is very relaxed. The mixing of short boarders, long boarders, and spongers creates a natural environment of sharing waves. It feels like there is less of a turf war than when there are only two parties. For example, the SUPers and long boarders tend to provoke a lot of animosity towards each other. Since there's a wide variety of equipment, the lineup seems to be a lot more accepting. You'll also find a large age diversity in the lineup, there's bound to be a old guy on a body board that's probably been there when you were in diapers. Respect.
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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.