One of south Orange County’s most popular spots for waves: Salt Creek.
Blink and you might miss the quiet harbor town of Dana Point that boasts seven miles of noteworthy coastal bluffs, thriving kelp forests and amazing surf breaks. Like many coastal towns before it, most of Dana Point’s once virgin headlands are now littered with super-sized McMansions, tourism influxes and summertime crowds who jack every cool-looking nook and cranny. Despite its small size, Dana Point still showcases historic spots like Doheny, or the remnants of what was once “Killer Dana,” a 500 yard right. Thirty years ago, progress replaced this break with a long jetty and Dana Point Harbor, although there are rumors “Killer Dana” still exists when the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. In its place we have Doheny. Often rated one of the lowest in beach water quality in all of California, Doheny is subjected to the San Juan Creek run-off along with the crap from the harbor. Unless you are dying to get barreled while contracting staph, DO NOT SURF HERE AFTER A RAIN. YOU MIGHT GET EXTREMELY SICK. However, the summertime gentle waves and cool old school Beach Boy vibe make this a popular spot for families, beginners, longboarders and SUPers.
Dana Point headlands and Strands beach.
Turn the corner and you will come across Doheny’s much less forgiving neighbors, Strands and Salt Creek. With the right West/Northwest or South swell, these spots can showcase some of the most intense barrels (and crowds) you can experience in the OC. Ironically, the water quality at these spots is pretty clean. In fact, when the waves are flat and Laguna Beach is a mad house, snorkeling and diving around the rocks are great pastimes at these spots. But it’s rarely flat here. :)
What the locals say:
“All of our friends surf here and we know all of the locals. The wave (Salt Creek) has a nice shape and barrels a lot. The fast take offs are good for shortboards. You’ve got to be fast here.”
–Alex Pagan, Dana Point local
“I like Middles mostly because it’s super fun there. There are lefts and rights and it’s never crowded. There’s always something to surf.”
–Scott Weinhardt, Dana Point local
“At Salt Creek, you have a variety of breaks from reef to sand bar when the correct swell hits each one. It really holds up well. The tide is also crucial. I’ve had some epic days there. Last year when the swells hit, there were some perfect waves…this break has great power.”
–John Palo Alano, Dana Point local
Peaks: Doheny, Strands Point, The Point, Middles, Gravels
Nick-names: Doho, DP, Creek
Highlights: kelp beds, beautiful scenery, friendly people, barrels, small town vibe, high school surf teams