A Guide to Pacific Beach

October 31, 2022
Wave in Pacific Beach

There’s a place where the party never ends. The writhing masses gather in their nightclub best–spiked hair, tight t-shirts, and ruffled dresses. They’ll dance, drink, and indulge in intimate moments together. They’ll stumble across the boardwalk, dizzy and drunk, laughing, engaging in the age-old tradition of high-spirited youth. There’s neon lights, drum beats, trippy music coming from every doorway–lines across the block barred with velvet ropes.

Bonfires blaze in the sand, dotting the beach with rippling orange flares. Young people will sit in circles around them, sharing liquor and beer, taking in the night–the sound of the waves in the distance, and the stars above. It doesn’t stop.

Every night there’s a new fire, a new song playing at the clubs. During the day there are drum circles–bohemians with gauged ears, dreadlocks, and stained clothes–barefoot and tapping away at anything they can find–tin cans and sticks, two logs, twigs, and plastic bottles. They want to live in the rhythm, build a resonant dance that can awe the senses, and distract them from whatever troubles they’ve experienced. That is the essence of Pacific Beach.

It is a distraction. It’s where people come to live and forget, or simply share in the fun, have lunch with friends, wind down, and lounge. It’s built around leisure and relaxation, the surf, the sand, and all of the myriad ways they can be enjoyed.

There are restaurants–seafood, burgers, ramen, and sushi. There are boutiques, furniture and art galleries, knick-knack shops, and thrift stores. The food carts are the stuff of legends, showcasing the best of California, and the surf is always up.

Surf lessons in Pacific Beach are always better. The slow-moving foam and moderate waves make it perfect for anyone looking for a diverse, full-fledged surfing experience. It’s where you can learn to elevate your game, join in with the experts, and finally learn to paddle out like the rest.

Sunset at Pacific beach

It’s been said that when you look at the sunset at the perfect time, it turns a shade of green before it drops into the water. The effect is mesmerizing, and Pacific Beach–also known as P.B. is the perfect place to see it. The borough is divided into 3 sections. There’s Tourmaline Surf Park, a place for surfers, where you’ll find some of the best surf lessons in Pacific Beach; North Pacific Beach, a haven for families and swimmers, where tourists and locals can spend a day in the sand under the careful watch of lifeguards; then there’s Pacific Beach itself–part business district, part sand and concrete playground. That’s where most of the fun plays out.

Tourmaline Surf Park

Tourmaline Surf Park is part of a 3.5 mile strip of sand, flanked by eroding sea cliffs to the north. It’s home to an epic surf break, where the waves come in slow and curl in on themselves, making them easy to maneuver and perfect for avoiding a wipeout. It’s great for intermediate surfers looking for surf lessons in Pacific Beach.

The park takes its roots in the 1960s, when homeowners were concerned about the hoodlum kids paddling out onto the water. They pointed to the rash of crime and vandalism in their neighborhoods, and started petitioning the city to do something about it. 

The surfers spoke out, claiming that they were just exercising their right to practice a legitimate sport. They said that the criminal element was a fringe part of their culture, and that very few of them were taking part in it.

The homeowners didn’t want to hear it. They proposed everything from schedules to outright bans. In the end, they lost in the worst way possible. The area was transformed into one of San Diego’s first surf parks. It was a huge victory for the growing surfing culture that would eventually define San Diego, and it set a precedent, which allowed other spots around the city to do the same.

North Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach is a straightforward strip of sand, where families and sunbathers congregate, laying out towels and skipping through the foam. With a smooth ocean floor and slow-moving waves, North P.B. is probably the best place for beginners to take surf lessons in Pacific beach. The breaks are high enough that surfers will have a chance to learn how to pop-up and maneuver in real waves, so they can conquer the foam, without having to put up with the hazards they would find on other beaches.

Pacific Beach

Chad Mcdonald / Flickr

Crystal Pier

Crystal Pier divides North Pacific Beach and Pacific Beach proper. When it was built in 1927, it brought new life to the neighborhood. During the day it’s open to fishing. There you’ll find surf-zone species like halibut, leopard sharks, bat rays, and shovelnose guitarfish.

The pier is also home to the Crystal Pier Hotel, which boasts a series of cottages, allowing guests a chance to sleep on the water. It’s the only hotel of its kind in the state.

The Boardwalk and the Neighborhood

Pacific Beach is a thriving community, mostly made up of upper-middle-class homeowners and university students. They have access to a wide array of services–the usual, such as grocery stores, clothing shops, and restaurants. They can stroll the boardwalk, a miles’ long strip where they’ll find tacos and tequila, grills, and seafood, or they can peruse the shops further offshore. There’s a lot of variety–things you wouldn’t expect, stuff you didn’t even know you wanted, and it’s always growing. There’s always something new, catering to a fresh crowd.

Surf Lessons in Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is where surfers come to learn. Unlike Black’s Beach or Windansea to the north, it’s mostly free of hazards–no coral reefs, no rocks–just smooth sand and decent waves. During a swell, it’s where you can enjoy the perfect wave risk-free. During the off-season, it’s a casual place to hang out, try something relatively easy, and practice.

Tourmaline and North Pacific Beach are great for those who are trying to graduate to something larger and more challenging. There you won’t have to stick to the foam or settle for something less. It’s considered smooth sailing, boasting both height and simplicity. To conquer these beasts, though, you’re going to want an experienced instructor, someone who’s spent years honing their skills, and knows how to pass them on to their students. That’s the only way to learn. For more information, check out our surf lessons in Pacific Beach.