Newport Beach: one of the best surf towns in Southern California | Photo: Travis/Creative Commons

From a surfing perspective, what comes to mind when you think of Newport Beach? Is it the Balboa Pavilion or the Duffy Electric Boats?

If you're a surfer, there's a good chance you will say Echo Beach, black ball, The Wedge, 54th Street, the surf industry, or Richie Collins. And you're right.

Newport Beach is a symbol of California surf culture. Named by Captain Samuel S. Dunnells in 1870 when he arrived with his SS Vaquero in the bay, this is a place where water plays a fundamental part in the local economy.

But the "New Port" where Dunnells once disembarked has changed dramatically in less than a century.

Newport Beach has a semi-arid climate with a few Mediterranean characteristics. The average temperatures range between 49 °F (9.4 °C) in winter and 72 °F (22 °C) in summer.

The Orange County coastal community gets plenty of quality waves all year round, but that was not always the case.

The Balboa Peninsula: five miles of surfing waves for everyone | Photo: Creative Commons

"In the 1960s, we were having a terrible erosion problem, and the Corps of Engineers built a jetty with the purpose of saving sand," explains TK Brimer, owner of the surf shop The Frog House.

"But immediately, not a month later, it made a break on each side - a left and a right. The groined worked on saving sand, so the Corps of Engineers built seven more."

The Five-Mile Phenomenon

As a result, there's excellent surf on 56th Street, 54th Street, 52nd Street, 48th Street, etc. There are surf spots everywhere. And the surfboard shaping business flourished.

The Newport Beach Pier (west), the Balboa Pier (middle), and the Newport Harbor Jetty (east) transformed surfing in the Balboa Peninsula and quickly started attracting recreational and professional surfers from all around California.

The Wedge: Newport Beach's famous left-hand wave | Photo: Shutterstock

Today, with around 85,000 inhabitants, Newport Beach welcomes between 20,000 and 100,000 tourists daily.

Many are non-resident, international surfers from all corners of the globe.

The local beaches offer five miles of beach breaks that suit almost any level of surfing.

"You've got a bigger wave - The Wedge - and then Blackies, a longboard wave; then you move on up to 54th Street, which is a high-performance wave. And there's The Point, which can be like Pipeline," adds local surfer Spencer Pirdy.

Newport Beach Boardriders Club is the local surfing team.

They're a member of the West Coast Boardriders, an organization that bridges 12 teams from the West Coast together in a friendly and fun competition.

Ultimately, Newport Beach breathes and lives surfing like few coastal cities in the United States.

If you're curious about the essence and spirit of surfing, this is the perfect place to start your journey.

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