Cruising up the west coast’s Highway 1 in an RV is the ultimate way to experience everything that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, especially when chasing swell.
Every surfer dreams of empty lineups and radical waves. With a little perseverance and a Cruise America RV (along with a 5/4 wetsuit, booties, and gloves) the California and Oregon coastlines have a multitude of empty breaks to offer.
When to Go: The best waves arrive in late autumn and continue through to early spring, however, you’ve got to brave the cold northwest conditions. Smaller waves but better conditions await from May-September.
The beauty of an RV is that you can start your trip from any major city that works best for you. We started our trip off renting from the San Francisco location and headed to one of our favorite places to surf in the Central Coast of California, Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz, California
Although not as remote as other locations along Highway 1, Santa Cruz is an iconic surfing community full of breaks. Its crown jewel is the steep cliffside right-hander Steamer Lane. A past World Surfing League event location, Steamer Lane is for advanced and adventurous surfers only. The peak breaks directly in front of a 30-foot cliff face that surfers must maneuver around or face serious consequences, but the thrill and rush of the wave is seriously addicting and fulfilling.
Tip: Start on the inside and watch the wave, make sure to treat locals with respect and above all, always double-check to make sure you don’t drop in on anyone; it can make for a very dangerous situation if you do.
If you’re looking for more mellow waves, try Cowell’s right down the street from Steamer Lane. Surfing with the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the background is super special, and this historic spot isn’t to be missed if you are a longboarder! If waves are in the 5-6 foot range, make sure you check out Pleasure Point, there are multiple breaks for beginners and experts within the half-mile strip of pristine wildflower-soaked cliffs. Don't forget to stop off at The Point Market for a post-surf breakfast burrito and coffee!
Redwoods National and State Parks
While the coast of Northern California is lined with untouched surf breaks, the swell has to be clean, and often beaches are hard to access. So instead of braving the chilly waters searching for ankle biters, we decided to cruise up Highway 1 in search of the ancient Redwood groves. The drive is fantastic. From thick evergreen tunnels to epic cliffside viewpoints, there is no lack of beauty on the way to the coldwater kingdom of Oregon. Be sure to head to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to check out the Big Tree, which is 220 feet tall and over 1,500 years old! There are numerous hikes of various difficulties; make sure you keep an eye out for herds of elk in the meadows. If your headed up that way, check out Cruise's RV Camping Guide to Redwood National Park.
At the mouth of the Siuslaw River lies the sleepy, often rain-battered town of Florence. Depending on the swell direction, Florence's North and South Jetties produce some great opportunities for waves. The sand dunes of South Jetty offer the perfect place for kids to explore while out surfing. The waves themselves are heavily dependent on the tides, expect quick, pitchy, powerful waves upon low tide, and slower, rolly waves as the tide comes in. Ample parking in South Jetty makes coming back to the RV a dream!
Continuing north, stop off at Heceta Head Lighthouse to explore the amazing history behind Oregon's central coast and its maritime legacy.
Cape Kiwanda, Oregon
When surfing, you can often overlook the amazing scenery surrounding you because you’re patiently staring out to sea waiting for the glimpse of a rogue set wave. Cape Kiwanda gives you a colossal monolith of a rock to stare at in between waves. Chief Kiawanda rock is an iconic formation that includes a small archway. The waves here are often very good, so good that there is an annual Cape Kiwanda Longboarding competition; check local websites for dates! The massive sand dune at the end of the beach provides a great place to sandboard or take in the beautiful Oregon coastline from above.
Cannon & Indian Beach, Oregon
The cherry on top of an epic surfing trip? Empty lineups, beautiful waves, sunshine, bald eagles, and a pristine river to rinse off after soaking in the salty Pacific waters. Indian Beach, just a short drive from the tourist mecca of Cannon Beach, provides the perfect aquatic playground for surfers to score waves in the picturesque scenery. Like most other surf breaks along the Oregon coast, tide plays a huge role in the formation of steep faces. Lefts and rights abound, be prepared for some closeouts, with major opportunities to get air at the end sections. Take in the views of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, first lit in 1881!
Tip: If waves are heavy and the current is strong, paddle out alongside the rocks as there is a rip current that will help you get past the seemingly endless whitewater lines. Once you’re out, just paddle left and pick your wave!
An RV surf trip up the Pacfic Northwest coast is sure a way to make memories to last a lifetime. What your waiting for? Grab your friends, boards (wetsuit, booties, and gloves), and reserve your RV with Cruise America today!
Collin is a modern day world wide adventurer. He brings his camera and 5 years of professional experience with him to the worlds most unique landscapes while carefully capturing it in the most dramatic way. You can usually find him climbing the Sierra Nevadas backcountry or diving in the blue Hawaiian waters. To find more about Collin, visit him on Instagram.
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