Santa Cruz is one of the world’s best surfing spots which attracts surfers of all skill levels from across the world. As it’s such a popular surfing destination, Santa Cruz is home to a countless number of cool surfing shops and many of them are a big part of the local surfing community.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect custom board, or just a wetsuit to rent for the day, you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for at one of these shops.
1. Freeline Surf Shop
Where To Find Them: 821 41st Avenue
Specializing in surfboards, wetsuits and surf accessories, this family-owned business first set up shop in 1969, and has served the Santa Cruz surf scene ever since. Within walking distance of Pleasure Point, Freeline is the perfect place to get all you need for a day on the waves.
One of the biggest advantages of shopping at Freeline, is that they have a “try before you buy” service, allowing you to test out and find the perfect board for you! Freeline also offers pretty cheap board and wetsuit rentals at just $20 to borrow each, which is one of the best deals in Santa Cruz.
Besides surf equipment, Freeline has a wonderful selection of surf apparel, footwear and eye-wear on sale, so you can get that laid-back, beachy look. Freeline is such a big part of the Santa Cruz surfing community, and shopping here helps support a family business.
2. O’Neill Surf Shop
Where To Find Them: There are three different O’Neill locations in Santa Cruz, 110 Cooper Street Suite D, 400 Beach Street, 1071 41st Street
O’Neills is the grandfather of all surf shops. Jack O’Neill founded the company back in 1952, and since then O’Neills surf products have gained fame as the greatest in the world. It was Jack himself who was the originator of the neoprene wetsuit, and as the years have passed O’Neills is still the leader of innovative surf gear.
The business continues to be run by the O’Neill family, and as the headquarters are based in Santa Cruz, you’ll be able to check out the latest fashions and technologies in the surfing world.
Where To Find Them: 4105 Portola Drive
Billabong is another company that needs no introduction. For years, they have swept through surf stores and their products are used in oceans all over the world. As a factory store, Billabong Santa Cruz has the very latest in swimsuits, wet suits, clothing and accessories all under one roof.
4. Pearson Arrow Surf Shop
Where To Find Them: 2324 Mission Street
Bob Pearson founded Pearson Arrow Surf Shop over 30 years ago, and it has helped to design surfboards for some of the biggest professional surfers. They’re always looking into exploring new surfware technologies and surfboard creation.
If you’re looking for a custom board, there’s over 20 expert craftsmen that can create longboards, short boards, paddleboards, tandem boards and tow-in boards.
The surf shop also has an array of new or used boards which can be rented or purchased, along with some cool surfing apparel to enjoy the sunshine in. Pearson Arrow is another small business that is a big part of the Santa Cruz surfing community.
5. Pacific Wave
Where To Find Them: 1502 Pacific Avenue
This is another family owned business which has operated since 1993. The not-so-little store is situated in downtown Santa Cruz, and is home to the largest collection of Santa Cruz, NorCal, Independent and Creative products.
Specializing in surf and skate gear, Pacific Waves has everything you need for the waves and the half pipe. Don’t forget to check out the laid-back fashions on sale for the ultimate street style.
6. Midtown Surf Shop and Coffee Bar
Where To Find Them: 1126 Soquel Avenue
Midtown is a relatively new establishment which was opened in 2019, however, it’s already proving to be a popular place to get surfing gear in Santa Cruz. According to their website, Midtown is all about “warm smiles, rad surfboards, good vibes, cool apparel, making friends and delicious coffee!”
Midtown offers a wide selection of boards, wetsuits, and other surf equipment, and also has a good range of used boards to choose from if you’re on a budget. Midtown actually has their own clothing range you can check out in store.
Additionally, if you’re just looking to get away for a few hours, and to find people who love surfing as much as you do, the store doubles up as a coffee shop!
7. Buell Surf Shop
Where To Find Them: 912 42st Avenue
Just a block away from Pleasure Point, Buell Surf Shop offers a wide selection of surf equipment. This includes surfboards, wetsuits, swimwear, footwear, apparel and accessories.
Founded in 2009, Buell’s founder Ryan Buell has over 20 years experience of designing and testing wetsuits in Santa Cruz. Not only has the local surf community benefited from Buell’s experience, but world class professional surfers have shopped with Buell.
Buell Surf Shop has one of the largest surfboard and wetsuit rentals in all of Santa Cruz, and you can choose to rent either by the day or the week.
8. Haut Surfboards
Where To Find Them: 345 Swift Street
Doug Haut is a Santa Cruz legend, and few outsiders know he is one of the best surfers and surfboard shapers to emerge from California.
Doug could have built an incredible career out of his surfing accomplishments, but instead he chose to focus on shaping and designing some of the most sought surfboards in the NorCal scene.
With over forty years experience, Haut is a master of creating short boards, longboards, wind surfboards, hybrids and more. At Haut Surfboards you will find a range of new boards and rentals, and accessories like wax, stickers, fins and leashes.
One of the most interesting things about Haut Surfboards, is that they actually have craftsmen shaping and glassing the boards in the back of the shop – including Doug himself! Haut Surfboards is a must-see if you want to learn more about the Santa Cruz surfing culture, and meet one of its legends in the flesh.
9. Cowell’s Beach N’ Bikini Surf
Where To Find Them: 30 Front Street
Located just in front of Cowell’s beach, this is a great place to check out everything you need to hit the waves. From wetsuits and surfboards to equipment rental, Cowell’s will sort you out.
This is also another family run business, and the father and son duo who own Cowell’s have a lot of knowledge and experience of the waves around the Santa Cruz area, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Besides equipment, they also offer surfing lessons. So, if you’re a beginner looking to improve your skills check out the lesson deals they have.
10. Surf City
Where To Find Them: 41 Municipal Wharf
Formerly called Ports of Call, you can find Surf City on the Municipal Wharf. The shop has been in the same place since 1971, and has long been a great place to get all the equipment you need for a day on the waves. They carry a wide range of surf and skate gear, and have a large gift and souvenir section.
The Best Surfing Spots in Santa Cruz
There’s a reason why Santa Cruz is called “surf city”, and that’s because they have some of the best waves in the world. From beginners to certified surfing pros, the waves in Santa Cruz can accommodate surfers of all levels.
Just bear in mind that visitors who are not familiar with the big swells should take some time to familiarize themselves with the more dangerous spots before they hit the waves.
This is one of the most famous surfing spots in Santa Cruz. Here you’ll find some incredibly intense but picturesque waves that will blow your mind. This spot is often crowded with surfers, and is home to the Cold Water Classic Surf Contest which draws in crowds all year round.
One thing you have to keep in mind is the intensity of the waves at Santa Cruz. When the swell is up, Steamer Lane becomes the most dangerous spot to surf in all of Santa Cruz. But you shouldn’t let that distract you from the fact that it is one of the best surfing spots around.
So, whether you’re riding the waves yourself, or watching on from the shore, be sure to check out Steamer Lane whilst you’re in Santa Cruz.
Also, if you want to learn more about the history of Santa Cruz’s surf scene, there’s a surfing museum near the beach.
Pleasure Point is one of the best-known and most loved surf spots in all of Santa Cruz. It’s most known for its varietal waves, which causes both pros and first-timers to flock here and try out the waves. There are some amazing spots, including “Sharks Cove”, “The Hook”, “Pirates and Trees”, “The Drain Pipe” and “30th Ave”.
If you’re a novice surfer, you’re better off just kicking back and watching the aggressive swells at 30th Ave and the East Cliff.
However, if you’re a more experienced surfer, these areas are great for performing your best aerial tricks. You can even try your hand at some good old-fashioned showboating. This is the perfect spot for perfecting your surf skills.
There are plenty of surf spots all across Santa Cruz that pros can get stuck right in to. However, Cowell’s is the perfect place for first-timer and beginner surfers to take to the waves. Known for its gentler and longer waves, this is a great place to catch your breath before tackling more challenging waves.
Due to its calmer waters, it’s also a great area for longboarders. Also, many surf schools choose to operate out of Cowell’s Beach, as they find the gentle waves are the perfect place for a beginner to learn.
This cleverly named spot can be found just four miles outside of town, and is surrounded by a gathering of bluffs and cliffs that keep the harsh winds at bay.
The protection from the wind makes it a great spot for beginners and they’ll be able to catch some pretty good waves. If you are a surfing pro or expert, don’t worry, as Four Mile is capable of getting those more intense, high-crashing swells that you know and love.
If you’re a longboard fan, then taking a visit to Private Beach is a must. The long, gentle waves are perfect to ride all day long. It’s a sort of lesser-known Cowell’s that was once only open to the local residents of Opal Cliff.
Since being opened to the public, Private Beach is still a quiet little place where beginners and longboarders alike can enjoy a day of surfing.
Natural Bridges is probably one of the most scenic places in all of Santa Cruz, and it offers some of the best surf you can imagine for all skill levels.
The only drawback of Natural Bridges is timing your surf right, as it can be quite tricky. However, if you time it perfectly, the surf is spectacular. Even on days when the waves aren’t great, Natural Bridges is still a great place to just paddle out and take in the breathtaking views.
As mentioned earlier, The Hook is not far from the popular Pleasure Point, and is where many locals and surf pros can be found. To get to The Hook, you just need to descend a flight of stairs at the end of Pleasure Point. This place gets its name after the collection of kelp that gets “hooked” on the buoys and skags in the water.
A lot of surfers love coming to The Hook as it has some of the most perfect swells for the more advanced surfers. Just bear in mind that the waters tend to get a little crowded – mostly with locals – but once you’re in the water, you’ll realise that it is most definitely worth it for the surf.