Santa Barbara, California
As far as I know, Sandspit is a complete accident. They built the breakwater to protect the harbor, but as a side effect it allowed sand to build up and form this perfect break. I’ve surfed Sandspit my whole life, and when it’s working it’s definitely one of the best waves I’ve surfed. It’s one of those rare breaks where it can be big and messy everywhere else, but Sandspit will be absolutely perfect. It isn’t the easiest wave to surf, because you’ve got a pretty severe backwash on every takeoff, so you have to time it right. Ideally, you get to your feet early and then sort of bunny hop the backwash and wait for it to settle, then pull into that first barrel section just off the breakwater. It slows down for a moment after that, and then the second section starts, which I think is really the better section. When it’s good, that section can barrel all the way down the bar, sort of bending back at you as it wraps toward the harbor. The way it bends at you reminds me of the bowl section at Ala Moana, but you don’t have to worry about hitting the reef.
02 SANTA CLARA RIVER MOUTH
This wave is really special because it only breaks about once every 10 years. It takes steady rain over a long period of time to break that river mouth open and push out all the sediment. When that happens, it forms a perfect pointbreak. There’s a power plant and a water treatment plant nearby, so the water is really nasty. It’s nasty all the time, but it gets twice as bad when the river breaks. But that doesn’t stop anyone when they see how good it is. The last time it broke, word spread and a lot of great California surfers like Bobby Martinez and Chris Ward were on it. Those guys did really well in the contest scene that year, and maybe it’s a coincidence, but I think that it was in part because they were surfing that spot. Once the sand was there, the wave got super consistent for more than a month. It’s exposed to all swell directions, so it was just breaking all the time. It started as a perfect right point, and then after a month it turned into a perfect left point. It used to break more often, like once every few years, but the coast in that area has changed a lot and the water from the river is being diverted. Unfortunately, I think that wave will break less and less frequently.
03 BURLEIGH HEADS
Gold Coast, Australia
When it’s doing its thing, Burleigh is one of the best waves I’ve ever seen. It’s a great wave because it’s really fast and you can get pretty long tubes, and when it isn’t barreling it’s still a really high-performance wave. There’s something about the angle of that point that makes the waves break in these really straight lines, and it doesn’t have any idiosyncrasies that you have to spend time figuring out. When you get a good one at Burleigh, everything just feels natural. But there’s a lot of current on big swells, so it’s hard to get into the perfect spot. It’s funny because there are days when you pull up to check Burleigh and it’s perfect, but the lineup is almost completely empty because the rip is so strong that it’s almost impossible to get into the takeoff spot.
04 BARRA DE LA CRUZ
I was down there during the Rip Curl contest in 2006 and the combination of the sand and swell was so good, and of course the surfing was incredible. Everyone who was there was saying it was the best surf they’d ever had, and that really captured everyone’s attention. But in the end it was kind of misleading. I think that luck had a lot to do with that event, and Barra is actually a really fickle spot. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I’ve heard that it’s more or less dormant now. Maybe there’s too much sand, or not enough sand, but for some reason it just doesn’t work anymore. But that’s the thing with sand: It’s always moving. Maybe if that spot gets one really big swell—like the biggest south swell in years—it could rearrange the sand. Just like that, the wave could come back and be as good as it ever was.
Basque Country, Spain
The thing that makes Mundaka really special is that it doesn’t break that often, but when it does, it’s as good a wave as you can imagine. The sand comes out of the river mouth and makes some amazing bars. A couple times I’ve had it really good, where you come over the hill and the waves almost don’t even look real. At a distance, because it’s so perfect and there aren’t any sections, it almost looks like it isn’t moving—like you’re just seeing a photograph of a perfect lineup. Up close, Mundaka is really fast, and it’s just a big, wide-open tube. You can get some incredibly long barrels out there. But it’s also very tide sensitive and you don’t have very long windows. Sometimes when it’s really good, it will be perfect for a couple hours and then just stop breaking entirely. It’s also always really crowded when it breaks, so you have to be patient, but when you get one it’s well worth it.