It's a sign of the times that seemingly all surf shops must now come equipped with a Slayer espresso machine operated by a pretentious barista. No longer contented to simply fondle a few handshapes and leave with bar of wax, surfers—particularly urban-based surfers—also need an exotically sourced pour-over from a third-wave coffee purveyor and a selection of artisanal baked goods, while they scope out new surf crafts. It's clear that the needs of surfers have evolved quite a bit since the post-war years of Kivlin, Quigg and company, content to eat canned meats and retire to improvisational thatched-roof shelters after hours of riding waves on the North Shore. Today, it seems that coast-adjacent, dense, urban areas best meet the needs of the contemporary surfer.
In the gig economy, cities—regional and global centers of industry, commerce, and culture—are where the jobs are. Modern cities have become walk-able, gastronomic and booze-centric, tolerant and progressive playgrounds for a Millennial generation primed to live and work in a more communal, stimulating environment. And when you stir in an accessible coastline and roughly a hundred days of ridable waves per year, a city can also provide a surfer a dynamic and balanced existence.
So in case you're considering a relocation opportunity, we pored over job statistics, surf reports, and city guides—taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, employment opportunities, and quality of life—to narrow down the world's best surf cities. The list we've assembled includes ten world centers, economic hubs revered for their cultural institutions where one can find a steady job and consistent-enough surf to satiate the most wave-obsessed among us. These are cities where, even if you're resigned to only surf with the weekend warrior crowd, you'll never be bored—provided you haven't handed over all your disposable income to some pretentious barista.
Next on the list…
Los Angeles, California
The post-war crew had Malibu to themselves for years before Gidget introduced the world to Los Angeles' perfect wave. Miki Dora would then introduce those inspired by the Hollywood film to seek the sun,
surf and carefree Southern California lifestyle to localism, and by the mid-60s everything we know today about surf culture (absent Simon Anderson's thruster) had been established. But surfing in Los Angeles, like the experience of living in L.A., in general, is bigger and more diverse than Malibu. A variety of waves, from chunky beachies to points to breaks-once-in-a-decade novelty spots abound in this part of Southern California. The West facing beachbreaks of south Los Angeles are somewhat below average, but consistent and can, on occasion, get very good. Things get above average as you move north, starting with Santa Monica up through County Line. And while, Malibu is still the cat's pajamas among today's longboard revivalists, if you don't feel like scrapping with 200 other surfers (some of them famous actors), premier Orange County and Ventura spots remain accessible, though nearly as crowded.
If you're looking to chase a creative muse, Los Angeles is one place where it's possible to do so and earn a living wage—if you can land a job. There are nearly half a million Angelenos working as freelancers or entrepreneurs in the city's thriving arts, entertainment, fashion and design sectors. Yet, the unemployment rate remains higher than the U.S. average, due to a highly competitive market for salaried jobs in the entertainment industry. Yet, entertainment is not even the biggest game in town. Los Angeles remains an internationally important port city, where transportation, logistics, and manufacturing are vital sectors of the local economy. Like most big cities these days, earning a living wage here and maintaining a surf-y lifestyle requires a fair amount of ingenuity and flexibility—but isn't that what makes living worth while?
QUALITY OF LIFE:
Like the townie intruders who were greeted unceremoniously with a nose-block to the temple complements of Miki Dora, many a doe-eyed L.A. transplant will be blindsided by the notorious traffic jams and long delays that stem from the city's struggle with overcrowding. Meanwhile, gentrification has seemingly gone into hyper-drive over the past half-decade, turning traditionally gritty though affordable enclaves from Venice to Silverlake into the trendy, upscale and untenably expensive havens of a newly moneyed, Millennial class. When selecting a neighborhood in which to reside, its important to choose wisely, as L.A.—with its unmatched sprawl and aforementioned traffic jams—can feel inconveniently segregated. But for all the traffic and change, Los Angeles still offers residents an incomparably diverse experience, with its 21,143 miles of freeways and roads leading from mountains and forests, through suburban and urban neighborhoods, to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. And with its unassailable reputation for great food, art, music and literature, L.A. remains one of the most inspiring places on the planet.
Median Income: $55,909
Top Industries: Technology, Retail Retail & Food Service, Manufacturing, Tourism
Median Home Price: $533,260
Median Rental Price: $1,700/month for a 1BR
Population: 4,000,000 proper (10,201,000 county)
Water Temperature Range: 58-68F
Surf Spots: El Porto, Venice Breakwater, Malibu, Zuma, County Line, Topanga Beach