The Surf Breaks & Beaches of Isla Vista

By Conor Hanvey

The UCSB campus and the surrounding student neighborhood of Isla Vista hosts a variety of surf spots, which makes it possible to participate in ocean recreation anytime of the year. With miles of coastline, there are a surf breaks for any skill level and organizations on campus that offer rentals for kayaks, paddleboards and even wetsuits. Due to the temperate climate in Santa Barbara students are always on the beach and in the water participating in their favorite water sports with friends and classmates.

This guide will cover the different surf breaks and beaches that surround the UCSB campus and Isla Vista, while also providing some information on how to rent or borrow items for water activities.

Sands Beach

Sands beach is the largest beach and usually has the most student activity from the Isla Vista area. With nice white sand and a coastline that stretches for miles to the north it is the nicest beach in the Goleta IV area. Sands is located just around coal oil point nature preserve and is home to the endangered snowy plover. On a sunny day there will be hundreds of students tanning, playing spike ball, and surfing.

The surf at Sands is the best in the area as the beach has the most exposure to western swells that come from the north pacific ocean. Sands is the only beach in the area that faces west as the other beaches in the Goleta area face south and east, a California oddity. Sands will always offer up something to surf and is usually crowded with surfers on shortboards everyday of the week. Sands offers stellar surf on the right west swell and is a dream break located in students’ backyards.

Further north of Sands, the beach continues and local Goleta residents often visit this area to bring their family and children. The surf north of sands is also premium and often less crowded than the beach located close to coal oil point. Sands beach is primarily a break for shortboarding and the local students can get aggressive in the surfing lineup. This is usually a break for more intermediate to advanced surfers and can be a difficult wave for beginners, due to its fast nature and steep waves.


Devereux is the point and beach that extends east from coal oil point, offering a more relaxed surf break that is friendly to beginners. On a day of good surf there will be hundreds of surfers on their longboards, soaking up the sun and the surf in a relaxed style that harkens back to the imagery of The Endless Summer. The Devereux beach also attracts students who are looking for a nice beach day and extends for a half mile beyond Isla Vista’s final houses. Devereux has more than just surfers with people who kayak, paddleboard and free dive in the surrounding kelp beds and calm waters. Devereux offers a unique point break for beginning surfers and is often where students try surfing for their first time.

During a low tide, Devereux becomes a place of exploration with tide pools appearing where individuals were surfing mere hours earlier. These tide pools host a variety of wildlife such as crabs, lobsters and sea anemones. Classes on marine biology at UCSB visit the Devereux tide pools to learn about the diverse ocean ecology of Santa Barbara.


Peskies located down the stairs from the cross street of Del Playa and Camino Pescadero, is a local surf spot for UCSB students who live in Isla Vista. The name Peskies originates from a cross between Playa, in Del Playa, and Pescadero, in Camino Pescadero. Peskies is a novelty wave for student who can watch the break from their own ocean side homes on Del Playa, waiting for the perfect conditions. Surfing at Peskies allows students to surf right outside their home and practically in their own backyard. While not a stellar break by any means it does offer up decent surf year round right by IV. The easy beach access allows individuals to kite surf and paddleboard right from this surf break.

The Channel Islands Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa to the south of Isla Vista, block much of the south swell which hits Southern California in the summer months. This limits much of the surf that occurs in San Diego and Orange Counties and makes Santa Barbara’s surf season primarily in the winter. Despite the islands, small western swells can still make south facing breaks such as Peskies turn on and offer fun surf.


Depressions is located to the west of campus point and is a sand bar beach created by the slough from the UCSB lagoon. It is part of the UCSB campus and is accessible through trails from campus. To the east of Manzanita Village, a UCSB residence hall, Depressions is an often unsurfed spot that has no crowds and on the right swell awesome surf. When the surf gets larger Depressions can offer a spitting left wave which breaks right off of Campus Point and to the west.

Depressions is usually visited by second and third year students who live in the UCSB residence halls of Manzanita Village and San Rafael. Depressions beach is usually not crowded and is a nice spot for a beach day away from the hectic atmosphere of IV and UCSB student life. Behind Depressions are large cliffs and hiking trails, where students and visitors come to enjoy the view and take in the natural beauty of the UCSB campus.

Campus Point

Campus Point is located on campus and is a point break that is well protected. Campus Point faces east towards Santa Barbara, so the surf is usually less powerful than in the surrounding beaches. Campus Point is visited most often by freshman students who live in the dorms on the far side of campus: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Anacapa Halls. On the beach of Campus Point, there is a place to rent surfboards, wetsuits and kayaks. The equipment is rented for a low fee of $10 and is provided through the UCSB Rec Cen.

Campus Point is a unique feature of the UCSB campus and is a great place to learn to surf. I learned to surf at Campus Point as a freshman at UCSB and the protected geography of the point makes it a great beginners surf break. On larger days when the surf is strong campus point gets crowded with surfers as the protection offered by the point refines the waves for smooth rides. While mostly a long boarding spot some individuals choose to bring their shortboards down to Campus Point on a good swell.


The Oasis is a house located on the corner of Camino Lindo and Del Playa, which allows students to borrow surfboards, kayaks, and wetsuits. Students who are part of the Excursion Club on campus often live in the house. Membership in the Excursion Club is the only requirement for borrowing recreational items and students make use of the shared equipment daily. The club not only provides recreational items for water activities but students can also borrow camping gear and other hiking essentials. The Excursion Club hosts group hikes and camping trips that students can participate in and fosters student appreciation for the multitude of recreational activities that are available in the Santa Barbara area.

With so many options to get involved in water activities, made possible by IV’s proximity to the ocean, students often use their free time to enjoy the ocean. The ability to borrow equipment allows students to make the most of the ocean surrounding the UCSB campus and Isla Vista. Learning to surf, going on a kayak trip or simply swimming in the ocean are all a part of many students UCSB experience, where living next to the ocean can bring new hobbies and ways to enjoy life.

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