About Shell Beach

Situated north of Pismo Beach and south of Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, Shell Beach enjoys a little bit more exposure, and therefore more consistency. Nevertheless, it still requires a solid NW or SW swell to really start working. Comprised of a pair of reef peaks, most of the time it is mushy and user-friendly for the beginners, but as the swell fills in and the quality improves, the savvy local crew are on it. Enjoying some protection from NW winds, Shell Beach doesn’t tend to blow out as quickly as other more exposed Central California beaches. And as far as scenery and nature vibes go, Shell Beach is hard to beat. Hit it on a warm autumn day when the sun’s shining, the wind’s offshore and the surf’s pumping and you’ll enjoy an epic slice of classic California.

Source: Shell Beach Surf Guide

Ability Level

All Abilities

Beg Int Adv

When it’s small and crumbly Shell Beach is a good option for those just starting out on their surfing journey. The bigger the surf gets the more experience counts, as there can be multiple-wave sets and strong currents.

Local Vibe


Welcoming Intimidating

Shell Beach enjoys pretty good vibes most of the time.

Crowd Factor


Mellow Heavy

There is a local crew that’s on it when it’s good, but day in and day out the vibes are pretty relaxed.

Spot Rating


Poor Perfect

A beautiful Central California beach that struggles with wave quality as it closes out the bigger it gets. More exposed than nearby Avila Beach, the right combination of swell size and tide is the key.

Shoulder Burn


Light Exhausting

When it starts pumping on a proper groundswell, be prepared to paddle in a thicker (4-mil) wetsuit.

Water Quality


Clean Dirty

Typically isn’t a concern, but caution should always be exercised after periods of heavy rain.

Additional Information


Cold water, occasional sharks and some scattered rocks — pretty standard concerns in Central California. And if you’re surfing close to the pier, getting tangled up in the pilings.


Access isn’t a problem here. Find street parking in Avila and walk down to the beach.

Bring Your

Shortboard, fish, funboard, longboard



Best Season

Autumn is ideal for Shell Beach, when crossed-up swells are in the water and easterly winds are more common.

Swell Consistency and Wind Overview

Photos & Videos