Guide To San Clemente California
San Clemente Surfboard Rentals SAN CLEMENTE, CALIFORNIA
San Clemente has two very distinct faces. The idealized one is a core surf town where the streets are lined with Trestles cobblestones and Mayhems. Where the ghosts of San Onofre OG’s Tom Blake and Doc Ball might give you a tour of the hallowed halls of Surfer and Surfing Magazine’s original offices pointing out iconic imagery that created and sustained the surf industry for decades. You might stop by the Astrodeck warehouse and get a history-drenched sermon from Dibi and Herbie Fletcher and take a walkabout through the shaper’s ghetto with Timmy Patterson and Matt Biolos. Or Cole Simler and Terry Senate if you want a thicker coat of foam dust on your shoes. You might take a peak at the Surfing Heritage Museum’s collection of historic surfboards or check in with the Pezman’s at The Surfer’s Journal offices. You might wrap this day up with a double feature screening of Jeff Neu’s San Clemente Locals and Lost Across America: The Decline.
You would squint your eyes and look out at T Street and see vintage Dino Andino and Matt Archbold going vert on their backhands and leaning way back on their forehands. You might see Nathan Fletcher or the Long brothers punting on closeouts at State Park. Riviera would be full of Gudauskas smiles and Rozunko shakas. Lowers sets would be split by Chris Ward and and his pal and temporary Florida transplant Cory Lopez filming for a new Lost flick. Followed by the full deck grips of Justin Matteson and Gavin Beschen. You’d hear the bombs of Camp Pendleton going off before navigating a barroom split down the center of surfers and soldiers at Red Fox Lounge as “O.C Life” from D.I. plays from the juke. This would be one version of San Clemente. The one where you blend a disheveled core surf aesthetic with an obvious surf industry influence backdropped by the stucco and tasteless veneer of the Orange County curtain into something with some goddamn vibe.
The other one might not hit so authentically. The realist’s San Clemente. The San Clemente of today. It has been sterilized with Acai bowls and streets lined with short putting green grass so the starry eyed groms in their golf carts and e-bikes can get to Trestles quicker. An attempt at creating surfing’s Pleasantville backfired and this mutiny of home schooled kids in head-to-toe Stance gear run the show. Their dad’s Teslas charge while the water in their Rinse Kits warms.
San Clemente is now a grommet nursery where parents hope future Colapintos and Kolohe’s are groomed into Olympic-ready world champions. People forget that John John and Kolohe and Griffin and Crosby were raised on a steady diet of paragraph one through five surf industry and have a deep appreciation for the core community — a key ingredient to a proper surf curriculum. This is the chapter that today’s groms seem to be glossing over and it’s like skipping the Curren chapter in the surf book.
Despite these modern conveniences and the repercussions that accompany them, this place can still be navigated with dignity. A nice time can be had. There is still soul lurking around. Not all is sterilized by IG surf culture. Catch Surf is not the only surf shop in town. Catalyst (Lost’s home surf shop) still runs the show and will get you dialed with what you need by utilizing a knowledgeable and surf competent staff of no nonsense surf gear.
Our suggestion as you exit the 5 onto Pico: Look to the roots, embrace the present but don’t be afraid to rage against it and always blast the Minor Threat as you hit the offramp. San Clemente still has it if you look closely.—Travis Ferré
T-Street taken from the SC Pier.
Richard Nixon used to have his “Western White House” in San Clemente. Most recently sold for like $65M
President Richard Nixon at his “Western White House” in San Clemente
Christian Fletcher. PHOTO: Jeff Divine.
Ole Hanson Beach Club in the 1930s.
We polled some of SC’s finest to make sure this list is complete. It should keep you fed, surfing, buzzed and healthy all at once.
Luke Davis: Ultimate Surfer competitor, had pink hair before it was cool, coffee connoisseur, Reckless Isolation star and form guru.
Tanner Ruzunko: The most core of the core. Good at everything. Surfing, skating, music, beers, carpentry and an all-around stand up dude with great taste.
Ian Crane: World’s greatest free surfer and everyone’s favorite guy to have fun with.
Jackson Todd: Our secret weapon. Makes our 12 Song playlists, rips in several bands (Repeater) and a smart export. His dad Drew edited the original 5 x 5 x 191/4 film.
Yadin Nicol:Former World Tour Surfer, Modern Collective star and West Aussie transplant that’s called SC home for the last 7 years. Dad to the best surfer in the world under 10 (King Nicol).
Matt Biolos: World-renowned surfboard maker, snowboarding enthusiast and punk rocker.
Kolohe Andino: World Tour surfer, Olympian, Filmmaker, Core Lord.
Old Man’s at San Onofre State Beach.
Sonny’s Pizza & Pasta in San Clemente.
Pedro’s Tacos: Two locations in town. This staple post-Lowers drive-thru never disappoints after a marathon session. Bean/cheese/potato burrito every single time. Easy on the wallet and pretty good on the taste buds. Best to not get a drink and pop over to 7-11 to grab something there. (Don’t know why everyone does this, but they do, literally everyone.)
Guicho’s Eatery: Killer Italian food with two locations in San Clemente. Pretty much a slam dunk any time you want. Only downfall is they are closed on Sundays. Ian Crane special recommendation: Chicken salad + side of 2 meatballs… chicken salad comes with garlic bread, make open face mini meatball sandwich to go with the salad. Or just get the chicken sandwich, comes with baby side salad.
SC Cafe: The local diner. Feels like you’re sitting at home. It’s that level of comfort. They have great breakfast. Hot chocolate coffee w/ whipped cream on top + the veggie mix half order, no rice, add 2 fried eggs and sausage links. Ask for pico de gallo & medina sauce, chop up and mix all together then wrap in flower tortillas.—Crane
PEDRO’S WILL ALWAYS BE A SAN CLEMENTE STAPLE. NOSTALGIC AND DELICIOUS. MY SUGGESTION – ORDER BEFORE PADDLING OUT AND ENJOY IT ON THE BEACH.
— KOLOHE ANDINO
Pedro’s Tacos drive-thru sign at their location on the south end of town.
Billy’s Deli: Billy’s is a perfect mini market and deli located near the top of Del Mar steet. Full service butcher in house that will help you build your own sammy. Crane’s order: turkey on squaw, mayo and dijon mustard, all the veggies, add avocado.
Surfin’ Chicken: A hidden secret on the north end of town just off Avenida Pico. In the corner of an interesting strip mall. Surfin’ Chicken lives right next door to the record shop. A gem of a taco shop that you can stuff your face while gazing in awe at the surfing posters that have been up since 1995.
“Archy, Dino, the Fletcher’s and Beschen’s line the walls of this time capsule of an establishment. If your picture is not up in Surfin’ Chicken, you are gonna have to go on the next set wave.” —Tanner Ruzunko
The Surfin’ Chicken San Clemente.
Rider’s Club: This used to be a taco shop but is now a burger stand that not only has the best burger in town to tickle your tastebuds, but the best tunes to bless your ear drums as well. Overall a killer spot, don’t sleep on the pudding, it’s delish. —Tanner Ruzunko
Active Culture: A really good healthy lunch spot. Active Culture is also famous for it’s really good and healthy frozen yogurt. Is frozen yogurt healthy?
Shwack Cantina: Not very expensive and random little spot for lunch or dinner. Quick, easy, get a beer there or watch football. It’s just one of those places that feels like going home. Potato poppers in there are so good. Right near the shapers alley dubbed “The Surf Ghetto.”
Sonny’s Pizza & Pasta: The meeting place in San Clemente. Sonny’s is SC Tradition. Ran by a crazy good surfer Brandon Ragenovich. Brandon’s mom and grandfather own this place and they make incredible pizzas, pastas, salads, and wines. Pretty hostesses.
The Cellar: Another hot spot on Del Mar. Good food, nice ambiance. Fried chicken sandwich is tasty. Try not to eat too much because the cookie skillet for dessert will make you scream like it’s 4th of July.
Captain Mauri’s: Great spot on the main strip in town, Del Mar Street. Loads of great options of juices, sandwiches, smoothies, bowls and even a few healthier treats. Can’t really go wrong at Captain Mauri’s.
Nick’s & South of Nick’s: Margarita’s are great. Everything is pretty good. Chicken flautas, we usually get like a massive plate of La Tablita to share. You can feed a small family on that one. My wife loves the coconut marg to drink. —Yadin
New Mandarin Garden: Located in the Old Town strip mall. This spot is pretty insane. Huge servings, pay the $15 for an entree and you take home enough Chinese food to cover dinner for the rest of your week.
Vine: Class class class…Vine uses fresh and seasonal ingredients. Meat, seafood, craft beers, designers cocktails and a selection of wine from all over the world. Incredible spot if you want to impress a date. Make yourself a reservation though.
VINE in San Clemente
THIS IS A “FUCK YOU, I’M GOING BIG” SPOT. A RESTAURANT YOU FIND IN A REAL CITY. SONOMA COUNTY STYLE MEAT PERFECTLY PREPARED, HIGH END EXPERT COCKTAILS WITH A VINTAGE CA COCKTAIL VIBE. SEASONAL VEGGIES AND EXPERT CHEF PREPARATION.
— MATT BIOLOS
Ranch Market: World’s Best Street Tacos located on the north end of town and one block off of Pacific Coast Highway near North Beach. $2 tacos on Tuesday and $3 pupusas on Friday. Very authentic. Perfect if you need some tacos catered for your party. The habanero chicken on the spit is to die for.
Ranch Market street tacos.
Agostino’s Ristorante: The best kept secret in town. About 50 yards from the water, facing the ocean. The ambience here is next level. You feel like you’re in a scene from the Godfather. I think there’s a picture of Marlon Brando on the wall. Open mic night is on Friday if you’re feeling adventurous.
La Tiendita: I can’t believe I’m even telling you about it. Get a plate of your go-to Mexican dish. Take it in the back, walk over the liquor store while they prepare, get a Tecate, eat on the patio in the back. Squeeze a lime on everything and all will be right. You won’t even notice the flies. Get some marinated chicken to take home to make your own tacos for the weekend too.
JUST GO TO TRESTLES, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE HERE FOR [LAUGHS]. IF THE BEACH BREAKS ARE GOOD HERE YOU’RE SURE AS HELL MISSING IT SOMEWHERE ELSE.
— TANNER ROZUNKO
204’s: I’ve never been here but I heard that Timmy Patterson surfs there a lot.
The Pier: Kinda has a different little look to it. Northside pretty much always has something. Winter time sometimes you can surf the other side. I surf Southside like 5 times per year in the winter. —Yadin
T-Street: The most consistent wave on planet earth. In June Cory Lopez and his family were in town and it was flat everywhere in CA. T-St. was the best place from Malibu to the Mexican border and the Lopez fam was all over it. Waves were really really bad in CA, but T-St. was still doin it’s thing. One of the most consistent ridable waves in CA with better wind than HB. Don’t waste a swell day here though. —Biolos
Wedges in the winter. Surf that a bunch and it’s easy. Don’t need an E-bike to get there. —Yadin
Paddle out whenever most convenient, always a funish rideable wave, makes you surf better. Best place to drive by and run out for a wave or just hang out in the parking lot. FUCK BLACKBALL! —Crane
State Park: Better on low tide. The only beachbreak in town with a decent sandbar is State Beach. The crowd is usually pretty spread out and between tower 1 and the parking lot you can usually find your own peak.
Lower Trestles, San Clemente, CA.
Trails: This can be fun and sometimes an escape from the crowd If you time it right. Trail 6 you can see all the military equipment up close and personal.
Be careful which trail you take as one of them trails lands you on the nude beach.
Uppers: Winter time go-to spot. Summer is good too but the crowd is whacky. Total chaos.
Lowers: Basically good all day! Bring a backpack with water and snacks & 2 boards for fun. Always crowded but it’s kind of an organized chaos. If too crowded and frustrating go in and try again an hour or so later.—Crane
Middles: Any time there is a contest at Lowers you will mind-surf about a hundred waves per day down in this area. Especially fun on a really crowded Lowers day when you can float down and snatch a couple little runners.
Churches: I actually surf Churches a bunch.
San O: 60’s throwback scene on the beach here and a sort of “Waikiki” of California type of surf generally. Great for longboarding and going straight. Best and worst beach in the entire world.—Yadin
SURFING AROUND SAN CLEMENTE IS LIKE A SLOW DRIP. ALMOST LIKE A KIND OF TORTURE. THERE’S USUALLY ALWAYS SOMETHING, BUT NOTHING TOO THRILLING. ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU HYDRATED BUT YOU’RE ALWAYS THIRSTY FOR A LITTLE MORE.
— YADIN NICOL
Griffin & Crosby Colapinto nearby home ft. Kolohe Andino
We’ve been told at times to avoid “The Devil’s Triangle” (Goody’s Tavern, Ole’s Tavern & Red Fox Lounge) located downtown in San Clemente. But then we’ve also heard that Red Fox Lounge is where you probably want to find yourself on a weekend evening in SC. Tread carefully.
Goody’s Tavern: 1/3 of the triangle. Goody’s feels like the ultimate man cave. Great to grab a drink and watch some sports with the boys. They have 6 x 60” TV’s in there along with billiards, darts, karaoke, and a Golden Tee golf arcade game. Country night is on Wednesday.
Ole’s Tavern: 2/3 of the triangle. Ole’s is a full liquor sports tavern complete with pool tables, a jukebox, and even foosball! If you’re lucky you can get late night leftover free pizza from the pizzeria down the street too. Apparently they may not take out of state ID’s though…eeeek
Red Fox Lounge: A San Clemente version of “Cheers.” This anchor of downtown San Clemente was established in 1955. Cash bar only with ice cold beer and wreaks of cigarette smoke pouring in from the back patio. Generous pours of stiff drinks only. Tip your bartender, her name is Bunny she is very sweet! Red Fox also has a golf arcade game and a back patio entrance that has been known as an alleged place underage people have snuck in allegedly. It is alleged…:) Likely to bump into a former local pro from San Clemente if you hangout long enough.
Chuck Yaeger is the first person to break the sound barrier and loved hanging at Red Fox Lounge. Coincidence?
Jemma: Really good cocktails and a real good Mexican style Mezcal Bar. The best one around consisting of 100+ various types of Mezcal. —Biolos
Lander’s: Lander’s Liquor Bar is relatively new to San Clemente. Located right near the old casino on the north side of town and can be a lot of fun on Fri/Sat night. It seems to be the place to see and be seen. Make sure you dress cool. They really pump the DJ electro thing here. See Cola Bros IG for a teaser.
Closed every Monday and Tuesday.
The Landers crowd feels a bit like Stagecoach to me, so I would say avoid that place like the plague!—Jackson
JD’s Kitchen and Bar: Draft beers, bottled beers, cocktails, wine…
WE HEARD RUMORS THAT ONCE A MAN WAS SERVED A MODELO FROM THE TAP AT JD’S AND IT WAS SLIGHTLY SLUSHY. NOW THAT’S A COLD ASS BEER.
The Fisherman’s: On the base of the SC pier. Amazing seafood and oyster bar. Fun spot to be during sunset hour to hang while watching the waves and summertime tourists.
Knuckleheads: Honorable mention to the list would be Knuckleheads Sports Bar. All the games plus live music on Friday and Sunday nights. Open mic night on Wednesday night too if you’re feeling frisky.
Taka-O (RIP): For years this place used to be the celebratory meeting point for the end of every surf event in San Clemente. Decent sushi bar, but what set this apart from anywhere else was the live karaoke. You could usually find the worlds best surfers belting out your favorite songs. There are tales of debauchery and celebration etched into surf history at this place. Everyone from Taj Burrow to Steph Gilmore have gone off here.
Bloom’s Pub (formerly know as Molly Bloom’s): Old brick building on the south end of El Camino. You can get a pretty decent pub meal at this place while listening to some live music.
OC Tavern: OC Tavern is a sports bar right next door to Molly Blooms. Also the only semi-legitimate music venue in town, where once in a blue moon you can catch something really cool show like GLUE.
Glue at O.C. Tavern
Sur Coffee: Super cool people here. They know how to make coffee. Shake up coffee in those shakers they use to make cocktails. You can see the love and respect they have for your coffee.
Zebra House: Prefer the cold coffee drinks here like the frappes are amazing! Vegan and gluten free muffins every day. Great on the go breakfast spot and they even have a drive thru window.
Moulin: Up on the north end of town. I think this place started with their first restaurant in Newport Beach. You feel like you’re really in Biarritz at this place. Amazing espresso, croissants, sandwiches, baguettes.
Bear Coast: Minimal, hipster vibe. Cute little spot right at the pier in SC. Pretty good and I have heard they make their own almond milk from scratch.
Catalyst: Two locations but the most core one is the OG spot by North Beach. By far the largest selection of insane surfboards in the whole town. New and a lot of used …Lost team surfboard trade ins are always loaded on the racks. Semi pro surfers run the store and are the ones selling you said boards. Parties, premieres, host the local pros showing their newest and latest projects. Wreaks of resin (in the best way possible) from the glass shop in the back. Real deal no frills surf shop. They have what you need to get you in the water. No bullshit.
The person running the counter in shop is guaranteed to be stoned. Surf movies playing on TV. They have the glass shop running in the back making fresh boards, it reeks of resign in the best way. Plus it’s across the street from 7/11 so you can get a slurpee and some candy while there.—Crane
Basham’s Factory and Surf Shop: Brad Basham started the entire surfboard building process in San Clemente. The shop lives towards the north side of town in Brad’s name as he passed away recently. This guy was a big reason San Clemente surfing is where it is today.
Icon’s of Surf: Alternative surf store located near the middle of town. Longboard, retro, fish, and all things hipster. Beautiful selection of $1500 boards that go straight fast. Filled with underground alternative clothing brands.—Biolos
Rip Curl: Iconic, right near Trestles at the very south side of San Clemente. Lots of surfboards, wetsuits and accessories. Always seems to be the spot I stop at to grab a bar of wax, fin key, or sunscreen that I forgot.
SAN CLEMENTE HAS MORE SHAPING FACTORIES PER CAPITA THAN ANY OTHER PLACE IN THE WORLD. DON’T COME BOTHER US WHILE WE’RE WORKING THOUGH. YOU’RE NOT GETTING A DEAL.
— MATT BIOLOS
Moldy Toes Records: A great Mom and Pop record shop. The proprietor knows his stuff and will have all the classics and the latest re-issues. Nice to see that this place is still there and still legit. Would be at home in any big city.
Power Plant Records: family owned and operated. Ran by Biff and Kristin Cooper who are real rock n’ rollers who have a DIY punk ethos that shows in their shop. They do music lessons and recording in the back and Fyg who works there puts on DIY shows for local punk and touring punk bands alike.