How Trestles Works

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We asked Dr. Falk Feddersen to explain why Lower Trestles is one of the world’s great waves. Not only is he an oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, but he is a surfer who has paddled out at Trestles roughly 10 times.

“Here is an analogy,” he said. “It’s like you are playing with the same tennis racquet Arthur Ashe uses and all of a sudden someone gives you a modern tennis racquet and you are just like ‘oh my God I can hit the ball so hard now, I can put so much spin on the ball.’  You feel like its best expression of how you can possibly surf. it allows you to surf your best.”

Falk Feddersen, associate research oceanographer, Integrative Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Here are 8 reasons why:

The California coastline

This portion of coastline in southern California bends to the east, creating a geological point that is ideal for surfing. Lower Trestles, as a result, breaks both in left and right directions.  

Cobblestones

The waves break evenly over a rocky seabed of cobblestones. Rains wash these stones, which can be six or eight inches long, down from the San Mateo Creek. This flow of stones keeps the geological point intact.  

The ocean floor

Beneath the surface of the water lies an underwater point that is 200 feet deep. This concentrates the wave energy as a magnifying glass does with the sun. A smaller underwater point that extends just a few hundred yards out “concentrates the wave energy again,” he said, and “that is the reason the waves get so good there.”

Winds

The winds at Trestles are typically much lighter than they are just 20 miles to the south, Dr. Feddersen said. “It has some sort of has a blessing.” Conditions are best for surfing when any winds arrive from the northeast.  

Kelp

A kelp bed can be found offshore at Lower Trestles. When choppy waves move through kelp “it cleans them up a bit and removes the chop, which is also better for surfing.”

Storms

Trestles is best this time of year because it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere and storms are pushing up from Antarctica, New Zealand and Tahiti. “They send waves all the way across the equator.”

Consistency

This time of year Lowers is rarely without rideable waves. It “is just automatic in the summer time or early fall. You don’t even have to question. You just go.”

Level of Competition

On any given weekend “you are literally surfing with the best people the highest percentile of surfing expertise in the world. The people who are out there, even the little kids, are really good. If you are a weekend tennis or golf player you can’t go play with Roger Federer or Tiger Woods. But for surfing, at Trestles, one can.”  

Pro surfer Keanu Asing at Lower Trestles. Photo: Chris Ortiz

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