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Surfing After a Big Rain: Navigating the Waters of Los Angeles

Storm on LA beach

Surfing after a big rain in Los Angeles can be a tempting endeavor for wave enthusiasts. The stormy weather often brings with it the promise of larger, more powerful waves, drawing surfers to the coastline in anticipation of an exhilarating session. However, the aftermath of significant rainfall presents a set of challenges and dangers that surfers should be aware of before paddling out. This article delves into the effects, dangers, and conditions of surfing post-rainfall, with a focus on Los Angeles but also addressing broader concerns relevant to surfers everywhere.

The Allure of Post-Storm Waves

Rainstorms in the Los Angeles area have a reputation for churning the ocean and creating swells that lead to bigger and more reliable waves. These storm-induced conditions are enticing for surfers, offering the chance for a more exciting and varied surfing experience. Surf enthusiasts like Pack from El Porto Surf Shop are not easily swayed by the potential challenges. "I surf for my own vitality and to nourish the spirit of my soul," Pack asserts. "Whether I'm at home or traveling, I take advantage of the moment to surf anywhere I am and focus on what's good, rain or shine," he continues, highlighting the resilience and passion prevalent among the surfing community. The diminished crowd at surf spots during rainy weather further enhances the appeal, providing a unique opportunity for those eager to face the elements and enjoy a more private surfing session.

Earning to surf

Elevated Risks and Dangers

While the promise of better waves may be enticing, surfing after a big rain carries significant risks that must be considered:

Water Quality Concerns


One of the most pressing concerns is the dramatic decline in water quality following heavy rainfall. In urban areas like Los Angeles, rainwater runoff collects pollutants from streets, lawns, and industrial areas, including chemicals, oils, trash, and bacteria, which all flow into the ocean. This runoff can lead to dangerously high levels of bacteria and toxins in the water, posing a serious health risk to surfers. Exposure to contaminated water can result in infections, skin rashes, gastrointestinal issues, and other health problems.

Debris and Hazards

Storm runoff is not only a source of pollution but also brings a significant amount of debris into the ocean. Surfers might encounter everything from tree branches and plastic waste to larger objects that have been swept into the sea. Colliding with such debris can cause injuries and damage surfing equipment.

Unpredictable Conditions

Dangerous conditions

The unpredictable conditions that follow a significant rain in Los Angeles can drastically alter the surfing landscape, presenting challenges such as stronger rip currents, shifting sandbars, increased water turbulence, and erratic wind patterns. These factors not only affect the physical nature of the waves, making them larger and more powerful, but also introduce hazards like reduced visibility and unexpected changes in wave behavior. For surfers, this means a heightened need for vigilance, adaptability, and respect for the ocean's increased volatility.

Navigating Post-Rain Surfing

For those who decide to venture out after a storm, there are precautions that can mitigate some of the risks:

  • Check Water Quality Reports: Local health departments and environmental organizations often issue warnings about water quality following heavy rains. Surfers should consult these resources to make informed decisions about where and when to surf.

  • Wait It Out: Experts typically recommend waiting at least 72 hours after a rainstorm before entering the ocean. This waiting period allows time for pollutants to dissipate and for water quality to improve.

  • Choose Spots Wisely: Some areas may be less affected by runoff than others. Surfing farther away from river mouths and storm drain outlets can reduce the exposure to pollutants.

  • Personal Protection: Wearing earplugs and a wetsuit can provide some protection against pollutants and bacteria. It's also crucial to thoroughly wash oneself and one's gear after surfing in post-rain conditions.


Surfing in Los Angeles after a big rain offers the dual promise of challenging waves and solitary sessions. However, the associated risks, particularly concerning water quality and safety, necessitate a cautious approach. By staying informed, waiting for conditions to improve, and taking protective measures, surfers can help ensure their post-storm pursuits are not only exhilarating but also safe.


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