Living the Surf Life: All You Need to Know About Surfing in Oceanside from a Local Expert


By Andrew Barr

Oceanside: where the weather’s always beautiful, and it’s always a good day at the beach.

But don’t just take our word for it. Ask Duran Barr, owner and operator of North County Surf Academy in town — Mission Pacific’s trusted surf partner offering lessons for all ages, gear rentals, and more. (See how you can add surfing experiences to your Mission Pacific stay here!) 

“We handle all things surfing,” Duran says, “from families visiting to surf for their first time and people trying to up their skills to people looking to rent equipment.”

Surfing isn’t just a casual hobby in Oceanside. Here, surf culture is never far from mind. The region’s compelling swells draw in pro shredders from around the world — including the U.S. Olympic surfing team — to train and compete, like in the Nissan Super Girl Surf Pro, particularly during August-November when surfing conditions shine. Surf shops abound, whether you’re in the market for gear or you just want to rock the look. The California Surf Museum exhibits cover everything from the history of the sport to vintage surfboards; even Bethany Hamilton’s shark-chomped board is on prominent display. It’s all in compact galleries a few blocks from Mission Pacific. You can even surfboard makers a few miles inland on Shaper’s Alley. And what’s a surf town without surfer grub — shops all over town specialize in breakfast burritos to the freshest seafood catches, doughnuts, and that all-important cup of coffee.

Duran, too, lives the life. You could even say surfing is in his blood. 

“I was born into a big surfing family,” he says. His father and uncle were professional surfers. “I guess my dad helped pave the way for professional surfing in the ‘80s in Southern California” and later worked in surfboard manufacturing.

“I grew up competing, surfing from a very young age, and I was lucky to travel and compete all over the world,” Duran reflects.

Duran Barr

Now in his early 30s, while continuing to travel and compete, he’s become an entrepreneur of the entire surf lifestyle, from the surf school to surf eats. “I love to share my love of surfing with the community and with people visiting,” he says.

 So we asked him what makes Oceanside such a great surf town. The depth of his answers impressed even us.

What makes surfing in Oceanside special?

One of the key things is that it has really great surf year-round. It’s a small, three-mile stretch of coastline, but there are a lot of different breaks.

Like where?

We have Oceanside Harbor, just a little bit north of the pier, then the pier area, then South Oceanside. We’re lucky that each area of the beach is a little different, with beach breaks, piers, and jetties for decent, consistent surf whatever time of year.

Another good thing is that there’s a lot of variety of surfing north and south of town, pretty close in either direction. To the north in Orange County is the famous point break at Trestles, or you can head south to surf the La Jolla reefs or even to Mexico.


Why is autumn an especially good time for surfing ?

From August to November, the weather is still beautiful — it’s 80 degrees, the water’s warm, and the beaches start to get less crowded as people go back to school. We’re still getting the southerly swells of summer, plus we’re starting to get the winter action, when the colder weather brings more offshore flow of wind, which creates more groomed, cleaner conditions for surfing.

What is the advantage of booking our surfing lessons through Mission Pacific?

Our vision is a learn-from-a-pro type of experience. All of my staff and I were born and raised surfing, so the experience you’re getting is someone who’s local to the area and has a vast knowledge of the surf and the conditions. And we have the most high-end equipment: premium wetsuits, premium boards, and more.

Where do you like to eat in town before or after surfing?

I’m actually a partner in a restaurant called Shootz Fish x Beer. For lunchtime, it serves my go-to style of food: Mexican-Hawaiian fusion with fish, shrimp, or veggie tacos, and a few styles of poke. All the fish is locally sourced, fresh, and sustainable. Cream of the Crop is a great health food-style deli with good smoothies and good sandwiches, all organic and locally sourced, on the south end of town. Another place I like to go for burritos is Johnny Mañana’s, right near Mission Pacific. And Swami’s Cafe has a vast veggie menu, including açai bowls to smoothies, American breakfast to chilaquiles and coffee. (Find even more vegetarian restaurants in Oceanside here.)

Where should people shop if they want to take the Oceanside surfer look home?

Brixton is a local Oceanside brand that has the vibe. It was started here in town, and they have their flagship store right in South Oceanside, too.

 Any final thoughts?

It’s an exciting time to be in Oceanside! The city is really hitting a new stride, and there’s a lot of amazing stuff happening. I’m grateful to be a part of it, to help with the growth, and hopefully be a good influence on people and the city.