Hard-coded into the blood of every Orange Countian, even those who don't surf, is the knowledge that the best surfing happens in the morning, just as the onshore wind turns and blows the ever-present marine layer out to sea. Early, early in the morning, the truly hardcore park their cars at Cristianitos Road, the last freeway exit in Orange County, and hump their longboards down the mile-long hill to Trestles.
If you're a Barney (a noob), you head for the Church, the southernmost part of Trestles, where the waves are gentlest and the surfers most patient. If you're a smart Barney, you know the person closest to the curl gets the wave, and when that's you, you better get up on your feet right quick. (If you're not a smart Barney, the other surfers will be sure to let you know.) If you're not a Barney, well, you don't need some free rag to tell you where to surf.
When the offshore flow is strongest, during the devil winds that blow off the desert and turn the un-air conditioned coast into a stifling, dusty oven, you can avoid the crowds and head to less-famous, less-crowded breaks closer to the city, such as Calafia or T-Street. You'll tire of them more quickly than you will of Trestles, but that's okay because the city breaks put you closer to your lunch destination, the locally famous Surfin' Chicken (71 Via Pico Plaza, 949-498-6603; surfinchickeninc.com), located in an ugly mini-mall perpendicular to its street, where you'll join firefighters, paisas, beach bums and nouveau riche alike in waiting for rotisserie chicken, tortillas, salsa and side dishes.
As with every beach city with crappy summer traffic, a bicycle is a must-have in San Clemente. There are bike paths everywhere, where tourists on ugly beach cruisers mingle with MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra) making their way south toward San Diego along America's most popular century ride route. Leave your car somewhere out of the way and ride the rest of the way into town on your stylish two-wheeler, you environmentally conscious mensch, you. As you head down Avenida del Mar or El Camino Real, you'll discover that all of the bike-rack spaces are already taken (and we know who you are, people who take up two spaces), so you'll chain your bike to pretty much anything that doesn't move. Spend a couple of hours browsing the shops, then change your clothes and have dinner at South of Nick's (110 N. El Camino Real, 949-481-4545; southofnicks.com), South County's best fancy-service Mexican restaurant.
Every other Thursday, live bands play at the pier, located at the foot of Avenida del Mar. After you've had your fill of Journey tribute bands or reggae, head back uphill and round out the evening with craft beer upstairs at Pizza Port (301 N. El Camino Real, 949-940-0005; pizzaport.com), the only OC outpost of a small chain of loosely related breweries. The tap list, which you can see via webcam on its site, has as many guest beers as house beers—but try the Psycho IPA before you go.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.