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Swami's, also known as "Swami’s Reef'" and "Swamis", is an internationally known surfing spot, a point break located in Encinitas, San Diego County, California. Swami's was named after Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, because the grounds and hermitage of the Self-Realization Fellowship ashram, built in 1937, overlook this reef point. The name "Swami's" is also given to the sand beach that extends south from the point to the next beach access point, which is next to the San Elijo State Beach camping area; this more southerly surf spot often goes by the name "Pipes".
Originally the name"Swami's" was an unofficial nickname that surfers had given to the point break, but eventually the name was adopted officially, and also used as the name of the cliff-top park, which was previously known as "Seacliff Roadside Park".
Access to Swami's is primarily through the small but well-appointed cliff-top park, which has bathrooms, a water fountain, benches, picnic tables and a lawn under shade trees, as well as a small parking lot. Most importantly, it also has a long wooden staircase leading down by the cliff to a sand beach, which has a lifeguard station. The rocky point is a couple of hundred yards north of that station.
Swami's is a major surfing destination, especially during good swells in the winter months, because of its standout right point break, as well as fun reef breaks, and beach breaks. The number of surfers out can be very considerable when conditions are good. Surfing at this location is ideal with a low to mid tide, W or NW swell direction, and calm or East wind.
Swami's allows all level of surfers, but is well known as a high-performance wave for both longboard and shortboard surfers. Bodysurfing and bodyboarding are a rarity due to the highly competitive nature of the crowd to catch and ride the limited number of waves that come in sets every few minutes.
Swami's is also known as challenging spot to paddle, requiring a level of fitness above what other breaks demand. This is primarily due to the distance from the beach to the main peak several hundred yards from shore. As the waves become larger this distance increases, and after long rides the paddle back to the main peak can take several minutes. For this reason many surfers will choose to end their rides before the wave reaches the beach.
There are primarily two ways in which surfers initially paddle out to the main peak. The most common way is to approach from south of the break (directly in front of the lifeguard tower) and paddle around the break through the deep water (known as the channel). The other method of paddling out is to walk north two hundred yards and approach the main peak by means of a rougher, more turbulent shortcut. While riskier (due to the rough nature of the waves in this zone), it can be a significantly quicker route to the main peak. This is often known as "paddling out through the back door." Most novice surfers will avoid this method as it requires greater skill and fitness.
The rich waters around Swami’s Reef contain 12 distinct habitats—including a thriving kelp forest, extensive surf grass beds, and rocky reefs—where lobsters, halibut, grunion, and many other fish and invertebrates feed and breed. At low tide, the nearshore reef is exposed, and visitors can see brittle stars, sea hares, and octopi in the pools, as well as 45-million-year-old fossils preserved in the flat rocks.
A marine protected area is proposed for Swami's Reef through the California Marine Life Protection Act. It would protect sensitive sea life and habitats on and around the reef while leaving the area’s two state beaches, Seaside and Moonlight Beach, open for fishing.
Although etiquette occurs at Swami’s from time to time, it is not known to be a great example to the surfing population at large. The levels that congregate at this world class location range from absolute beginner (Maui surf school) to the advance surfers, both local and visiting from other major breaks. Within this gamut, you will find a range of “happenings”: a wave of the winter to a random board in the forehead; however, for the most part, those that frequent Swamis on a regular basis (regardless of skill level), tend to be polite and ride simple average waves.