About Imperial Beach
Imperial Beach is known for its 3.5 miles of uncrowded, white sand beaches and big waves. Set off with a magnificent wooden pier and views of both downtown San Diego and the Coronado Islands, Imperial Beach is ideal for swimming, jogging, sunbathing, world-class surfing, and sand castle building.
With ample parking and restaurants and retail shops in close proximity, one can pick up a quick picnic lunch or dine in a restaurant with an ocean view. Two beachfront parks, Dunes Park and Pier Portwood Plaza, offer grassy expanses, playgrounds, picnic tables, barbecues and more - all with an ocean view.
At Portwood Pier Plaza, you will find grassy expanses, picnic areas, a tot-lot, entertainment stage, access to the pier and beach.
Many tributes to Imperial Beach’s long history as a surfing destination. This surfing history began just south of the park in an area called the Tijuana Sloughs. The Sloughs' big waves were first surfed by the legendary waterman Dempsey Holder in 1937. Starting in the 1940s, these waves became the testing ground for mainlanders going to Hawai’i. Surfers from all over Southern California made the journey to Imperial Beach to surf the then-biggest waves off the continental United States. One of these surfers was Bob Simmons, “Father of the Modern Surfboard”, who applied the principles of hydrodynamics to surfboard design and forever changed the sport of surfing. In 1950, he moved to Imperial Beach.
The history of Imperial Beach’s big wave surfing can be explored through the colorful collection of surfboard benches at Portwood Pier Plaza. A tribute to the history of surf board design, each bench bears a plaque that tells the story of how Imperial Beach’s big waves had an impact on the surfing pioneers from 1937 to the 1950s. The crowning piece of the plaza is Surfhenge - a towering colorful public art monument to surfing. (Text based on “Legendary Surfers” by Malcolm Gault-Williams)