Apologies in advance for a stupid question from a European beginner... I'm visiting LA for 4 days in January with work (a yearly deal, NAMM tradeshow), and I usually bag a couple days in Santa Cruz meaning a couple hours in the Pacific - but SC isn't happening this year, and I'm not familiar with SoCal.
Where is my best bet to get some swell, within 2/3 hours drive of LA, in a beginner-friendly spot where I can hire a board walking-distance from the break? My work wraps up Sunday 17th Jan, so I'd be crossing fingers for swell on 17th or Monday 18th Jan - but I need to decide if/where to book a cheap room for myself, somewhere with max. chance of waves, longboard/beginner friendly, and boardhire close... PM is fine if that's better...
best places in LA county for your needs: hermosa beach pier, venice beach pier or jetties, santa monica pier.
best places in Orange county: huntington beach pier, newport beach pier
all of these locations have a wide range of surfers in the lineup and are pretty consistent, with LA having better waves in january (more exposed to NW swell). all are also pretty urban and you can walk to get food, rent a board, sleep in a hotel/hostel, or shop. if you're from europe and you aren't familiar with the beach cities in southern california, then i suggest you start with venice or santa monica because those are epicenters of the LA beach scene. in contrast, huntington would be the focal point of Orange county, it's also known as surf city, usa.