SURF’S UP: How to Get Surfer Cali Girl Style


As a California native and someone who grew up in and around the beach, I think I’m a pretty decent authority on what best qualifies for Cali girl style so I thought I would share some of the basics, beachwear staples, and accents of what makes up a Cali girl’s style. Especially since it feels like summer has already arrived here in sunny California, you’ll need these fashion tips now more than ever if you plan on visiting, you live here, or maybe you plan on going to somewhere else that has a hot and tropical climate. Even if you don’t live in Cali or plan on visiting, you can still rock the Cali girl fashion easily with things you probably already own. I’ve included a lot of surfer girl accents, specifically, because the #caligirlstyle that seems to be really popular is usually really surf and beach style influenced. Rightly so, as anyone who lives near the beach will know that many girls who live in beach cities usually surf or at least do some kind of swim or ocean sport.

How to Get Surfer Cali Girl Style


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The Basics

First things first are the basics that make up the Cali girl’s everyday wardrobe. An important thing to remember about Cali girl style is that comfort is key, but we still want to look cute. Everything is really laid back because living on the beach honestly breeds a laid back, chill, relaxed kind of lifestyle so a lot of the clothing has movement. It’s flowy, relaxed, and includes colors – mostly a lot of blue and teal variants with pink and purples thrown in – as well as flats and comfortable heels like wedges, and soft hoodies and lightweight sweaters for evenings on the sand. Cali girls want to look good without putting much thought into it. You might say that we invented that “straight out of bed” beachy chic look. And well, that’s because we sort of did.

T-Shirts & Tank Tops: Tees and tanks are pretty much the bread and butter of beach fashion. Not to say that anyone who lives in Cali is always rocking a tank top, but it gets HOT here. Like 105 degrees F in July is not uncommon here in the summer. Because of this, it’s most comfortable wearing the least amount of clothing possible whenever and wherever we can. Inlanders get static heat whereas beach cities and valley cities always have a slight breeze, even on hot days.

Shorts: Shorts are always worn. ALWAYS. Even if it’s raining outside and 55 degrees out, beach Cali girls (maybe not the LA or inland girls LOL) always rock their shorts. If it’s raining, you’ll see jean shorts and hoodies or sweaters on. Sometimes with sandals. Call it the DGAF outfit. Even when I was in grade school, it would rain and we would all be in shorts and hoodies – maybe with sneakers.

Flowy Dresses: Maxi dresses and generally any kind of flowy, comfortable dress is pretty much a guarantee. Anything that can double as a cover-up for your swimsuit and that you might be able to go eat dinner in will work. It’s all about fashion + function.

Slouchy & Lightweight Knit Sweaters: Generally off-the-shoulder and other slouch fit sweaters and lightweight knits are worn in summer evenings, especially if you live near the beach. Even though it’s summer, living near the water makes nights pretty chilly and occasionally stormy so a light jacket is always good to have on hand. Most girls just pop on a light, relaxed sweater and they’re especially great for bonfires on the beach or other fun events at the beach.

Cork and Espadrille Wedges: Cali gets quite a bit of it’s style influence from Mexico as it’s pretty close to us. When I was young, we would often take day trips or spend weekends in Mexico during the summer and it only takes a few hours to get there (if you live in SoCal). Nowadays, it’s less safe to do that, but I digress. The point is we’ve gotten the entire espadrille, poncho, bangles look mostly from Mexico.

Slip-On Sneakers: This goes back to the fact that Californians are dying of the heat and want easy options for fashion. Slip-on sneakers are super easy to put on and take off, whenever the heat strikes, and we like our comfort.


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The Beachwear

Next up is beachwear. This makes up the majority of Cali style for those who live near the beach as many of them spend a good amount of their time on the beach and in the water, either surfing, doing some other water sport, or relaxing and tanning on the sand. Most of these are super functional items that you would need to go to the beach, items for beach sports, and practical items like towels.

Bikinis: Most girls in Cali are rocking a 2 piece swimsuit. It’s not that we don’t own a one piece, but we enjoy getting tans. Not all of us are tan, but many of us are. And most people who live near beaches will be seriously tan as they are laying out on the sand a lot – probably year-round – in a cute bikini. You can also check out my Cali Girl Style board on Pinterest, if you like!

Functional One Piece Swimsuit: Most girls have at least one functional one piece swimsuit in their collection. This is because a lot of us either swim for sport, surf, boogie board (sort of like diet surfing LOL), and this kind of sport necessitates a sturdier bathing suit so it doesn’t fly off when the waves hit us.

Flip Flops: Flip flops are a necessity when it’s hot out and you live near the beach. Obviously you need them to go to the beach, but they’re great just for trekking to the store and back as well. If you visit a Cali beach city, you’ll find that many people are dressed very casually, often wearing flip flops everywhere. Growing up, the girl’s brand of choice for beach girls was Roxy and I think that pretty much remains true. Another sandal we wore as kids were jellies which, hilariously enough, are coming back into style so definitely jump on that bandwagon! All the surfers I knew wore Rainbow flip flops because they are super long lasting, soft, and they actually form to the shape of your foot. They’re amazing.

Board Shorts: Board shorts are not necessarily a must, but if you plan on doing any water sports, they are great for preventing chafing – plus they look really cute on! Guys and girls alike look great in these and they are perfect for surfing, boogie boarding and paddle boarding.

Rash Guards & Wet Suits: Rash guards are another non-necessity, but I highly recommend them if you plan on doing any kind of boogie boarding or surfing or really anything that involves you being in the water on your stomach on some kind of board. The board will chafe against your skin and combined with the water – this absolutely causes skin irritation if you board for an extended period of time. Rash guards are the best way to prevent rashes while you have fun. Wetsuits are also another option, but you will only really need one if it’s extremely cold out or early morning when temperatures are low and you want to keep warm.

Surfboards: Obviously, if you’re going to surf (or I guess if you want a beautiful board to decorate your room LOL), surfboards are in order! Free People has some beautiful designs, but custom makers like Rusty are probably a lot more common than anything else. Professional surfers seem to use really expensive specially made boards so google the brands if you want authenticity or pro level boards. There are way too many to name.

Cover-ups: Cover Ups are a great idea if you plan on doing more than swimming or tanning at the beach. They’re great if you don’t want to wear full-on clothing on the sand and if you plan on hanging out and eating snacks, BBQing, having a fun bonfire (highly recommend a sweater if you’re doing anything at night!), and otherwise extended relaxing on the beach.

Sunglasses: Sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes (and eye area) from UV damage. Did you know you can actually get UV damage in your eyes? I know because I have it in the corners of my eyes (thanks optometrist!). Years spent in the sun without sunglasses people. So, definitely get some and make sure they protect against UVA/UVB broad spectrum rays so you’re fully protected.

Beach Bags: Beach bags are an essential for holding all your stuff. Leaving your stuff on your beach towel isn’t all that smart given that people might see it and steal your stuff. Yeah, that’s not a joke. I’ve even had my flip flops stolen before and they weren’t even that nice. Not that bags help prevent theft, but if they don’t see it just hanging out on your towel, they don’t know what you have and then you can minimize the damage. My best advice is to always have someone watching your stuff if you go in the water.

Beach Towels: Sometimes, it’s so hot that you really don’t need a beach towel, but it’s good to have to at least have something to lay on and relax or get a tan. If you want to go all out, you can get oversized beach mats or comforters which are great for groups or families.

Hats + Cabanas: These are 2 things I recommend if you have kids, especially babies, or if you happen to burn really easily. It’s easy to not notice your skin turning red under the hot sun when you’re having fun at the beach, but skin cancer and blistering sunburns really aren’t worth the trouble so bringing a tarp or cabana type shade or tent are your best bet to shield your skin from the sun when you’re resting. Also, they’re great for babies as young kids have a tendency to get dehydrated if you’re not careful. Another less hassle option are hats and I recommend wide brim ones that shield your eyes and most of your face.

Beach Beauty: Beach beauty should really be minimal. If you ask me, the only thing you really need at the beach is sunscreen and maybe some SPF lip balm. Yes, your lips can actually get sunburn. That shiz hurts. You can see more summer beauty essentials in this post ☼


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 Surf, Sand & Sea Inspired Jewelry

There are so many pretty jewelry pieces out there inspired by the ocean and beach that I can’t list them all ♥


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What Do You Think of Cali Girl Style?

☼ Tianna

*affiliate links in post; not all links are affiliate.

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22 thoughts on “SURF’S UP: How to Get Surfer Cali Girl Style

  1. May 30, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Nice comprehensive list 🙂 It’s true that the Cali laid back style is having a moment in fashion isn’t it? I can’t wait for summer here but right now I’m loving the spring weather
    healthyfrenchie recently posted…Workout of the moment and a giveawayMy Profile

    1. June 3, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      thanks! Yeah I suppose it is. I’ve always been a fan lol, having come from Cali myself. This particular style never seems to go out of fashion here. Yeah it feels like summer here already (too hot already!), but lucky you enjoy the nice weather where you are 🙂

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  7. June 7, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    You’ve covered everything, now how do I get that body to match?
    Lauren recently posted…Rainy Day WomenMy Profile

    1. June 10, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      haha I know right!?

  8. June 15, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Love this round-up, you’ve got the boho Cali girl style down to an art! <3
    Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie recently posted…Life LatelyMy Profile

  9. June 29, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Super cute idea on getting the right cali look!!

    xx Sarah | Loser Girl Wins
    Sarah recently posted…Cucumber Orange Antioxidant Juice RecipeMy Profile

  10. Ileana
    July 19, 2014 at 2:01 AM

    Love this post! The california look is so perfect for summer ^^


  11. July 27, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Awesome breakdown of Cali style!
    Akaleistar recently posted…Links a la Mode and the Local Flavor SwapMy Profile

    1. July 29, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      thank you 🙂 glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for stopping by!

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