The waves in Santa Monica are almost entirely at beach breaks. The way they break/crash can seriously vary, depending on the swell strength, period, and direction. This sounds pretty standard for a beach break, and that isn’t wrong. But I’ve seen SaMo completely close out, mush into a frothy top with a wide-open green face, I’ve seen perfect A-frame peaks with long shoulders, and I’ve seen the classic short ride drop-in-and-out wave with just a little substance. I’ve seen it allllllllll.
The best time to paddle out in Santa Monica is early in the morning, when the tide is low and incoming, on a waist to chest high (2-3 foot) day. Even the occasional bigger set can break nicely in SaMo, but the bigger sets often close out a bit quickly.