Fecal indicator bacteria concentrations measured in the surf zone off Huntington Beach, CA from July 1998-December 2001 were analyzed with respect to their spatial patterns along 23 km of beach, and temporal variability on time scales from hourly to fortnightly. The majority of samples had bacterial concentrations less than, or equal to, the minimum detection limit, but a small percentage exceeded the California recreational water standards. Areas where coliform bacteria exceeded standards were more prevalent north of the Santa Ana River, whereas enterococci exceedances covered a broad area both north and south of the river. Higher concentrations of bacteria were associated with spring tides. No temporal correspondence was found between these bacterial events and either the timing of cold water pulses near shore due to internal tides, or the presence of southerly swell in the surface wave field. All three fecal indicator bacteria exhibited a diel cycle, but enterococci rebounded to high nighttime values almost as soon as the sun went down, whereas coliform levels were highest near the nighttime low tide, which was also the lower low tide. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.