Surf zone hydrodynamics vary along shorelines potentially affecting the delivery of larvae and zooplankton subsidies to intertidal communities, and, hence, the intensity of postsettlement interactions, growth and reproduction of filter-feeding foundation species and planktivorous fishes. We investigated the ability of zooplankton assemblages to enter the wide surf zone of the rip-channeled, more dissipative beach at Sand City, California, and the narrow surf zone of the steep reflective beach at nearby Carmel River State Beach. Every day for a month, we surveyed zooplankton inside and outside the surf zone and concomitant larval settlement of the dominant invertebrate onshore at each site in this upwelling regime. At the more dissipative surf zone, all zooplankters were far more concentrated inside than outside the surf zone. Many taxa increased in the surf zone and the predominant invertebrate on beaches, Emerita analoga, settled abundantly when prevailing northwesterly winds relaxed and waves were small. At the reflective surf zone, concentrations of zooplankters of most taxa were far greater outside than inside the surf zone, and many taxa increased in the surf zone when waves were small. Twice as many taxa were positively correlated inside and outside the surf zone at the dissipative than the reflective surf zone, indicating that zooplankters were more freely exchanged although behavior also played a role. Thus, spatial and temporal variation in surf zone hydrodynamics may regulate subsidies of zooplankton food and larval recruits to nearshore communities with potential cascading effects on community dynamics and structure.