Outer Banks Surfing

woman surfingOuter Banks surfing is renowned as having the best breaks on the East Coast. Because the islands are set out farther in the ocean than most coastal regions, The Outer Banks beaches get more swell and wind patterns than anywhere else. The abundance of shipwrecks, piers and offshore sandbars create unusual wave patterns, too, as do the sharp drop-offs and offshore troughs. Plus, the water is warm and the waves are consistent.

The Outer Banks, from Corolla to Ocracoke, is also one of the few places without strict surfing regulations. As long as surfers stay at least 300 feet from public piers, and stay tethered to their boards, it is doubtful they will earn any surfing citations.

Surfing is a popular sport, but can also be strenuous. Surfers need a great deal of upper body strength to swim in big waves, and to paddle on the board. Plus, the best surfing occurs during hurricane season (late August - November), when winds and swells can be really high. Summertime, when waves are smaller or nonexistent, is not a good time to surf, although small summer waves can be fun on a long board. Since the Outer Banks offers over 90 miles of good surfing beaches, and boards of all different lengths, surfers of all strength and stamina can usually find a spot to ride the waves.

Although surfers are hesitant to reveal their “hot spots” for catching waves, piers are usually a good spot to surf, because of the sandbars that form around them. In Corolla, on the northern end of the Outer Banks, the piers make a good break front near the Corolla Light swimming pool. Kitty Hawk Pier and Avalon Pier (in Kill Devil Hills) also offer some decent waves. Nags Head, too, can be a good place to surf, as can the beaches to the north and to the south, particularly around milepost 13.

Hatteras Island, Pea Island, and Coquina beach can all have good waves when the swells roll in from the south. Rodanthe is a fond favorite of surfers, as are the ramps north and south of Salvo. Ramps 34 north of Avon, 49 in Frisco are worth a try, as are the beaches between Frisco and Hatteras Village.

For the best Outer Banks surfing, check out the original site of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which has the biggest and best waves of all. The beaches at Cape Point face in two directions and jut out close to the Gulf Stream. Unfortunately, concrete and steel jut out too, which can be hazardous.

Waves are measured by height, in reference to the body. In the summer, waves roll about knee to waist high, or 2 to 3 feet. Fall and winter waves can reach up to and over the head (head high or double overhead) or 6 to 8 feet high. For safe Outer Banks surfing, surfers should be aware of the rip currents, strange sandbars and shipwrecks that line some of the beaches. Surfers should also pay attention to the water, weather, and beach conditions. Local radio station WVOD 99.1 offers a daily surf report at 8:45 A.M.

Also for safety purposes, surfers should never go out on the waves alone. Always surf with a friend, and in spring, fall, and winter, wear a wetsuit.

Surfboards can be bought and rented. Shapers design, shape, and sell boards for around $100 for used ones and as much as $600 for custom boards. Rentals can be as low as $10 per day, with a deposit. Many outfitters sell surfing gear, rent equipment and offer lessons for beginners. A few of these shops are listed below.

Duck Village Outfitters in Duck

Hatteras Island Boardsports in Avon

Kitty Hawk Kayaks Kayak and Surf School

Kitty Hawk Sports

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