Outer Banks Water Sports

windsurferWith over 409 square miles of water, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is a dream location for visitors who enjoy water sports. The wild, deep Atlantic Ocean bounds the eastern shores while the western shore offers the peaceful wide and shallow Currituck, Croatan, Roanoke, and Pamlico Sounds. Thick marshes support abundant wildlife while estuaries and man-made canals crisscross the islands.

Outer Banks water sports are available both in saltwater and in freshwater. Basic beach activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing mingle with the more active sports of kayaking, wind surfing, parasailing, diving, and kitesurfing. Sailboats, jet skis, and wave runners dot the waterscape as well.

Visitors can bring their own equipment or rent from among the many outfitters on the islands. Lessons for all skill levels, beginner to advanced, are available throughout the Outer Banks. Many companies also offer group tours.

Surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing are three of the most popular of the Outer Banks water sports. The islands enjoy a constant breeze. Combined with the mild temperatures, shallow sounds, and the Atlantic Ocean, the islands are a windsurfer’s paradise and have been dubbed as the Wind Surfing Capital of the East Coast. The water is usually warm enough from May through September to take a dip, but with proper clothing, windsurfers can enjoy their sport year round. Many of the surf shops provide wind and water updates so visitors can check weather conditions before heading out to surf.

diver and shipwreck In addition to being a windsurfer’s paradise, the waters off the coast of the Outer Banks are a diver’s playground. Known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, these waters contain over 1,500 shipwrecks. Divers from all over the world come to the Outer Banks to explore the wrecks. Dive shops offer lessons, diving gear, and conduct tours to the ships.

Fishing on the Outer Banks can be enjoyed year round, and offers something for everyone. Anglers can try their luck in freshwater, off the pier, in the surf, chartered inshore, and offshore. As with all Outer Banks water sports, equipment rental and lessons are available all over the islands. Regulations require visitors to obtain a fishing license, and to follow regulations regarding weight limits and types of fish. Tackle and bait shops provide information on both licensing and laws.

Watercraft of all types, including kayaks, sail boats, jet skis, and power boats can be rented for personal use. Charter boats, tours, and cruises are offered as well. Visitors with their own craft can dock at the marina for a small fee, or launch their boats at any of several public ramps.

Some of the water sports require certification or training before equipment can be bought or rented. Scuba divers need pool certification from a certified instructor. Power boat renters will receive a lesson in power boat operation and safety before being getting underway. Rules for kitesurfers are perhaps the most stringent. Because it can be a dangerous sport, most outfitters will not rent kitesurfing equipment, and will not sell equipment to anyone who isn’t certified. Certification classes usually last two to three hours.

Each water activity has its own specific rules and regulations. Details are available through outfitters, tour operators, at the Outer Banks Visitor Center, and online at

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