North Carolinians are proud of their state’s landscape, everything from their mountains to beaches. The ocean has always defined people who live on the coast, while the mountains have always defined those living in the state’s western section. That said, what about surfing in North Carolina?
As far as surfing and hanging ten are concerned, the Outer Banks is one of the best places to go in North Carolina. Due to the geology of the barrier islands and solid coastal winds, there are superb waves more days of the year than not because of the several miles of the Atlantic Ocean beachfront.
Beach communities in the Outer Banks are teeming with people who love the ocean. Some of these cities are located near surfing hotspots. It is where locals are constantly scanning the horizon for an opportunity to catch a wave before work or over lunch. So let’s get to know a couple of North Carolina’s top surf towns, shall we?
North Carolina Surf Spots
In coastal communities, surfing is a rite of passage. Learn how to do it, and you’ll be forever a part of the eternal summer mythology, one of those perpetually cool types who spend their days hanging ten and nights at a beach party, Pacifico in hand, discussing the waves of the day.
From the outside, the lifestyle might appear frightening, especially in locations like Malibu and Santa Cruz, two popular California surf destinations where people prefer to keep the waves to themselves.
If you want to avoid the “locals only” mindset, learn to surf in North Carolina. Swells occur year-round, and the tradition of Southern hospitality guarantees that instructors and fellow surfers are eager to provide a tip or guide you in the correct direction. That said, let’s take a closer look at what North Carolina has to offer.
The Outer Banks In North Carolina
The Outer Banks is one of North Carolina’s most popular tourist attractions with its peaceful beaches and diving locations. It’s also the best area in North Carolina to surf.
The islands face east and bend south, ideally aligned with Atlantic swells, ensuring that waves constantly break here. Hatteras Island Boardsports, a block from the break at Avon Fishing Pier, provides gear and instruction.
Corolla Beach is another fantastic site for novices in the northern portion of the Outer Banks. Smaller waves and mild water make it ideal for beginners and families, especially in summer.
Coastal Cravings and NC Coast Grill and Bar are located near the beach and offer apres-tacos, beverages, and merriment. Ocracoke Island, located in the far South of the Outer Banks, is well worth a visit. A lifeguarded beach is ideal for beginner and intermediate surfers to practice their talents south of the town center.
Ocracoke is a small island with a lot of undeveloped areas. Because the crowds are small, you may practice without feeling self-conscious during the beginner’s break. However, before entering the water, take a close look around since powerful winter storms alter the sand bottom and produce new sandbars year after year.
A new, gently peeling wave could form where none previously existed in the spring. The Outer Banks has regular waves all year, although the water temperature is highest in the summer and early fall.
However, it’s never quite like Hawaii. Bring a wetsuit with you if you’re learning to surf in the Outer Banks, especially if the water is below 60 degrees in the winter and spring. Visit OBX Surf Info to check conditions no matter where or when you intend to surf.
Wrightsville Beach In North Carolina
Wrightsville Beach, located just off the coast from Wilmington, offers the Outer Banks’ coastal atmosphere with extra food, accommodation, and entertainment just a few minutes’ drive away.
Surf Lessons with Sean and WB Surf Camp are two of the many alternatives for lessons and rentals available here. If you’re not taking a class, proceed to the northern end of the beach, where the waves are lower and there are fewer local surfers.
Near Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier, at the end of the main road into Wrightsville Beach, and Crystal Pier, farther south at Beach Access #36, are two further options. Unlike the Outer Banks, which sit on the state’s easterly bulge, you’re sheltered from swells pouring in from the North Atlantic here.
That means the waves aren’t as tremendous, and the water isn’t as chilly as it is on the Outer Banks, peaking at roughly 82 degrees in July and sinking to the 60s in the winter. As a result, summer does not need the use of a wetsuit, and as fate would have it, summer and fall provide the ideal conditions for surfing.
Refuel with a fresh seafood dish at Shark Bar & Kitchen after your first surf in North Carolina. Then, if you still have energy, go next door to the Palm Room, located at 11 E. Salisbury Street, near Johnnie Mercer’s, and has live music.
Topsail Island In North Carolina
Topsail Island, north of Wilmington, is home to the suitably called town of Surf City. Like everywhere else on the coast, the lifestyle here centers on the ocean. Still, Topsail Island’s vast expanse of surfable beaches makes it a top destination for surfers of all abilities.
Because this is a beach break rather than a reef break, you won’t be able to find a single perfect position to line up for the wave. But, on the other hand, beginners will discover that the north end of Topsail Beach provides regular, smaller waves.
The water is lucid during the summer, and the temperatures are in the 80s. The water temperature in the winter is in the 50s and 60s, with February being the coldest month. Surf City Surf School offers both instruction and rentals.
On and around New River Drive, Topsail Island is studded with surf bars and cafés. We like the Trailer Bar and the 10th Street Bar and Grill, approximately a mile apart but only a few streets from the beach. While the sun is still shining, Surf Dog Bites & Brews is the ideal spot for a post-surf drink.
Kill Devil Hills In North Carolina
Surfer Magazine named Kill Devil Hills one of the 10 Best Surf Towns in the US in 2017. However, according to many devoted surfers, you may experience excellent surf near Avalon Pier or the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Despite its ominous moniker, few American surf towns can match Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina’s tranquility. This Outer Banks treasure exemplifies an American surfer’s dream settlement: isolated enough to take your breath, yet populated enough to give a welcoming community (assuming slow pace is a good thing).
Surfers eager to risk relative seclusion during the bitter winter needn’t look much further than Kill Devil Hills, with the hollow chatter of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and S-Turns within hearing and a profusion of lesser-known sandbars waiting patiently.
As for the culture, when you travel south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you are unmistakably in the South, and Kill Devil Hills is no exception. Hushpuppies, sweet tea, and sugary salutations abound at the beautiful home-cooking enterprises along the coast, which is typically a good thing.
Don’t anticipate any Broadway dazzle or bold fashion statements unless you consider a trucker hat and overalls to be neo-vintage. People in this town enjoy things the way they are—and have always liked them that way.
What About Central To Southern North California?
While the sites mentioned above earn the most acclaim and attention among North Carolina’s surfing hotspots, the state’s central and southern beaches also have several other strongholds.
These locations, primarily facing south to southeast, vary from the rest of the Mid-Atlantic by improving with tropical activity rather than northeasters. As a result, when storms start deep below Hatteras in the Carolinas’ nook, huge tropical swells can begin on these beaches, which may totally miss the Outer Banks window.
This advantage in position also means better summer surfing conditions, especially in central North Carolina. When the southwest winds pick up, a July day at Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle might leave surfers with noodle arm and nipple rash, but the Outer Banks hear nothing but loud moans.
While the numerous barrier islands of Central and Southern North Carolina can claim the label of Soul Mecca in the same way as Hatteras, the cultural feel is typically distinct. However, despite the slight differences between local settlements, the Outer Banks as a whole appears to be clean.
On the other hand, Beach towns offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages. One town may not feel as welcoming as most, but the beach across the street still beams like a Holter monitor connected a racing heart.
Closer to home, popular surfing culture appears to be nearly gone, but Wrightsville Beach attracts more surfers, surf shops, and surf teams than any other location in the state.
In fact, it wouldn’t be altogether inaccurate to describe Wrightsville as North Carolina’s Virginia Beach, given its block parties, booming bar scene, and surf-tagged youngsters. (Now that we think about it, the waves are also comparable.)
While the real rideability factor can’t compare to the Outer Banks or beaches north of Maryland, the Central and Southern North Carolina surf scene is still growing. So a trip here can provide mixed results.
There’s a chance you’ll catch some amazing waves — or just terrific fishing. A few towns have rowdy citizens, but one offers breathtaking sunsets.
The Surf Crowds In North Carolina
Tourists account for most of the congestion in Central and Southern North Carolina. Every summer and holiday weekend, Raleigh and other inland communities send thousands of people to the beaches of Atlantic Beach south to Sunset Beach. Living on the same canvas may be nerve-wracking.
Aside from the swarms of waders, boogers, and weekend loggers that clog the queues, the surfing population usually is relatively laid-back, and if you can hold your own in the water, catching waves shouldn’t be an issue.
Keep in mind that this regulation is subject to change due to surf, weather, holidays, and other factors, and it does not apply to the town of Wrightsville Beach, which has its own set of laws.
Surf Hazards In North Carolina
Sharks, sea lice, man-o-wars, and bluefish provide enough discomfort to make up for the OB’s claim on flying pests. Dangerous sea life shows its many different faces here — more so than even the Outer Banks — and the sharks, sea lice, man-o-wars, and bluefish provide enough discomfort to make up for the OB’s claim on flying pests.
Fishermen from Atlantic Beach to Carolina Beach can also be some of the nastiest jerks you’ll ever encounter. All categories are represented, including marines, topless dancers, college kids, movie extras, crackheads, and shitkickers.
What Are The Best Surf Season In North Carolina?
Now that you may have your surf location set, you may be wondering which season may be best for a surf season to plan the perfect holiday. So, starting with summer, let’s take a look at what the seasons have to offer for North Carolina.
Surfing In Summer
Anyone on the Outer Banks during the legendary summer of 1995 will attest to the beautiful tropical gifts that summertime can bring.
Southern swells may arrive overnight at any time, sometimes before Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel notices it. Furthermore, in the case of no hurricanes or tropical storms, early morning patrollers can spot backlit morning glass before college students wake up.
Furthermore, some southern beaches, such as Frisco and Buxton, might switch on better in the summer than in any other season due to their relative beach angles. But, in general, summer is a drag on the East Coast.
Tourists, flatness, and jellyfish Summer, on the other hand, is a season of shocks, as opposed to spring, which is a season of optimism. That said, we all like a good surprise.
Surfing In Fall
The crowds clear out, the weather cools, commerce slows, and the surf picks up. You get shacked on the Banks in the fall when north waves mix with south waves, east waves mix with wind waves, hurricane waves mix with light westerly breezes.
Hatteras is known for its famous spitting barrels, whether they are big, small, clean, or dirty.
You can generally trunk it until October, but in Dare County, those wetsuit vests come in helpful. This time of year, the fishing is also excellent, and if you have the means, go offshore and pull in a boatload of fish.
Ask anyone on the East Coast, and they’ll tell you that there’s no place like Hatteras, especially in the fall – until a storm hits the coast.
Surfing In Winter
Surfers in the Outer Banks face chilly water in the winter, sometimes as cold as 37 degrees. With 30 mph northwest gusts, icy sand, and icebergs (no joke) in the sound, you’ve got yourself a true man’s hard-core surfing situation. Ice cream headaches don’t go away until you’ve climbed out of the abyss.
As the wind whistles past your thin, thin eyelashes, they continue to ache. This time of year, a 4/3 wetsuit, a solid pair of sealed booties and gloves, and retractable steel balls are all must-haves. A hood and a warm female to snuggle up with at night are also recommended, but not necessary.
Surfing In Spring
Until the Gulf Stream starts to come in, which can happen early or late in the year, the water remains frigid – in the lower 40s to lower 50s. As a result, surfers couldn’t take off their full suits until mid-July one year.
On the Outer Banks, you’ll never need to buy a spring suit. Surfers appear to switch from trunks to full-suits and back to trunks instantly. The air temperature is continually rising and dipping, but it feels colder because of all the northeasters who have been coughing on the island recently.
It’s that time of year when sharks become more of a menace; furthermore, their usual prey is not even swimming around yet. Still, the waves in the spring are second only to those in the fall, and surges (especially from the north) keep coming, giving the teased grownups one last blast before school breaks out for the summer.
It’s safe to say that North Carolina is one of the best states to go surfing. Visit the local surf shops in these places the next time you’re on the coast of NC to learn more! You’ll undoubtedly uncover some treasure here if you have keen senses, an open mind, and a good surfboard. That said, happy hunting!