Surfing the Outer Banks: A Sport for (Almost) Every Season

Did you know that Outer Banks beaches are famous among surfing enthusiasts? You don’t have to go all the way to Hawaii, California, Indonesia—or even Australia—to catch great waves. We have them right here off the North Carolina shore.

A wonderful set of unique natural attributes combines to provide the swells necessary for excellent surfing, including:

  • the meeting of the Gulf Stream, coastal waters and Labrador Current
  • occasional seasonal stormy conditions
  • a narrow continental shelf that boosts great surfing waves
  • a low-lying topography that’s exposed to the elements 

These are a recipe for surf-worthy waves. In addition to these ideal characteristics, here are some of the perks of surfing the Outer Banks.

The Outer Banks: World-Class Surfing with a Small-Town Feel

The Outer Banks beaches are unquestionably among the world’s premier surf spots. Kill Devil Hills was rated #6 on the list of “Best Surf Towns in the US” by Surfer magazine and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse beach has been ranked as one of “The World’s 50 Best Surf Spots” by CNN Travel.

Some other top locations for surfing the Outer Banks include Avalon Pier, Corolla, Duck Pier, Irene’s Inlet (named after Hurricane Irene, which opened this waterway in 2011), Nags Head and South Nags Head, Ocracoke Island and S-Curves (south of Rodanthe). Each one of these spots offers its own unique appeal and yields its own reasons for being a favorite with experienced surfers.

Why Do Surfing Experts Tout the Praises of the Outer Banks?

Surfing here is a great experience not only because of our famously consistent, burly waves but also for the balmy weather throughout much of the year. The water temperature on average is almost 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but in the winter months it can dip into the mid-40s. (Be sure to check out the forecast when you’re making plans. You want to come prepared depending on whether it’s bathing-suit or wetsuit weather.)

Where to Start

If you’re new to surfing, you don’t have to feel intimidated. There are a number of great surf schools here offering lots of options for a variety of prices. Here are a few examples:

  • Corolla Surf Shop. Having taught over 20,000 lessons since it opened in 1996, Corolla Surf Shop offers Introductory, Advanced Beginner, Surf Safari and Paddleboard lessons. You can also sign up for Introductory and Advanced Beginner lessons on a private or semi-private basis. Lessons geared to those with special needs can be arranged. 
  • Duck Village Outfitters. One-hour private lessons and two-hour group lessons are available along with rentals of surfing, biking, kayaking and other beach equipment. One especially appealing perk is that you can keep the surfboard you trained on for 24 hours after the lesson to continue honing your skills. Lessons are held during low tide, so surf rides can be as long as possible.
  • Kitty Hawk Kayak and Surf School. Both individual and group lessons lasting up to two hours can be scheduled, and Kitty Hawk also rents surfboards and wetsuits. Three-day surf camps for kids can be booked. 
  • Outer Banks Surf School. The Outer Banks Surf School teaches individual and group lessons based on students’ levels of experience. Group lessons last from one and a half to two hours and are limited to ages seven and up. Instructors usually schedule from five to 10 people and two instructors per class. Want to go beyond the basics? Get in on their three-day group lesson package (one lesson per day for three days).

When to Come

The best times of year for surfing are generally June through October, and many surf enthusiasts love coming each September to view or participate in the Eastern Surfing Association Championships. Finalists from the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regional competitions arrive to participate in shortboard, longboard and bodyboard competitions.

The event is open to male and female surfers of all ages from younger than 11 (dubbed Menehunes) to Grandmasters (ages 45 to 54) and even to Grand Legends, 65 years of age and older.

Surf Reports

Wondering if surf’s up? Outer Banks surf reports are available from OBX Live Surf with complete details of what to expect all the way down the coast. You’ll also find daily images and live web cams, so you can see the action as it happens.

Vacation rental homes on the Outer Banks are readily available and can put you as close to the waves as you like. If you plan to visit during a surfing event, it’s best to reserve early so you’re ensured of getting a rental with everything on your wish list.

Surfing the Outer Banks—what a great vacation idea for singles, couples and families with children. Come and stay for at least a week to surf the waves, soak up the sun, feel the sand between your toes and recharge your batteries.

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Published by

Terry Moore

Terry moved to the Outer Banks in 2003, fell in love with the Outer Banks and a local girl, now his wife. Since 2003 he has been discovering the Outer Banks and all it has to offer and loves to share those discoveries with the world.