Surfing lends itself to travel, even more than it does gear or people. Sure, it’s fun to gawk at boards or study the skills of the pros, but when it comes down to it, it’s the places where the actual surfing takes place that are the most awe inspiring.
Whether they be in obscure, remote locations untouched by civilization, or bordering some of the coolest and most hospitable cities and towns on the coast, finding the best waves in the world is always an adventure and people have dedicated enormous amounts of their lives to finding surfing heaven. Often, it’s a long, arduous and expensive process to find the best waves. This guide makes it a touch simpler, although we’ll admit, picking the nation’s best surfing spots can be tricky. Some spots are bound to be overlooked, and those that are included — while otherwise consistently good — can sometimes be found flat, blown-out or excessively crowded. But the spots are meant to embody the things we all look for in a great surfing spot: ride-ability, swell size and consistency, good legacy in surf and a great geographical location.
Montauk Point, NY
Escape from New York: Rockaway Beach is a fine place to surf if the subway is your only way out of NYC, but if you’re trekking out further into Long Island, go all the way to the tip at Montauk Point. Waves are consistent and there’s a variety of breaks in the area; sandbar, reef and point breaks can all be found and suit many surfing styles.
GPS Coordinates: 41.072046, -71.8572881 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Ocean City, NJ
The Garden State’s Surf Mecca: Ocean City, NJ is probably the most established surf town of the Northeast and has produced pros — like Dean Randazzo, Matt Keenan and Rob Kelly — and young enthusiasts alike. Waves are consistent thanks to the jetties and the locale is south of New Jersey’s central coast, where bigger waves and less crowded beaches can be found.
GPS Coordinates: 39.2593503, -74.6032252 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Ruggles in Newport, RI
Notoriously Big East Coast Waves: Few East Coast beaches can hold 20-foot waves. While others have been discovered, the reef break off of the absurdly posh Ruggles Avenue in Newport has been the de facto East Coast destination for big waves for decades. If you’ve got the skills (and the balls), go around hurricane season for the serious stuff.
GPS Coordinates: 41.468761, -71.296789 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Hampton Beach, NH
Surf Spot on New Hampshire’s Tiny Coast: New Hampshire only has about 13 miles of coastline, but there is some good surfing to be found. Hampton Beach is one spot that gets consistent waves and protection from northeast winds. This spot is also fairly uncrowded, as most surfers will be at “The Wall” north of Hampton Beach, which — if you can stand the crowds — is another consistently ridable New Hampshire spot, even when the waves are small.
GPS Coordinates: 42.9133683, -70.8093336 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Long Sands in York, ME
A New England Spot for Newbies: Long Sands in York, Maine gets wind protection from Cape Neddeck in the north. The result is generally consistent waves that are manageable, and fortunately Long Sand’s isn’t a particularly crowded beach. Swells don’t get very big here, but that’s fine by many; the spot is ideal for longboarders and beginners.
GPS Coordinates: 43.1630332, -70.6184864 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Laid-Back East Coast Surfing
Virginia Beach, VA
Birthplace of East Coast Surfing: The waves here are highly average, but also highly consistent. That means if you’re relatively new to the sport, this is a good place to get some experience. Virginia Beach is also home to the East Coast Surfing Championships, so it’s also a great place to admire the pros. As a result, there are crowds, but this is one of the best places to surf in the lower Mid-Atlantic States.
GPS Coordinates: 36.7674888,-76.0476648 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Assateague Island, VA
Waves and Wild Horses: A more serene alternative to Virginia beach is Assateague Island, a National Park off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. Surf at the south end of the island and you’ll be treated to beautiful wildlife as well as consistent waves and a beach that’s rarely crowded. Nearby Chincoteague Island is your waypoint to the wildlife refuge and a great place to hang your hat when you aren’t in the water.
GPS Coordinates: 37.9160856,-75.3572672 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
Kitty Hawk, NC
The Wright Bros. Probably Surfed Here: Kitty Hawk is a small town in North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands where the Wright Brothers made their first successful flight. Though it can become crowded, the pier is where you’ll find the best breaks. It catches good swells (at least for the East Coast) producing hollow and powerful waves.
GPS Coordinates: 36.0710395,-75.7127011 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
New Smyrna Beach, FL
Consistent Breaks on Florida’s Coastline: Ponce Inlet at New Smyrna Beach is considered the home of some of the most consistent waves on Florida’s coast. While they’re moderately sized, they are incredibly ridable and appropriate for groms as well as more experienced surfers. Only caveat: lots of sharks inhabit the area.
GPS Coordinates: 29.0295444,-80.9550636 ⇱ | Current Surf Report
South Padre Island, TX
The Best Surf in the Lone Star State: Most people don’t associate Texas and surfing, and admittedly, surfing isn’t too common in the Gulf. But South Padre Island is the one standout spot in the region. South Padre is considered Texas’s most consistent spot, bringing in swells from the North, South and East. Generally Texas waves are flat in the summer but better the rest of the year. Catch swells during hurricane season and you’ll be rewarded for your patience and bravery.