Outer Banks surfing has been identified as the best on the East Coast. The Outer Banks is home to the East Coast Surfing Championship, which began here in the late 1970s. The U.S. Surfing Championships were held here in 1978 and 1982.
So what makes the surfing so good here? Well it’s a combination of things. The Outer Banks extends fairly deep into the ocean compared to most other East Coast beach communities, and it has a very short ocean shelf before you are in the deep water. As a result, the ocean swells are able to reach the beach without the flattening out experienced in most other East Coast locations. In addition, the Outer Banks actually brings together three water systems. In addition to the coastal water of the Virginia and North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks is also in very close proximity to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream from the south as well as the cold waters from the Labrador Current from the north. As a result, Outer Banks surfing is the recipient of very active wave pattern creation.
A twice a day surf report is available at obxsurfinfo.com This report will give you the information you need to find the day's best waves.
Early to midsummer is the slow or flat season for waves, unless there is a tropical disturbance off the coast that could cause the swells to suddenly appear. Waves during this stretch are usually about two to three feet. During the high season, generally late summer through fall, or the time period that coincides with hurricane season, the waves can be anywhere from six to eight feet.
The Spring waves are second only to the waves of hurricane season.During the period of time when the Gulf Stream controls the action, the water is warmer, and most surfers will be wearing trunks. This is usually from early summer through the hurricane season. When the Gulf Stream makes it this far north will vary by year, but generally appears in the June timeframe. For the Fall, Winter and Spring, you will want to wear a 4/3 wetsuit. During the winter, the water will get as cold as 35 degrees, and with 25 to 30 mile an hour wind, it makes for some brutal temperatures. The Spring is not much better, with water temperatures in the 40s to low 50s. You will find that most surfers will go right from heavy duty wetsuits to trunks back to heavy duty wetsuits. No need for a Spring suit here, as the water temperature changes from one extreme to the other rapidly.
Hatteras Island in the Fall has the best stretch for waves, with its infamous spitting barrels. This is particularly true by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse along Cape Point, where the Outer Banks reach closest to the Gulf Stream, as it bends to the East, doubling your chance of having great waves from two directions, depending on where the Gulf Stream is located. You will also find great Outer Banks surfing action around the fishing piers.
The Outer Banks does not have an abundance of surfing restrictions, requiring only your board be leashed to you and that you do not surf within 300 feet of any pier. In addition, due to the windy condition, Outer Banks kiteboarding and Outer Banks wind surfing are also extremely popular, particularly in the Hatteras area, so bring along that equipment should it be a flat wave day.
The Outer Banks surf community underground is alive and well, so stop into any of the (thirteen and counting) surf shops all up and down the coast in the Outer Banks if you need to know where the waves are during your stay. Expect to have the ride of your life.
Check out these videos to get a first hand experience of what surfing the Outer Banks can mean.
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