The Best Waves in New York: The Complete Empire State Surf Guide
Most don’t think of the Big Apple as a surfing destination. Its hustle and bustle don’t necessarily align with surf culture.
However, on Long Island there are a wide array of rocky point breaks and reeling hollow sandbars that are dying to be surfed.
The only exposed area of coast in New York is on Long Island so that leaves only about 120 miles of coast in the whole state.
This doesn’t mean there aren't quality waves in New York, locals have been demanding respect for their spots for years now.
Where are those spots exactly?
We’ll run through some of them.
What’s So Special About Surfing in New York?
Waves in New York
The waves in New York and more specifically Long Island are similar to that of the rest of the East Coast.
Expect inconsistent and unpredictable conditions with most days being pretty lackluster.
However, it does have the potential to get extremely good in the right conditions.
Long Island is full of long sandy beaches with numerous hollow peaks and also quite a few point breaks as well.
Winter is the best time to surf but expect extremely cold air and water temperatures.
If you can endure the chilly water you’ll be rewarded with near perfect tubes with little crowds.
Fall is a little better for this reason because the water is warmer and waves are starting to pick up.
The Surf Culture in New York
The surf culture in New York is just as strong as New York City’s culture, meaning their locals take pride in their waves.
Many locals live in the city and take short 30 minute train rides to Long Island and have the potential to get short with visitors when waves are good at the best spots.
New York has also produced some quality talent, Balaram Stack recently won the Vans Pipe Masters in Hawaii.
Equipment Needed to Surf in New York
If you’re in New York for good waves, then you’ll most likely be surfing during the winter.
So expect water temperatures in the mid to low 30s.
That means a thick wetsuit, somewhere in the 4/3-5/4 range, with gloves and a hood. On top of that 5-7mm booties are also recommended when surfing in New York.
The Best Surf Spots in New York
One of New York’s best waves, Rockaway is Long Island's top surfing destination.
It has quite a few jetties that are capable of holding some powerful waves and a couple of sand bars that are equally as good.
Particularly, 92nd street is probably the best wave on this stretch of coast which is a steep jetty wave that walls up extremely fast and makes a pretty difficult takeoff.
Surfers that make the takeoff are rewarded with a pristine hollow left.
Since this spot is one of the best waves in the state it also means it's going to be pretty crowded and locals will get protective especially when it's good.
Fire Island is a ten mile stretch of beach with quite a few peaks and different sandbars to be surfed.
Accessibility is a little rough as Fire Island is only accessible by ferry and cars aren’t allowed on the majority of the island.
However, it’s still worth a trip because you’ll likely find a peak to yourself because of how hard it is to access.
The waves aren’t anything special but they can be pretty consistent and the shifting sandbars will usually give you something to surf. There is also little to no localism on the island so feel free to explore this stretch of beach.
One of the better beach breaks on Long Island, Lido Beach is a classic reeling east coast sandbar. It’s located in Long Beach and is really only reserved for surfers with lots of experience, particularly east coast experience.
That being said it's also capable of humbling the best surfers, as this break is incredibly powerful and has some wacky currents.
It’s a perfect A-frame that will reward New Yorkers with some of the best tubes of any surfer's life.
Crowds can get a little unruly as well and locals get extra protective when it’s really good so go in with some humility.
Montauk is a small fishing town on the tip of Long Island that has quite a few breaks along its rocky coastline.
One of the best breaks, Terrace, is a sandy bottomed reef that is capable of holding some barrel worthy waves.
It gets pretty good during the fall when some rogue hurricane swells that are brewing out in the Atlantic.
It is great for surfers of all abilities but fall and winter time can get sort of maxed out and deter the beginners.
This spot is pretty popular with the locals at Montauk so as alway approach it with humility and you should be good to surf Terrace.
Lincoln Blvd- Long Beach
Another pretty solid wave in Long Beach, Lincoln Blvd is a beach break with primarily left handed shoulders.
It’s another wave with close proximity to a jetty and although it’s not anything too special, it is pretty consistent and has the capability of holding size so that’s why it's so popular.
This spot is pretty good for surfers of all abilities and is pretty receptive toward beginners.
That being said, crowds might get a little rough during the warmer fall and summer months but if you're looking for an uncrowded size, winter would probably be better.
What To Do In New York When the Waves Are Flat
Surfing really isn’t the main draw when visiting New York which means you’ll have plenty to do when the waves are flat.
Long Island is only a short 30 minute train ride to New York City. In the city there are a plethora of things to do, one of them is to visit some of the popular landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.
There are quite a few ferry tours that take people out to the Statue of Liberty that are worth checking out.
It also might be worth checking out some of New York’s many art museums, particularly the Met or Museum of Modern Art which houses Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Central Park is also a great place to visit in the city.
Surfing in New York
Many don’t think of surfing when New York is mentioned, however there are a plethora of great shreddable waves all along Long Island’s coast.
If you find yourself in The Big Apple then maybe consider taking the subway out to Long Island and getting away from the hustle and bustle by catching some great waves.