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Outer Banks Surf Guide: Where to Surf, When to Go

While the Outer Banks are becoming more and more popular each year, many people still don’t know exactly where to go to surf.

For many east coast surfers, this means that they have access to some of the most secluded waves, that during the winter time can have some of the biggest waves.

Even still, the Outer Banks can produce extremely fun waves for any ordinary surfer on vacation.

In this article we will break down a few of the most popular breaks in this part of North Carolina and when they work the best.

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What’s Special About Surfing in Outer Banks?

Waves in the Outer Banks

The wintertime can bring some of the craziest waves to the Outer Banks.

Known to be even the size of some buildings, these waves challenge some of the most experienced surfers, while still giving beginner and intermediate surfers a playground during the spring and summer seasons.

The Surf Culture in the Outer Banks

For any city located on the coast with waves, a sense of surf culture tends to just follow along.

However, many of the local surfers in those cities claim their territory and rule the peaks that they surf everyday.

This doesn’t seem to be the case in the Outer Banks.

Taking after the stereotype of southern hospitality, locals in the Outer Banks are said to be some of the friendliest and more welcoming to outsiders. So, don’t be afraid to ask for a tip or two.

Surf Gear Needed in the Outer Banks

In the summertime, the water in the Outer Banks can get all the way up to 81 degrees, meaning that all you need is your boardshorts and your surfboard.

However, the winter time brings in 50 degree waters that require a full suit. Luckily, this means you don’t need any high tech cold water gear. A simple 4/3 mm fullsuit and potentially booties, should suffice.

The Best Surf Spots in Outer Banks

Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is a beach break that is located next to a pier. While this wave is biggest during the winter season, it is most consistent in the summer.

Throughout July, there are southeast swells and western winds that will bring super clean waves into town.

This area really shines when everywhere else around is too crazy and out of control to handle.

During large swells, both sides of the Kitty Hawk pier will be firing and some surfers will even jump off the pier to avoid the intense paddle out.

If you are an experienced surfer looking for a little challenge, come visit this break during the winter.

But, if you aren’t super confident in your skill level, come watch some of these surfers catch the waves of their lives, or come in July to catch more mellow waves.

Duck Pier

Duck Pier is a well known beach break for many surfers living in the Outer Banks.

Since it is known for its consistency, you can expect a crowd pretty much whenever you plan to paddle out.

Fortunately, you can find peaks all throughout the beach which does a great job at breaking up some of the groups.

The northside of this pier is better suited for short boarders as it breaks a bit quicker and forms a bowl.

On the other hand, longboarders tend to favor the long lefts that line up on the southside.

Corolla and Carova Beach

Corolla is another beach break that works best during a southeast swell and throughout the summer months.

This beach is especially popular among beginners and visiting families, as it is home to smaller waves. Corolla Beach is perfect for an ideal beach day, and surf lessons for those of you looking to get into surfing.

For you more experienced surfers out there, Carova Beach is just slightly North and adds a bit more size to the waves.

Here, the waves break further offshore and the lineups are much more sparse.

If you are staying in this area over a longer course of time, you could even surf Corolla for a couple days and then move over to Carova once you build up some confidence.

Nags Head

Nags Head is one of the Outer Banks most historically surfed breaks.

Since the 40’s, surfers have been filling up this beach and testing out its waves to find an area that works best for them. One thing that sets this break apart is its endless possibilities of peaks.

According to the locals here, the peaks are very susceptible to change.

This means that while you are deciding where to paddle out, you should drive along the beach road until you find a wave that looks best to you.

You’ll find more consistent waves here during the winter seasons and during a northeast swell.

Irene’s Inlet

Irene’s Inlet is one of the Outer Banks newest formed waves.

This break gets its name from the inlet that was formed in 2011 after Hurricane Irene.

Quickly after this storm, local surfers and fishermen noticed that the half-mile breach in the sand created clean and surfable waves that weren’t present before.

Ever since this discovery, the wave has attracted a great deal of attention, and is now an iconic surfer and tourist destination.

With that being said, this beach does attract a bit of a crowd, but it is definitely worth a visit since this wave hasn’t always been around for people to witness.

PS — if you want to avoid parking altogether when surfing at these locations, consider an e-bike.

What To Do In Outer Banks When the Waves Are Flat

Even if the waves are flat or the conditions aren’t ideal, there are many events and attractions that the Outer Banks have to offer.

Supporting the surf culture of the area, this town has an annual Surfalorous Film Festival.

This festival shows some of the coolest surf films and documentaries of the year.

So, even if you can’t get out there yourself, you can get your share through these cinematic experiences. Similarly, they have the Down the Road Surf and Art Festival which takes place in Kitty Hawk.

This festival is meant to bring together all sides of the community and unite them by displaying their creativity in various ways.

Besides their abundance is surf culture, the Outer Banks catches some tourists' attention for its mysterious attractions. Some of which being stories on shipwrecks and potential lost colonies.

Outer Banks Surfing

The Outer Banks have some of the best waves, in some of the most fascinating areas.

With incredible scenery, and amazing stories, the Outer Banks is not a place you want to skip out on.

Use this Outer Banks surf guide the next time you are in the area, and explore some new places!


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