North Americas Best Beginner Surf Spots

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North Americas Best Beginner Surf Spots

The tombolo at Frank Island in Tofino, British Columbia. The sandbar at Cowell's Beach in Santa Cruz. Miles and miles of easy, rolling waves in Central Florida and Virginia Beach. The warm, sandy surf of the Wall in Hampton, Rhode Island.

What makes a great beginner surf spot is the natural alchemy of a soft, sandy ocean bottom that creates gentle, almost perpetually rolling waves and allows for mistakes and recoveries. Access is important: lots of parking, surf shops nearby for rentals and instruction, and an easy route out to the peak for those learning to paddle. Safety and security are important to, for in this crowded world, the best beginner spots provide protection from the tyranny of the elements and better surfers.

Scattered around North America, every couple hundred miles or so, are beaches and reefs perfect for beginning surfers. We polled surfers, surf instructors, and surf shop owners around the country and chose these spots based on setup, reputation, access, safety, and security. If you want to catch a wave, these are the places to get your feet wet.


Sea Isle City—New Jersey
Surf Report: Seventy-five miles from Philadelphia, off the Garden State Parkway, and over the marshlands on Route 625, Sea Isle City looks southeast into the Atlantic Ocean, soaks up whatever energy is out there, and spreads it over long, sandy beach breaks that are perfect for beginners.
Scene: Bustling all summer, with visitors from Delaware and Pennsylvania banging rails with the local rogues. Lots of accents, people, and attitude. 
Bonus: Sea Isle is one of the only shore communities to establish a surfing beach every block or so. With several surfing beaches spread out throughout the town, crowds aren't as much a problem.
Wax Run: Heritage Surf and Sport, 609-263-3033,

Surf Report: There are 14 miles of beach breaks on Nantucket's south-facing shore that pick up any hint of south windswell when much of New England is flat. The surf is easy, with rolling beach break waves along the south shore, and proximity to the Gulf Stream means water temps close to 70 in the summer.
Scene: Think of the beaches in the movie Jaws, (no, not the shark attack part). Kind of like that, but 30 years later and a lot more surfers. Beautiful girls in the summer and the occasional celebrity or two at the beach. 
Bonus: Check out the local surf video Horny for Surf to see Nantucket at its best, year around. Fine dining all around the island and all the charm it's known for.
Wax Run: Force 5 Watersports, 508-228-0700,; Nantucket Island Surf School, 508-560-1020,; Nantucket Surfari Surf Camp, 508.228.1235,; Indian Summer/Upper Deck, 508-228-3632

Narragansett Town Beach—Rhode Island
Surf Report: Only seven miles from the University of Rhode Island and 14 from Newport, Town Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand backed by a wildlife refuge. Local instructor Peter Pan has been teaching surfing since 1978 and recommends the easy-breaking, mostly sand-bottom rights and lefts. Facing southeast, Town Beach is protected from the wind and there is almost always something to ride. Ideal for beginners: long, rolling waves with a fairly-easy-to-paddle-out lineup. 
Scene: Narragansett Town Beach is the mecca of New England surfing. No real localism at all. Surfers come from three surrounding states to catch waves here.
Bonus: Lots of room to spread out. Relief from intense inland summer humidity, typical to New England with enough local flavor to give you a complete New England experience. 
Wax Run: Gansett Juice Surf Shop, 401-789-7890,; Surf Line: 401-789-1954; Warm Winds Surf Shop, 401-789-9040,; Peter Pan Surf Lessons, Available at Gansett Juice Surf Shop, 401-575-0003,

North Beach—New Hampshire
Surf Report: The Wall on Hampton's North Beach is so-called because of the 1.5-mile-long concrete seawall that extends from Boars Head north to Plaice Cove. With a wide, sandy bottom, the beach has a few exposed rocks at low tide and gets washy at high tide, but the waves here are generally long, easy, and forgiving-ideal for beginners. 
Scene: New Englanders cherish summer and make the most of every hour of every day and that makes for a jumping beach scene. More experienced surfers go elsewhere, so the Wall is set aside for beginners.
Bonus: During winter storms, "Wall-Nuts" risk drenching and death putting the Wall between them and massive waves that batter the coast.
Wax Run: Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Company, 603-929-7467,


Corolla Beach—Corolla, North Carolina
Surf Report: Here on the northern end of the Outer Banks, you'll find warm water and mellow surf from spring to late summer. 
Scene: A relaxed hot spot for East Coasters from Maine to Miami. Bonus: Scuba diving at hundreds of offshore shipwrecks. 
Bonus: Scuba diving at hundreds of offshore shipwrecks. Hang gliding and hiking at the East Coast's tallest natural sand dune in Jockey's Ridge State Park.
Wax Run: Corolla Surf Shop, 252-453-WAVE,

Cocoa Beach—Cocoa Beach, Florida

Surf Report: Picnic Tables, north of Patrick Air Force Base, churns out gentle rollers year-round. 
Scene: Novices from Tampa and Orlando; seasonal snowbirds. 
Bonus: Watch rockets launch at Cape Canaveral while practicing your own take-offs. 
Wax Run: The Goods Surf & Skate, 321-723-5267,

Folly Beach—South Carolina

Surf Report: Twelve miles south of Charleston, Folly Beach's summer windswell kicks up enough surf for beginners, and waves are almost always 20 to 30 percent bigger than any of the other beaches accessible by car in the area. Folly is soft and sandy, and the surf is just right for learning the basics. 
Scene: A kickin' time. Good old boys and coeds from the college in Charleston getting loose.
Bonus: The bar and nightlife scene in Folly Beach and Charleston in summer is jumping, but if someone walks up to you and asks if you want to shag, be very careful how you respond. Down here, the shag is a dance, which came out of a local "Beach Music" scene going back to the 20s. 
Wax Run: Ocean Surf Shop, 843-588-9175,; McKevlin's, 843-588-2247,

Wrightsville Beach—North Carolina
Surf Report: Top East Coast pro Ben Bourgeois learned the ropes in this area of the country. Facing southeast into the Atlantic, and tucked behind the Outer Banks, Wrightsville's soft, sandy beaches are the perfect venue for beginners and perfectly warm in the summer. Great for beginners, but a little frustrating for anyone beyond that. 
Scene: Packed in summer with tourists, locals, inlanders, and students from nearby University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
Bonus: Non-stop socializing from Wrightsville to Wilmington and back. And if you want to move on to higher education, road trip-the Outer Banks are only four hours away.
Wax Run: Sweetwater Surf Shop, 910-256-3821,


The Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area—Otter Rock, Oregon
Surf Report: One hundred and six miles from Eugene and 123 miles from Portland, Otter Rock is an exception to Oregon's rocky, craggy, windy coast. With water temperature hovering between 48 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year full wetsuits, boots, and gloves are a must. A huge headland protects the beach from wind and giant swells. 
Scene: Known as the "Waikiki of Oregon" more people have probably learned to surf here than anywhere in the state. A ton of beginning surfers, tourists, families, body boarders, and skim boarders. Family friendly with zero bad vibes.
Bonus: A beautiful, mostly undeveloped coastline, so it's just you and the waves. There are public rest rooms and outside showers for day use and Beverly Beach Campground is just two miles down the beach.
Wax Run: Ossies Surf Shop, 541-574-4634,; Otter Rock Surf Shop, 541-765-2776,; Lincoln City Surf Shop, 541-996-7433, 

Frank Island—Tofino, British Columbia
Surf Report: On the south end of Chesterman Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island is one of the best beginner breaks in North America. Cold in the winter, cold in the summer (this is Canada, after all so pack your wetsuit). 
Scene: Tofino is the Surf City of Canada, a shockingly beautiful hamlet that gets 118 inches of rain per year, so it's craggy like Ireland, quaint like New England, and as green as Hanalei, Hawaii. Beach fires and family BBQ's line these sandy beaches, the smell of fresh cooked salmon wafting into the line-up most summer evenings. Tofino is a mellow scene that some say is similar to that of California in the 60s. It's an out of the way place very popular with Canadians and tourists from all over. Snow covered glaciers and 1,000-year-old cedar trees form the backdrop. Don't forget to look ahead for black bears when walking down the beach trail. This part of the world gets huge surf half the year, but Frank Island knocks down all that fury allowing beginners to splash away like baby ducks on either side of the tombolo (spit of land) that connects the island to Vancouver Island.
Bonus: Great stream, lake, and ocean fishing; kayaking by river, fjord, and open sea; and sight-seeing that is a little bit New England, a little bit Viking, a little bit Paul Bunyan. A place most people don't even know exists, but is one of the best, most unique beginner spots north or south of the border because of that weird little tombolo. 
Wax Run: Surf Sister, 1-877-724-SURF, Live to Surf, 250-725-4464,


Cowell's Beach—Santa Cruz, California
Surf Report: Waist-high sets that break 200 yards from shore; nippy, 55-degree water (wetsuit required) in summer. 
Scene: Packed with locals, but the most welcoming spot in Santa Cruz. 
Bonus: Après-surf, play pinball at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Wax Run: Cowell's Beach Surf Shop, 831-427-2355,

San Onofre State Beach—San Clemente, California
Surf Report: Long lines of whitewater for boogie boarding and longboarding. Find low, slow-breaking peaks at Dogpatch. 
Scene: A family-friendly mecca since the 1930s-with a few RVs and beer bellies.
Bonus: Cameos by longboard legends like La Jolla native Joel Tudor. 
Wax Run: Rip Curl Surf Shop, 714-422-3600,

Linda Mar Beach—California
Surf Report: Half an hour south of San Francisco, Pacifica's Linda Mar is one-mile-long beach that picks up swell from every corner of the Pacific. Colder in the spring than any other time of year and generally foggy all summer and clear all winter, Linda Mar is extremely popular with beginner to intermediate surfers. It always has something to ride.
Scene: Packed every weekend and every swell with beginners, longboarders, shredders, valley kids, and city guys, this place is popular, but there is more than enough room from the Boat Dock break on the south end to the Round House break on the north end.
Bonus: Fast food within 50 yards of the surfline. World-famous surf spot Mavericks is less than an hour away.
Wax Run: Nor Cal Surf Shop, 650-738-WAVE,; Surf Camp Pacifica,

Mondos, Pitas Point—California 
Surf Report: In Ventura County, south of Santa Barbara, Mondos, on the inside of Pitas Point, has long and gentle waves over a sandy bottom, with a lot of room for everyone. The beach lacks massive swells because it's tucked away and shadowed by Santa Cruz Island so beginners can splash and crash on the inside without getting in anyone's way. 
Scene: Some Ventura surfers consider Mondos a secret spot, although it's visible to the whole world from Route 101. Generally friendly on the inside, but don't get in anyone's way.
Bonus: Mondos faces south and gets summer swells that flow under Santa Cruz Island. Get good at Mondos and go nuts on all the classic points and reefs of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Wax Run: Patagonia Great Pacific Iron Works, 805-643-6074,

Surf Report: Thirty minutes west of Los Angeles, along 27 miles of beaches known as the 27 Mile Miracle, Surfrider Beach at Malibu is home to the original perfect wave. First Point is the most popular spot for beginning to intermediate surfers and some of the world's best longboarders. Best in summer, when the water is warm and the south swells are running. 
Scene: A great beginner break but crowded with ravenous surfers. Learning here is a bit like playing hockey on the freeway. Collisions happen every couple of minutes. Beginners should stay inside and close to the point and ride the wild whitewater.
Bonus: Surf Malibu all day, party in Hollywood all night. Dolphins in the lineup. Plenty of sunshine. And that guy who dropped in on you without looking back just might be Adam Sandler.
Wax Run: Pro Surf Instruction, Learn to surf from John Philbin, the actor who starred in North Shore and Point Break and taught Kate Bosworth how to surf for Blue; Zuma Jays Surf Shop, 310-456-8044,; Malibu Surf Shack, 310-456-8508,

Galveston Beach—Texas
Surf Report: Forty-five minutes from Houston, Galveston is the best beginner spot in Texas, with four piers and miles of un-crowded beach breaks. The waves here are gentle and rolling, and the Flagship Hotel/Pier is the best spot to get started. Jetties on both sides of the long pier protect the swell from chop and currents and help with paddle-outs during larger swells. 
Scene: Tens of thousands of tourists will flock down to Galveston on any given summer weekend from cities like Houston to enjoy some gulf shrimp, a little sand between their toes, and some longboarding.
Bonus: Access to the surf spots is easy, with parking all along the seawall that stretches for miles. And if the ocean isn't cooperating, you can always go ride the tanker wakes for miles over the shoals in the Galveston Channel. 
Wax Run: Surf Specialties, 409-763-1559,; 24-hr. Surf Reports: 409-763-2115

Curated by Jesse Delgrosse @gringosontherun. Follow Jesse's adventures @jdelgrosse and make sure to "LIKE" our Facebook and Instagram pages!!
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