surf new england
Cities brimming with history, picturesque landscapes, quaint towns and meandering countrysides—to many, these describe New England. But few people know that along the sprawling Northeast coast and long stretch of sandy beaches, you will find a thriving and welcoming surfing community.
Maybe surfing is becoming more even popular today because it provides sort of an escape or peace with Mother Nature. And all of that is so needed now with the many challenges we are all facing. We recently chatted with New Englander “F. North” to get his input on surfing and the local scene. And P.S.: September is one of the best months to hit the coast!
“There is nothing else like surfing. There is scientific evidence that sea water can be a natural drug. It stimulates our bodies and promotes a feeling of well-being.”
“In a way, it’s like the amniotic fluid of the earth,” he explains. “The wave catches you—you don’t catch the wave. It’s kind of like a dance, finding that perfect spot on a wave.” He continues, “It’s magical. The art of surfing provides that energy you get from yoga and meditation. You have to be centered and in tune with the ocean. Surfing also provides an escape—your shore problems stay on shore; you leave all the frustrations and problems behind. It’s as if everything flows away. Surfing is a central part of my life and I surf at least once a week. I’ve managed to schedule my life around surfing. When we get ideal conditions in the Northeast, you have to drop everything and just go.” - F. North
Location, Location, Location!
F. North notes that Boston is well-placed for surfing. While there are few places close to the city to surf, New Hampshire, southern Maine, Rhode Island and the North Shore are all within 1 to 1-1/2 hour drive.
New England has been described at one of the rawest places you’ll ever surf and can produce perfect waves when the conditions line up. The distinguished geography and character of the waves is both interesting and unique. Although the continental shelf minimizes the deep powerful waves you find in Hawaii and Florida, most area surfers have a healthy respect for the chaos and currents presented in the Northeast. There is a certain amount of randomness, making every place totally unique.
Top New England Surf Spots
A surfing enthusiast knows how to find and stake out obscure, remote locations for their surfing heaven. There are tons of online resources and live cameras that provide valuable information, you just need to know how to interpret it and make gut decisions. But there are popular places along the NE coast that are considered to be some of the top spots in the U.S., offering ride-ability, ideal swell size and consistency:
Ruggles — Newport, Rhode Island
This beach defines iconic NE surfing, and is notorious for big waves. It can be tricky here and there are rocks, so it is most suitable for advanced surfers. It gets even more intense and serious during hurricane season.
Hampton Beach — New Hampshire
Although this state only has 13 miles of coastline, it still offers some of the best surfing due to consistent waves and protection from northeast winds. Just north of here is “The Wall” which draws even larger crowds.
Long Sands — York, Maine
With wind protection from Cape Neddeck, the area offers consistent, manageable waves. Swells don’t get very big here, so it’s an ideal spot for newbies.
Other notable places include:
Marconi Beach — Cape Cod, Massachusetts
This exposed beach break receives plenty of swell and is much less crowded than the Hamptons. Being on the Cape also means there are sharks, so be aware. It’s a great place for beginners to advanced surfers.
South Beach State Park/Katama Beach — Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket offers 14 miles of easy, rolling beach break waves and receives high amounts of swell. Hurricane season attracts world class surfers from all over the country, but also brings rip tides and strong currents.
Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore — Massachusetts
Waves tend to be mushy and forgiving. Great for beginners and intermediate surfers can head just one mile north to Nauset Light Beach for faster, more hollow waves.
North Beach — New Hampshire
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, making it ideal for beginners.
Lighthouse — Point Judith, Rhode Island
This scenic spots has a predominantly rocky bottom, but is notorious for holding large surf well. This location is best for advanced surfers.
Narragansett Town Beach — Rhode Island
Considered the surfing Mecca of the Northeast, riders come from three surrounding states. Town Beach is protected from the wind and there is almost always something to ride, making it especially ideal for beginners with long, rolling waves and fairly easy to paddle out.
The Timing is Perfect
Intrigued but think you’ve missed the boat on the surfing season? Think again. Not only do NE surfers ride year-round, the peak surfing season is only just beginning. Wearing a wet suit provides armor against cuts and the cold. Here are just a few reasons surfers celebrate this time of year: ocean water temps are the warmest, air temps are still summery, hurricane season generates storms that create waves that typically reach the eastern coast; and with summer officially over, there are less crowds.
If surfing is still not your thing, remember it makes a great spectator sport-watching the athleticism of the surfers against the strength and beauty of Mother Nature. It is extremely visual and by simply watching them, you might just experience some of the thrill.