The 32 Best Surf Spots In The USA

Surfing is one of those sports that favors those with a curious, transient mind. Mostly because of its ever-changing, unpredictable arena, surfing is naturally characterized as a weather and wave-dependent pastime. Each session is different and no two waves are exactly the same. For surfers, myself included, the search for the perfect wave is never-ending, with the prospect of finding that perfect spot looming just out of arms reach.

Part of the thrill in this search is, in fact, the search itself. Hopping a plane with your buddies bound for some remote region only to stay in an undersized house with no electricity in the middle of a mosquito-infested jungle in search of that mysterious left you read about is an experience unique to the surfer’s bucket list. All others look at us like we’re insane; terminal sunburn, our entire bodies sore, feet cut up from the coral reef and a big ole’ smile on our faces. The lifestyle is truly a magical one.

However, one need not travel to the remote, untouched regions of our planet to get a similar experience. The United States hosts 5,839 miles of coastline (not including Alaska or Hawaii) so you better believe therein lie some fantastic surf spots right in our own backyard. And for the most part they’re highly accessible, user-friendly, and travel-friendly so there’s no need to worry about third-world political unrest cutting your trip short before the swell arrives. So in the spirit of summer, and branching out from your home break, here are the 32 best surf spots in the USA.

Northeast

This region isn’t just for cold water lobster tails and blizzards. Perhaps the most underrated surf region in the U.S, the Northeast boasts some of the best-hidden gems in the country, some of which lighting up only once a decade when the perfect long period hurricane swell graces the region’s rocky shoreline and underwater reef setups. Surfing in the region is a bit of an underground scene in these parts so be sure to show some respect up here as well.

Long Sands

Location: York, Maine
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: Southeast
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Here is a great beginner to intermediate wave tucked into the York Beach community of southern Maine. Waves are generally on the softer side but on the right day, the place can offer some longer, smooth rides across the sandbars. There are several peaks along the beach which also help spread out the crowds on better days. But beware, summertime surf zones are strictly enforced and can make for quite the crowded session.

Narragansett

Location: Narragansett, Rhode Island
Best Season: Summer
Best Swell Direction: South, East
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Look to Narragansett for the classic example of a New England beach community. It’s another great option for long boarders interested in taking an afternoon cruise on the beaches softer, more user-friendly wave shape. Like much of the region, summer is the slowest but the busiest season, making travel elsewhere a bit more appetizing. More advanced surfers will find solace just up the coast in Newport, where fickle reef breaks tend to come alive in the fall/winter months.

Ditch Plains

Location: Montauk, New York
Best Season: Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: South, West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Long Island is known for many things but somehow surfing tends to get thrown under the rug. Ironically the region is one of the most consistent on the East Coast and Montauk happens to be a quite consistent spot in this region. Needless to say, it’s obvious why we picked this location. The rocky bottom here produces shapely A-frames year-round with a contentious crowd to boot. It breaks on virtually all swells and the if you’re man enough to withstand near freezing ocean temperatures in the winter, you’ll most definitely score some of the best waves the western Atlantic has to offer.

Rockaway Beach

Location: Queens, New York
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: South, East
Current Conditions: Surf Report

The Ramones hitched a ride to Rockaway Beach in the ’70s and since then the place has been a go-to day trip destination for the urban surfing culture of New York. Accessible by subway, Rockaway is basecamp for the Western Long Island surf and beach scene. Waves are generally consistent and the shape is generally good thanks to the beach’s multiple breakwater/jetty setups installed to help mitigate erosion. Catch it on a late summer tropical southeast swell and you’ll certainly forget that you’re within arms reach of New York City.

Mid-Atlantic

Flickr: James Loesch

The mid-Atlantic coastline is characterized by a perpetual identity crisis. Is it southern? Not exactly. Is it northern? Not so much. And the weather patterns here are a true testament to such a crisis. You could be sitting on the beach, enjoying a warm 70-degree afternoon and within a span of 3 hours the temperature can drop 40 degrees and it will be snowing. No lie. Therefore, careful attention needs to be paid to the weather in order to score what’s more than likely only a two-hour window of rideable surf. Surfers here are some of the most passionate, die-hards in the business. Because that’s the only way you’ll experience decent surf without driving yourself insane.

Belmar

Location: Belmar, New Jersey
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: South, Southeast, East, North
Current Conditions: Surf Report

New Jersey may get a bad wrap but it’s, unfortunately, one of those states that host some great surf. So you’re going to end up there whether you want to or not. Belmar is one such spot that draws the attention from East Coast surfers almost year-round. It’s a heavier wave capable of producing sizable barrels along its stretch of coastline. Favoring south and east swells, Belmar is capable of board-breaking sessions so be sure you have some experience under your belt before paddling out.

Manasquan

Location: Manasquan, New Jersey
Best Season: Any
Best Swell Direction: South, Southeast, East
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Manasquan is the main event to Belmar’s opening act. With a serious jetty setup, waves bounce off the rock and their power is thrown into the incoming swell producing a serious right wedge setup that barrels and heaves without forgiveness. It’s one of the best-known spots on the East Coast for size, consistency, and shape and can handle up to 20-foot faces on a southeast swell. Hurricane’s anyone?

Indian River Inlet

Location: Sussex, Delaware
Best Season: Fall
Best Swell Direction: South
Current Conditions: Surf Report

We know what you’re thinking, “Wait, there’s a beach in Delaware?” Yes, yes there is and if you find yourself stopping for a surf in the Drive-thru State, be sure to check out Indian River Inlet, located within the Delaware Seashore State Park. The wave is a consistent right-hander that breaks off the jetty and on a large south swell can produce some serious high-quality surf. Also, with a little bit of ambition and a sense of adventure, there’s a heavier, hollower wave to the south that can knock you into next week if you’re not careful. But we’ll leave that up to you to discover.

Ocean City

Location: Ocean City, Maryland
Best Season: Fall & Winter
Best Swell Direction: Northeast, Southeast
Current Conditions: Surf Report

No secrets here. Yes, there is a coastline in Maryland and yes surfing does exist. Ocean City is lucky enough to sit on a section of the Maryland coastline that’s exposed to multiple swell angles so consistency though the summer doldrums is a huge plus. The area is also a large tourist destination leading to a somewhat vibrant nightlife that’s far enough removed from the Jersey fist-pumping scene to alleviate any apprehensions about snagging a post-session beer or two.

Southeast

Ahh the Southeast U.S., home of heat, humidity, Confederate Flags, and delicious deep-fried everything. First-time travelers to the southeast coast will notice a significant laid-back vibe throughout the region. No one is in a hurry down here and we’re perfectly okay with that. However, take the area’s pace of life into account with trying to rush to the beach, because summer beach traffic can rival Los Angeles on any given day. The section of the coastline is also highly prone to hurricanes during the late summer and into early fall so when chasing that swell, be sure to keep your wits about you, maintain an eye on the weather, and be polite for goodness sake; they don’t call it southern hospitality for nothing.

Cape Hatteras

Location: Buxton, North Carolina
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Best Swell Direction: South, Southeast, East, Northeast, North
Current Conditions: Surf Report

If we wanted to, we could easily produce an entirely separate article just on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This magical place features over 100 miles of ocean-swept, shifting sand dunes and subsequent sand bars producing hollow beach break barrels that’ll simultaneously humble and excite even the most experienced surfer. Truly an east coast great, Cape Hatteras, situated at the barrier islands southern tip, picks up raw ocean swell from almost 180 degrees and is arguably the most consistent break on the entire eastern seaboard.

Wrightsville Beach

Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Best Season: Late Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: South
Current Conditions: Surf Report

For those looking to party at night and surf all day, Wrightsville is quite the summer destination spot. Thanks to UNCW’s strategic location less than ten minutes away from the beach town, there’s always something going on. And the surf, while it doesn’t compare to the barrier islands to the north, still remains fun and consistent. Because it’s a more southerly facing beach the best swells tend to occur from storms making their way up the coast, yes that means hurricanes too. There’s also a natural preserve to the south of the Wrightsville Beach rumored to hosts some good surf as well.

The Washout

Location: Folly Beach, South Carolina
Best Season: Late Summer, Early Fall, Early Spring
Best Swell Direction: South, East, Northeast
Current Conditions: Surf Report

This is it. Dixieland at it’s finest. Welcome to the true-blue (or should we say red) American south where the weather is hot, the accents are drawn-out and “bless your heart” doesn’t exactly mean what you think it means. Unfortunately, the South Carolina surf doesn’t boast the same hospitality. But, at the north end of Folly Beach, the jetty setup at The Washout will produce some sizable and fun surf given the right conditions. Here, fall storms and winter low-pressure systems can produce short punchy beach break barrels that will now doubt put a smile on your face, even if you end up breaking your board…bless your heart.

New Smyrna Beach

Location: Volusia County, Florida
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: Northeast, East
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to travel another 350 miles down the coast before reaching another notable surf spot. Once you arrive, however, on the right day, you’ll be glad you did. Known as the most consistent surf spot in Florida, New Smyrna is a typical jetty setup that over the years has trapped copious amounts of sand along the bottom. Because of this unique setup, incoming swells are broken up due to the contoured bottom and break in various peaks along the beach, producing super fun high-performance peaks. And with warm water, easy on-beach parking, and an abundance of bikini-clad spectators, it’s an all around win-win.

Gulf Coast

Flickr: Olin Gilbert

It’s hard not to feel bad for Gulf Coast surfers while at the same time looking up to them for their passion and dedication to the sport. Too often we wave-spoiled folk take what we have for granted, not appreciating the fact that just about any day we decide to head down to the beach, there will be something to ride. The Gulf Coast, on the other hand, is a lake most of the year. But every so often, and without too much warning, its warm waters will light up, giving us its best Indonesian impression. Just be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Pensacola Pier

Location: Pensacola, Florida
Best Season: Late Summer, Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: East, Southeast, South, Southwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Pensacola isn’t just for military personnel. The pier hosts some good surf from time to time, especially during hurricane season, and thanks to some sand trappings next to the pier and rocky-reef bottom out past the pier, the spot can hold surf up to 12 feet on the larger swells. However, longshore currents during these swells can be dangerous so proceed with caution during these events.

Fourchon

Location: Fourchon, Louisiana
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: South, Southeast, Southwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Located all the way at the southern tip of Louisiana is Port Fourchon that surprisingly hosts some of the better waves in the Gulf. Keep in mind this isn’t a world-class wave but if you’re into taking a breather from Bourbon St. it’s great way to see the bayou countryside, catch a couple warm Gulf waves and then chow down on some serious crawfish post-surf.

Bob Hall Pier

Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
Best Season: Late Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: South, Southeast, Northeast, North
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Just like everything else in Texas the surf can get quite sizable thanks to it coastal location and the regional weather pattern. Hurricane’s tend to move east to west in this part of the world with works out well for Texas since it’s in the direct path of any swell generated by these storms. Waves at Bob Hall break fairly consistently and a proper swell produces steep hollow drops that transition into workable walls for carving all the way into shore.

South Padre Island

Location: Cameron County, Texas
Best Season: Late Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: Southeast, East, Northeast, North
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Just about on the United States/Mexico border is the small beach town of South Padre Island. The main spot is just north of the jetty, which again, does a fine job at trapping enough sand to produce a hollow, inside wave while an outside sandbar holds the most size. The waters off the coast of South Padre Island are deeper than most places in the Gulf of Mexico allowing for increased consistency and power in the waves here.

Southern California

Welcome to the mecca of the surf culture. With perfect weather, consistent surf, and the highest surfer population density in the country, it’s no wonder Southern California is home to several of the world’s leading surf companies and surfers. Its rugged coastline, complete with reef/rock breaks, offshore canyons, and point breaks provides SoCal surfers with enough variety to find a rideable wave almost any day of the week. And believe me, they do. You’d be hard-pressed to find an empty peak out here unless of course you make an adventurous day-trip south into Baja Mexico.

Black’s Beach

Location: San Diego, California
Best Season: Winter
Best Swell Direction: West, Northwest, Southwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

I don’t feel bad about making the claim that this is the best beach break in San Diego County simply because everyone knows this to be true. Yes, of course, it’s crowded but on a larger swell, the crowds will certainly clear out in favor of the more tame La Jolla Shores to the south. Scripps canyon juts out to sea almost directly offshore of the beach here, turning Blacks into a magnet for any swell with west in it. The spot’s peaky setup can handle anything from two feet to twenty. It’s also a “clothing optional” beach. So too much staring from the lineup may result in a set wave on the head if you’re not careful.

Lower Trestles

Location: Orange County, California
Best Season: Any
Best Swell Direction: South, Southwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Lowers is certainly the apex of high-performance surfing in Southern California. It’s a yearly stop on the professional world tour, hosts some of the best waves in the region, and serves as a daily proving ground for Southern California’s “sponsor me” surf culture. The wave is peak action, breaking both right and left in an almost perfect fashion every time thanks to its packed sand and river rock bottom. Patience is key, however, as you’re more likely to pick the winning Powerball ticket than surf this place uncrowded. However, if you do get one to yourself, you’re in for one of the best rides around.

Huntington Beach

Location: Orange County, California
Best Season: Fall
Best Swell Direction: Steep Southeast, South, Southwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

If Trestles represents the unassuming hardcore surfer pursuing self-improvement, then Huntington Beach is the boisterous surf scene kid that that needs attention. Welcome to surf city. Huntington Beach is home to everything surf and the place wants you to know it. The waves at the pier can be all time on the right southwest swell and the vast state park to the south offers plentiful peaks amongst the sand dunes. On the right swell, however, Huntington will light up with left and right barrels that will make you forget all about the circus on the beach, that is until you look east.

Rincon

Location: Santa Barbara, California
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Waves rarely get better than this; not just in SoCal but the world over. When it’s on, Rincon is world class and the world knows it too. On the right swell, and with a bit of luck, this reeling right-hander will propel you alongside the 101 freeway for up to 300 yards. Yup, three football fields of leg-noodling turns and barrel sections that will totally make up for the hour you spent in the water waiting your turn. It works through the winter months as northwest swells come racing down out of the North Pacific and wrap gently around Point Conception; truly a marvel to behold.

Central California

Flickr: Anthony_Goto

Traveling up the coast from Santa Barbara, when all of a sudden you notice the absence of palm trees, over-the-top luxury vehicles, and botox-clad soccer moms, you know you’ve made it to Central California. This humble, less developed region hosts beauty like no other if you’re smart enough to take the Pacific Coast Highway instead of the more convenient 5. Steep cliff faces, untouched coastline, and old-school soul surfers pepper the lineup in black wetsuits. Beauty doesn’t come without a price, however, as the locals here take strong pride in their backyards breaks. So if you do make a stop, remember that respect is paramount.

Morro Bay

Location: San Louis Obispo, California
Best Season: Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: Southwest, West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Home to the famous 576-foot tall Morro Rock, this small town sits adjacent to a state preserve for the area’s peregrine falcon. And with such untouched ocean landscape, in addition to the Morro Rock sandbars, this west facing beach picks up almost any swell that’s thrown its way, converting that energy into a mile of feathering lefts and rights that will make any visiting surfer gleam with joy.

Moss Landing

Location: Monterey, California
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Best Swell Direction: Southwest, West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

If you’ve come west looking for a sand-grinding beach break that will take you breath away in more ways than one then Moss Landing is your spot. Located just south of Santa Cruz, Moss Landing funnels in swells from the west during the winter that are groomed and met gracefully with offshore winds blowing out of the Salinas Valley. The result is a near perfect peeler every time which can hold a bit of size as well for those winter warriors looking for a cold-water thrill ride.

Pleasure Point

Location: Santa Cruz, California
Best Season: Any
Best Swell Direction: Southwest, West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Welcome to Santa Cruz, a laid-back and beautiful surf town that captures the essence and scenery of Central California. It’s the last stop on the way north to the bustling money pit of San Francisco so if you’re fortunate enough to make it into town, Pleasure Point will certainly live up to its namesake. The wave offers something for every wave rider and breaks right along the coast with several peaks for takeoff. Access is simple and on some sets, you can literally catch a wave to the stairs and be eating a post-session breakfast burrito in no time.

Steamer Lane

Location: Santa Cruz, California
Best Season: Any
Best Swell Direction: West, South, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Just around the corner from Pleasure Point is one of the most popular waves California, Steamer Lane, which breaks off a cliff face atop a rock reef bottom. It’s one of the most revered waves in California simply because of it’s potential for perfection. It can hold size up to 20 feet and some of the regions (albeit worlds) best and most innovative surfers can be found surfing here on a regular basis. Raw west and northwest swells bend around Monterey Bay and into the Lane making for clean, and perfect right-handers (lefts when it’s big) that rarely go unridden.

Northern California

We all know Northern California for its alternative culture and scenic landscapes. But the area is also home to some serious North Pacific juice. Hosting a world-class big waves spot and several other beaches that hold surf that’s nothing to shy away from, Northern California may be far from the sunny beaches to the south but the quality of the surf is definitely there. The weather is cold, the water colder and they have a bit of a shark problem but when you’re standing on the beach watching near perfect overhead peaks thunder upon the shoreline are you really going to let a little chilly water and man-eating fish stop you from snagging the wave your life? We didn’t think so.

Mavericks

Location: San Mateo, California
Best Season: Winter, Fall, Spring
Best Swell Direction: West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

The big wave arena. The proving grounds. The eighth wonder of the world. Deadly in every sense of the word but awe-inspiring in its nature. Like an Edgar Allen Poe poem we surfers are drawn to Maverick’s morbid nature, knowing that one wrong mistake could be terminal while patience and diligence will yield the best wave of their lives. Guaranteed. Mavericks is truly a big-wave spot in every sense, not even breaking until sizes reach the 20-foot range. It’ll hold size upwards of 40-50 feet and when all the elements come together, it’s a mean, clean monster of a wave that’ll make even the most experienced surfer quiver in their neoprene suit. Not for the faint of heart, but a must-see nonetheless.

Fort Point

Location: San Francisco, California
Best Season: Winter
Best Swell Direction: West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

If I told you there was a wave the broke under the Golden Gate Bridge you probably wouldn’t believe me. Which is probably a good thing considering the local population has this place wired. However, if you play your cards right, you might just end up riding this left-hander that wraps around a mini point and into the cove on the inside. Winter is the best season here and it serves as a wind-protected safe haven from the unruly and raw large winter swells that blow through the more exposed beaches.

Ocean Beach

Location: San Francisco, California
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: SouthWest, West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Surfing in Ocean Beach is the ultimate endurance test for any surfer. The water is a balmy 52 degrees, large surf breaks way outside forcing you to paddle-battle your way almost 100 yards out to sea but, once you make it, Ocean Beach offers some of the best beach break waves around. We’re talking perfect left and right peaks that will hold up on the right swell with a big open face for carving and barrel sections that rival the world’s best. It’s a workout though. And the cold water will no doubt take a toll after a short while.

Humboldt Harbor Entrance

Location: Humboldt, California
Best Season: Fall, Winter
Best Swell Direction: West, Northwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

These days Humboldt is known more for its crops than the surf. However, the harbor entrance does offer plenty of fun surf on a regular basis. Just ask the stoned local surf population from the nearby state university. The harbor entrance is located between the north and south jetties and is rideable anywhere from 6-20 feet. When it’s on, the sand bottom churns out a heavy Hawaii-like left and a sand-sucking, dredging right. Not for the inexperienced but easily world-class with it’s working.

Pacific Northwest

Flickr: Ian Sane

Out here is God’s country. Lush evergreen rainforests, mountainous terrains and misty, salt-soaked cliff faces adorn the coastline. Rock pilings and rich kelp forests pepper the beaches, breaking up the incoming swell and acting as safe havens for marine life seeking shelter from the area’s more predatory fish. Sunshine may be rare but the scenery is something to behold. So go ahead, channel your favorite Kerouac character, forget about the hustle and bustle of daily life, and embrace the notion of freedom. That is until you regain cellular service.

Lincoln City

Location: Lincoln County, Oregon
Best Season: Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: West
Current Conditions: Surf Report

With any spot in this region of the country, summertime is the best season as winter can be a relentless onslaught of rain and wind. Summer offers a bit of reprieve from this weather pattern and softer, more playful waves follow suit. It’s mostly a beach break but offers a rock shelf that produces a bit of heavier wave for more advanced surfers near the main parking area. There are several other spots in the area as well that are a little less well-known but accessible for the adventurous spirit.

Pacific City

Location: Tillamook County, Oregon
Best Season: Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: North, South, West
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Don’t let the name fool you. Pacific City isn’t much of a metropolis at all. It’s more of a seasonal beach town that sprang up around an older fishing village. It boasts a bit of a funky sand-bottomed surf spot that produces semi-consistently. The shape of the waves are generally soft and inviting but can get a bit unruly when the outside starts to break on larger swells. There’s a surf contest held every August as well so be sure to check it out if you’re interested in witnessing the Oregon surf culture.

Cannon Beach

Location: Clatsop County, Oregon
Best Season: Summer, Fall
Best Swell Direction: West
Current Conditions: Surf Report

When you picture an Oregon beach, odds are you’re conjuring up an image that resembles the scenery of Cannon Beach. The waves themselves may leave something to be desired but the vegetation and landscapes here definitely warrant a stop. The beach is broken up with oversized sea stacks, leftover from the eons of erosions from the relentless North Pacific and driftwood is strewn across the sand like the remaining phalanges from tree branches of years past. Better surf can be found towards Ecola Creek, but tends to get a bit crowded.

La Push

Location: Clallam County, Washington
Best Season: Summer
Best Swell Direction: Southwest
Current Conditions: Surf Report

Located in the Native American dominated region of Northwest Washington state, La Push is one of those breaks that’s been under-researched and under surfed due to limited access. However, with an inkling for adventure, you’ll find yourself searching for surf within the untouched landscape of the northerner-most region of the contiguous United States in a temperate rainforest that hosts vegetation upwards of 500 years old. La Push is part of a 14-mile beach detour Highway 101 takes before jutting back into the forest so be on the lookout for any special honey holes in the region. Odds are you’ll be surfing alone.

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