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Newcomers: 10 Best Places To Learn To Surf

The best analogy for incoming surf is to compare them to fingerprints, whereas not two cresting, feathering and subsequently breaking waves are exactly the same. Likewise, it’s quite rare to find two surf spots that are identical in nature. For its the shifting sands underneath, different directions at which these spots face, and the overall vibe that make each individual surf spot on the planet just that: an individual. However, what we can do is study the underwater bathymetry, location, and hazards/or lack thereof to categorize surf spots into several groupings ranging from beginner locations to experts only. This post, as its title indicates, concerns itself with the former.

How did we arrive at this list of 10 you may ask? Well, ease of access is always high on the priority list – as is access to a reputable surf shop to rent the gear. Also, there’s the wave to consider. Ideally, as a beginner you’re going to want to start slow, catching soft mushy waves in the knee to stomach-high range as opposed to heaving overhead top to bottom barrels. It’s also worthwhile to consider what lies beneath. In this case, sand-bottom breaks are ideal for beginners since it’s the most forgiving medium. Needless to say, we stuck with beach breaks for this list as well. At any rate, with summer now in reach, here’s a list of the 10 best places to learn to surf that’ll help you start planning your summer vacation the right way.

Narragansett, Rhode Island

Nestled in a sort of cove just south of the more advanced spots up in Newport, Narragansett is a summer boom town in the purest sense. As for the waves, you won’t find many pros here as they generally lack shape and close out. However, this gentle nature of the surf makes it a great beginner spot for those willing to give it a shot. Just bear in mind that summer traffic can at times be a hassle and the parking fees a bit steep during those peak summer weeks.

Best Season: Summer
Peak Water Temp: 71.3°F
Key Surf Shop: Warm Winds Surf Shop

Belmar, New Jersey

Near Jersey’s northern border with New York lies your typical Jersey beach break with occasionally heavier sessions during hurricane and nor’easter swells. For the most part, though we find softer surf in the warmer summer months that makes this part of Northern New Jersey an ideal and fun environment to catch some warm water waves. Just be sure to respect the locals in this neck of the woods as a reputation for better surf than most east coast spots has led to some territorial vibes in the region.

Best Season: Fall
Peak Water Temp: 74°F
Key Surf Shop: Eastern Lines Surf Shop

Ocean City, MD

With some of the easiest access around, Ocean City is a large metropolis of surf spots and hotels that draw hordes of tourists during peak season. But not to worry, this high demand for fun in the sun results in a myriad of surfboard rentals and private lessons galore in case a little professional advice is in order. Locals are also known for their friendly personalities, and with plenty of spots to choose from you may even get a private peak to yourself in the off-season if you’re lucky.

Best Season: Fall & Winter
Peak Water Temp: 71°F
Key Surf Shop: K-Coast Surf Shop

Virginia Beach, VA

Yes, in case you were wondering, Virginia does, in fact, have a beach. And while coastline may be shorter then most (apart from the Eastern Shore of course) make no mistake, Virginia Beach gets its fair share of summertime tourists as well as the occasional swell (at least by beginner standards). There’s also no shortage of surfboard rentals in the region, and access to a handful of beaches that get stifling hot during mid-summer.

Best Season: Fall & Winter
Peak Water Temp: 78°F
Key Surf Shop: Wave Riding Vehicles

Folly Beach, SC

Even further south you’ll find the quintessentially quaint southern fried town of Folly Beach, SC. Here, the surf is both warm and inviting for beginners practically year-round and the surrounding environment a far cry from the over-developed madness of Myrtle Beach. Best of all, in addition to soft, beginner-friendly waves, world-famous Charleston is only a quick drive inland from the coast.

Best Season: Fall
Peak Water Temp: 85°F
Key Surf Shop: Ocean Surf Shop

Cocoa Beach, FL

Don’t get us wrong, practically the entire coast of Florida is conducive to beginners (barring any hurricane or nor’easter swells during the fall/winter months respectively). That being said, Cocoa Beach by far has the most beginner-friendly vibe thanks to soft surf overall due to its shadowed location next to Cape Canaveral, and it’s hometown hero Mr. Kelly Slater himself. Also, Cocoa Beach is home to one of the largest surf shops in the country – Ron Jon – which practically guarantees you won’t leave empty-handed.

Best Season: Fall & Winter
Peak Water Temp: 86°F
Key Surf Shop: Ron Jon Surf Shop

NLand Austin, TX

If heading to the shoreline for some lessons isn’t in the cards, then you can certainly opt for the artificial wave park located in Austin, Texas. In fact, NLand is actually catered to beginners looking to pick up the sport and the wave itself can be modified to suit particular skill sets. There’s also an onsite surf shop where you can rent boards, and it’s only about a 15-minute drive from the airport. Can’t beat that level of access.

Best Season: Year-Round
Peak Water Temp: 77°F
Key Surf Shop: NLand Surf Shop

La Jolla Shores, San Diego, CA

It’s no secret San Diego hosts a myriad of surf spots from beginner beach breaks to more advanced reef passes. However, by far one of the most frequented places to learn the basics is in La Jolla Shores. Here, gentle surf rolls in atop a flat sand bottom providing an ideal setup for beginners. It’s also where several San Diego surf schools teach on a daily basis, and there’s a full-on park right off the beach making it a family-friendly escape.

Best Season: Winter
Peak Water Temp: 69°F
Key Surf Shop: La Jolla Surf Systems

Huntington Beach, CA

Unofficially dubbed Surf City, USA, Huntington Beach is without a doubt the “jungle” of surf culture. Needless to say, you’ll be surrounded by surf shops, professionals, locals, and beginners looking to hop up for their first time. Such diversity will certainly result in crowded lineups and parking lots, but if you happen to be on vacation in the area, it’s certainly worth a check for the experience if nothing else.

Best Season: Fall
Peak Water Temp: 69°F
Key Surf Shop: Jack’s Surfboards

Cowell’s Beach, Santa Cruz, CA

Right around the corner from the world-famous surf spot Steamer Lane, Cowell’s is known for its beginner-friendly surf and endless entertainment on both the beach and the boardwalk. The town of Santa Cruz is also a tasteful epicenter of surf culture meaning you’ll get the full immersive experience in just a few days stay in this picturesque CA town. Just be sure to rent/buy a wetsuit if you plan on paddling out.

Best Season: Year-Round
Peak Water Temp: 59°F
Key Surf Shop: Cowell’s Surf Shop

The 12 Best Surf Movies

There really is no better way to stay stoked than with the occasional surf flick. As for the best? We recommend any one of these 12 surf movies you’re to watch again and again.