Surfing in Outer Banks
The Outer Banks of North Carolina have the largest waves on the East Coast of the United States, a reputation known well by surfers the world over.
Cape Hatteras juts nearly 30 miles out from the mainland, the chin of a sandy barrier island carved out from the edge of the continental shelf by two massive ocean currents, the cool Labrador coming down from the North and the warm Gulf Stream swinging up from the South. The “OBX” as it’s called by fans, has a coastline uniquely situated to receive swells from multiple directions. Wintertime gives excellent conditions along our east facing beaches while the summertime swells sweep into the south side beaches.
Cape Hatteras is synonymous with big swells and the place on the East Coast to test your mettle and finesse on the water. The unbridled nature of the barrier islands of North Carolina make the Outer Banks the perfect playground for surfers and those who love them. There’s no shortage of places to see and be seen when chasing wave action. Even those who don’t surf, and just want to watch will be in awe of the power of the sea and the skill of the people who harness it. Bring a board or a camera and come on!
The same geologic and meteorological forces that shaped the dynamic barrier islands tens of thousands of years ago are still at work, twisting and torquing the shoreline. Bowing way out into the Atlantic Ocean as the Outer Banks do, waves can come from any number of directions with little reduction in energy. That means huge surf that looks like it was carved from glass can shape into a great weekend of surfing for you at short notice, and that’s why surfers from all across America race to the Outer Banks each season.
Men and women from Miami to Toronto make the summer, fall, winter and spring migrations to local hotspots like the “S-Turns” on Highway 12 in Rodanthe, or Cape Hatteras and a few lesser known public accesses in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills where the carving can be just as sweet. Combine an offshore wind with double-overhead conditions, or glassy spitting barrels and you have all the makings of a magazine cover. The word is getting out. We’ve got contests big and small, some pro, some under-the-radar. Keep checking in with outerbanks.org for all the latest events this season.
There are a number of surfing competitions on the Outer Banks that inspire, challenge, uplift, and celebrate the Outer Banks surf culture.
Held every year in late August-early September, the Wave Riding Vehicles Outer Banks Pro found its home in 2009 with the completion of the new Jennette's Pier in Nags Head. The pier's stellar views and its ample parking both add to what has become the most core surf contest on the east coast. Its eco-conscious design supports ocean ecosystem conservation and awareness. The WRV Outer Banks Pro is an official WSL QS1000 event drawing top rated surfers from around the globe to the unique coastline of Outer Banks of North Carolina. We look forward to a great contest with a smoking swell.
The largest amateur surfing organization in the world hosts the season's "grand finale" where the best of the best surfers go head to head at Jennette's Pier in Nags Head every September.
Down the Road is an annual surf festival in Kitty Hawk, NC. Celebrating Outer Banks surfing history and culture. From the beginning they wanted to create a unique way to bring together community and give folks a platform to show off their surfing ability, art, and music. Their goal is to host an annual festival that brings together all facets of the surf community from Pro surfers, that old guy you see in the parking lot talking about the surf but never surfing, to the kid who just moved here and wants to learn to surf.
Presented by Cucalorus and the Dare County Arts Council, Surfalorous is a three-day celebration of coastal North Carolina marine culture. Surfalorus is a fun-and-sun filled cinematic synthesis of all things aquatic, showcasing the year’s hottest surf films and ocean documentaries with a series of outdoor sunset screenings and accompanying festivities. Check their schedule online for times and locations of each film.