The Best Surfing Destinations in the U.S.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Marcela DeVivo

So, you’re eager for a whistle stop tour of the best surfing towns in the country? Luckily, the U.S. is rich in break-friendly coastlines that allure surfers from around the world. While spots that produce that mythic “perfect wave” can be very tiny indeed, they tend to come in clusters, making beach-hopping a doable option. From the famous to local secrets, from the mild to the menacing, here is a quick guide to Surfing U.S.A.

Southern California/Orange County

They don’t call Huntington Beach “Surf City” for nothing. The waves at this legendary Orange County location are famed for their surf-perfect breaking, making them easy to catch, even for newbies. For professionals and fans, HB is home to both the OP Pro Tournament and the International Surfing Championship (Insider’s tip: hit the south side of the HB Pier during winter when the winds are lower while the waves are higher).

Just as exciting are San Clemente’s Trestles, two separate breaks that offer waves some surf mavens like to skate ramps.  While it’s a relative stretch from the OC, Malibu is essential for surfing fans. Surfrider Beach and County Line are the stuff of beachhead lore, and Malibu is one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere.

Image Courtesy of David Corby/Wikimedia Commons

Image Courtesy of David Corby/Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco 

Southern California may get most of the surfing glory, but NoCal has some excellent breaks of its own. In particular, SF’s Fort Point is a unique boarding experience.  Right under the Golden Gate Bridge, big swells from the bay curl around the point, making for massive waves.

Marin Country is filled with great surf spots, but two are highly recommended.  On one extreme, Fort Cronkhite is a dizzyingly fast and steep break that beginners might want to hold off on. Instead, nearby Bolinas is a great place to learn the ropes. Its waves are as mellow and steady as Cronkhite’s are intense and a favorite among longboarders.

South Florida

The coast of South Florida is studded with prime places to surf, perhaps the most famous of which is Fort Worth.  Reef Road is a particularly excellent spot, with its wildly right and left barrel breaks.

From Palm Beach, if you head north or south along the coastline you’re headed for still more endless summer beachfront.  Vero Beach’s Sebastian Inlet (or simply “the Inlet,” as its fans call it) is a haven for the hardcore competitive crowd, and features three distinct peaks.  Nearby Cocoa Beach is a mainstay as well:  it’s the site of the famous Ron Jon surf shop and home of nine time world champion Kelly Slater. In the other direction, surfers won’t want to miss the long, reliable and fast waves at Second Street in the Pompanos.

Jumping from the Atlantic to the Gulf, you’ll still find plenty of prime surf beaches, though the breaks are of a different flavor than the so-called “typhoon coast” back east.  Since they are less known, the Gulf’s surfing spots have less crowded shorelines.

Pensacola’s various beaches are sand bottom beach breaks, as are most of the beaches in West Florida, which means they’re steadier, more reliable and great for novices. The Fort Walton/Destin hub is also recommended, particular near Henderson State Beach State Park. This is a popular spot and great place to take lessons; you can find a Destin condo rental that offer a relaxing environment for both individuals and families alike.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Maui’s Jaws (“Pe’ahi” in Hawaiian) is one of the most treacherous places to surf in the world.  Rumors of waves cresting over 100 feet bring in surfers from across the planet.  Thrillseekers won’t want to miss Jaws, a location so challenging that few could reach it before the days of tow-in surfing. Intrepid adrenaline junkies should also try out the legendary Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu.

As breathtaking as Jaws may be, its waves are highly unpredictable, a deal-breaker for visitors. Furthermore, its fame generates such crowds that locals have resorted to blockading entrance roads with abandoned cars. If this sounds too extreme, vacationers should island-hop to Ke’ia on Big Island. Because Hawaii’s main island has so few ideal surf spots, Ke’ei is still a relative secret. With waves formed by a 300-foot underwater reef, Ke’ei offers long and more predictable rides.

Rockaway Beach, NY

The mention of New York City can bring a variety of associations to mind, but chances are surfing isn’t one of them.  Even native New Yorkers are more likely to think of Queens’s Rockaway Beach as the title of a Ramones song, not a surfing destination, but Rockaway attracts surfers year round.  Seasoned surfers not afraid of icy water are especially fond of the higher, more difficult waves presented by the Atlantic in winter.

For out of towners set on a full New York surf tour, Long Island is peppered with other prime coastline, notable the easily accessible Long Beach.

Whether you are a novice or professional surfer, one of these locations is bound to offer you the time of your life.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Southern California whose writing covers everything from marketing and social media, to health and beauty, to technology and manufacturing. In her free time, she loves going to the beach with her family to catch some sun and a wave or two.

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