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Surfing Lingo • Where to Surf

surfing - north shore oahu hawaii In the USA, ocean surfing is popular along certain Hawaiian beaches as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean coastlines of the North American continent.  In Hawaii, surfers enjoy the waves on the southern coasts of Oahu and Kauai during the summer months, and experienced surfers visit the north shore beaches of Oahu during the winter months.  Along the Atlantic Ocean coastline, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are a popular surfing destination, while the Southern California coastline has long been a year-round haven for surfers.  Several cities and towns are noted for their surfing beaches and lifestyle, including Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz in California, Avon and Buxton in North Carolina, Surf City in New Jersey, and even Tofino in British Columbia, Canada.  Outside North America, popular surfing destinations include the Canary Islands, South Africa, and the east coast of Australia.  WannaSurf features a surfing atlas, which describes surfing destinations around the world.

surfing - canary islands Choosing the right place to surf can mean the difference between a good experience and a bad one.  Of course you'll need a beach to surf, but since there are many types of beaches, with all different patterns and sizes of waves, you might need a little help figuring out what to look for.  As a general rule, beginning surfers should look for sandy beaches that slope gently to the water, with waist-high waves that break gently and roll evenly toward the shore.  Beaches with lots of rocks, as well as beaches where the waves break right on the beach, are not good choices.  Remember when picking your beach that safety is paramount.

A Surfer Catches a Breaking Wave in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii

Once you think you've found a beach, take a good look at the waves before you paddle out.  Waves come in many sizes, and they break in all sorts of patterns.  Wind, tide, and swell conditions will all affect waves, but none more so than wind.  Offshore wind, blowing toward the shore in the same direction as the waves, creates choppy, unpredictable waves.  Onshore wind, blowing out from shore against the direction of the waves, creates smooth, graceful waves.

surfing lessons Beginners will want to try surfing in gently breaking waves rather than violently breaking ones.  Look for small waves that wash softly toward a beach which has a shallow slope dipping off below the surface of the water.  The bottom of the ocean should also slope off evenly away from the beach.  There should be no deep-water troughs, and you should be able to easily walk out to knee or waist level.

Before you choose your beach, learn how to recognize longshore and rip currents.  Beginning surfers should never surf in rip currents.  Even advanced surfers should not surf near jetties or breakwaters!  Remember, the key to an enjoyable surfing experience is a safe one.

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Where To Surf

girl enters the ocean carrying her surfboard
Surfer Girl and Surfboard