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Newbies Surf Guide to New England

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:37pm 1 Comment

Secretly I’ve always wanted to be a surfer girl…catching waves until I’m tired, playing frisbee on the beach with my dog, sleeping under the sun, making a bonfire with friends at the end of the day, and let us not forget the 100s of pairs of cute flip flops and tank tops I would own.

Cape Cod National Seashore this weekend

I got the surfing bug when I visited Hawaii in January of last year. The warm water off Waikiki Beach had waves you could ride forever. It was the perfect place to strap a big piece of plastic to your ankle and try to outsmart mother nature.

High off my Hawaiian adventure, I came back to New England in search of the surf. What I found in the Northern Atlantic Ocean was quite different: 59 degree water, frozen hands, and waves that broke too close to shore and my spirit. This was definitely not a Beach Blanket Bingo fantasy come to life. If it was, I’d be sandwiched in between Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello to keep me warm.

Since my first Cape Cod surf experience, I’ve learned that you CAN have a blast surfing in New England, you just have to be prepared. Here is my Newbie Surf Guide to New England:

  1. Watch the waves. The waves aren’t as bountiful in New England as they are in other places, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. For beginners, small waves (1-2 feet) are perfect. Be sure to check the weather and get a surf forecast online from sites like Magic Seaweed before heading to the beach.
  2. Get lessons. The instructors will show you exactly what to do on shore before you head onto the ocean. They’ll also tell you specifics about the beach that you’re surfing on, such as where the big rocks are and currents to watch out for. I took my first New England lessons from the folks at the Pump House Surf Shop in Orleans, MA. You can find a list of surf shops throughout New England at
  3. Use a soft top surf board, sometimes called “foamies”. Yes, you CAN use your friends sweet fiberglass board if you enjoy being frustrated, but soft tops make for a much more enjoyable ride for beginners. They are more bouyant and stable, making the chances of you catching a wave on your first time out much greater. Adults typically use 8 foot boards and kids typically use 6 foot boards.
  4. Wet suits are a must! Spending the extra $10 a day to rent a full wet suit will help keep you warm. There isn’t anything worse than shivering in the water while looking out for the next wave. Wet suits come in different thicknesses and sizes. Having the proper fit is crucial. The suit should be snug so you aren’t storing gallons of water, but loose enough to not cut off your circulation.

From Old Orchard Beach in Maine to Second Beach in Newport, RI, there are a suprising number of places where you can experience the thrill of riding a wave. While some of the best surf spots are kept secret by their keepers, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a surfer girl or guy in New England. So get out there, head to the beach, and have fun!


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Just in case anyone is wondering where some good spots to surf are here are maps guiding you to surf spots in New England:

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