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Hatteras & Ocracoke Area Features

Surfing Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands

  By: Bob Chestnut

Working on your surfing destination checklist? Well, once you cross the Oregon Inlet Bridge, you’ve reached the epicenter of East Coast surfing. From Hatteras to Ocracoke, you’ll find beaches that can handle just about any swell direction the Atlantic can throw your way. Combine that with summer water temps from 75-82º, and you’re in surfing heaven.

You have a choice of ways to find your waves. You can simply pull off the road and walk over the dunes, since access to the beach is easy and plentiful on both Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. If you’ve got 4WD, you can get an off-road vehicle (ORV) permit from the National Park Service and drive on the beach. Otherwise, you can pull off at one of the numerous parking areas along Hwy. 12 and check out the surroundings. (Ocracoke Island has the best of both worlds. The north end is narrow and there are plenty of places to just pull over and go to the beach. There are also numerous parking areas where you can congregate with other surfers. The south end is best reached via 4WD and a beach permit.)

Here are a couple of tips. Our beaches in June and most of July are awesome for playing, but they have the smallest waves of the year. Late summer and fall bring the tropical lows and storms of hurricane season. Time to break out the performance board! East Coast surfers live for this time of year. The low-pressure systems that pass along the coast provide clean (and on occasion, double overhead and bigger) waves. If you’re a beginner, use good common sense. Storm swell is for experienced surfers only!

Be advised, though, that big surf often means problems on Hwy. 12. Stay tuned to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for road flooding and washover announcements. NCDOT has Twitter accounts for both Hwy. 12 and the ferry that are perfect for catching up-to-date info.

Looking for gear? It’s becoming harder and harder to travel with your own surfboard. Nobody wants to drive eight hours with a surfboard rattling up top and killing your fuel economy, and if you’re flying ... forget about it! From Rodanthe to Ocracoke are shops that will rent you the latest in quality boards. Typically you’ll find soft boards, hard epoxy boards, and a few premium boards for those thinking about an eventual purchase. Many shops that provide rentals also provide instruction and plenty of free advice. When the waves are good, the rental boards go fast!

My last bit of advice is how to keep our island surf culture the way it is now, friendly and inviting. For the most part, our breaks don’t have the pressure of more populated areas. You don’t need to rush or be aggressive – there are plenty of waves to go around. If one peak gets a little crowded, just move up or down the beach a little and find your own spot. Remember to be respectful of your fellow surfers. That attitude is what really makes our beaches special. See you in the water.

Hatteras Internet Surfer Board

Internet Surf Report: www.surfocracoke.com
Surf Reports: Mon.-Fri. on 99.1, The Sound.
Wave Research: www.frf.usace.army.mil
Information about the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA): www.surfesa.org

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