Longboard Surfing in North Carolina

When the conditions are right, there are plenty of spots in North Carolina where longboarders dominate.
When the conditions are right, there are plenty of spots in North Carolina where longboarders dominate. (Image: Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

The sweet “soul” ride of a longboard is a unique surfing experience. Unlike the shredders on shortboards or even bodyboards who carve up a wave, longboarders beckon back to a time when smooth bottom turns and nose rides were the ultimate surfing thrills. While all waves can be ridden using any type of surfboard, it’s the smaller, slower waves that work best for the longboard enthusiast, and along the 300 miles of North Carolina’s mainland and barrier island beaches, plenty of breaks will fill the bill.

Corolla Beach

The best known surfing beaches in North Carolina are in the Outer Banks, a string of migrating sandy barrier islands extending from Corolla Beach in the north to Cape Hatteras in the south. The constant movement of sand and offshore sandbars vary surf conditions throughout the chain, but in the north, Corolla Beach produces a consistently mellow, regional, classic style of wave. When conditions are right, these 3- to 4-foot breaking barrels produce clean, glassy faces with peeling crests that are perfect for a little toes-on-nose action. Corolla Beach is a public beach, and there is plenty of free parking. It is, however, subject to rip currents and sharks.

Kill Devil Hills

Relatively isolated in the center of the Outer Banks and surrounded by numerous sand bars is Kill Devil Hills. Despite the sinister name, "Surfer" magazine calls this the sixth best surf town in America. That's partly because of attitude, but mostly because of the consistency of the waves produced here. There are flat periods, but when the right swell lands, the result is rolling barrels that hold up quite well. While First Street belongs to the shredders on shortboards and Second Street is dominated by bodyboarders, the area around the Avalon Pier is a favorite of the longboard riders. This peaky beach break is very popular, and can get crowded when it's breaking.

Topsail Island

Topsail Island features 26 miles of white sand beaches, including Topsail Beach, Surf City and Del Mar Beach. The waves break off of sand bars on this barrier island, named by mariners who learned to scan the island’s dunes for the topsails of pirate ships lying in wait for them in the channels. Both lefts and rights with ordinary power roll toward the beach here, but the rides can be long enough to give your toes cramps from hanging over the tip of your nose for so long. While shifting sand can change conditions, the most consistent surf is found around the island‘s three piers, Topsail Beach pier, Surf City pier and the Atlantic pier.

Wrightsville Beach

Close to North Carolina’s southern border is of its most popular spots, Wrightsville Beach. This is a spot that "National Geographic" lists as one of the world’s 20 best surf towns. It’s also a place "Outside" magazine calls one of the best North American beginners' beaches. Not known for their power, the waves at Wrightsville Beach break over a sandy bottom, producing 3- to 6-footers with short ride spans mostly suited for longboarders. This spot fires on a southeast swell, and it’s the home of the Wrightsville Longboard Association.

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