Where to Surf in the South

Three experts share their favorite spots to ride the waves

Photo: Stefanie Keeler

SurfearNEGRA's founder and executive director, Gigi Lucas.

The long, warm days of summer are slowly coming to an end, which means prime surfing season is rolling in. In the South, the fall months (not coincidentally, hurricane season) generally bring the best Atlantic swells. And according to experts, these are the best places to find them:

New Smyrna Beach, Florida 

This surfing mecca on Florida’s central Atlantic coast is a favorite spot of Gigi Lucas, founder and executive director of SurfearNEGRA, an organization that supports cultural and gender diversity in the sport. “There are usually pretty fun waves, with the added bonus of dodging sharks to spice up your surf session,” she says. Even if shark-dodging doesn’t sound like a perk to you, count on consistent waves thanks to rocky ledges off the seventeen-mile stretch of white-sand coast.

Delray Beach, Florida 

This small beach town in Palm Beach County is home to a great art scene as well as great surfing. “I love the tropical, blue waters of Delray Beach,”says Charleston-based professional surfer Donnie Watson. “The waves hold up really well when you have a good swell that comes through.” If you spot the sandbar at the south end of the beach, hop on your board and catch some of the best waves the Atlantic has to offer.

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Cape Hatteras, North Carolina 

This Outer Banks destination is home to the tallest brick lighthouse in the country, which presides over a shipwreck-prone stretch of sea nicknamed the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” These waters are also an all-time favorite spot for surfers around the South.  The small village of Buxton on the very edge of Hatteras Island is where you are likely to find the best action. “That is where the jet stream is closer, therefore it gets a lot bigger swell and powerful waves,” Watson says.

Kure Beach, North Carolina

Just a fifteen-minute drive from Wilmington, the quiet town of Kure Beach is home to some of the finest surfing and clearest waters in North Carolina.When all the ingredients are right, it is unreal. It is one of my favorites by far,” says Watson, who compares the waves to those of Central America’s Pacific. Kure Beach’s several historic landmarks, including the oldest fishing pier on the Atlantic, are an added bonus. 

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Folly Beach, South Carolina
For Charleston native Kyle Busey, a professional surfer and owner of three water sports companies, it’s natural that the small beach town just down the road from the Holy City is one of his favorites. “It’s close to home and it feels like home. You really aren’t going to find a more consistent spot,” Busey says. You can find many Folly surfers at “the Washout,” a flattened area formed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that’s famous for its strong winds, which turn out even stronger waves.