Surfing The OBX
If baking idly in a beach chair isn’t your idea of an invigorating shore excursion, head east this summer to find what is arguably the best surfing action this side of the Mississippi – board, wind and kite.
Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is known for a consistent, superior swell on the beach side and premiere windsurfing and kiteboarding on its bayside (the Pamlico Sound). While fall and winter produce the largest waves, summer is an ideal time for beginners to learn, and intermediates to hone their skills.
To find out more about this sporting outpost and why its surf is unique, we caught up with Ross Byrd, owner of popular local youth camp, Surf Hatteras, and longtime local wave rider
“Great waves are generally a factor of swell, wind and bathymetry (the ocean floor) – the quicker the depth shallows, the better. For a lot of East Coast beaches, the broad continental shelf prevents a rapid depth shift, hence less consistent surf. Hatteras Island, however, is closer to deep water because of its far easterly location on the shelf. This, plus all the wind we get out here, makes this a standout surf spot on the eastern seaboard.”
Officially, the island is made up of seven small towns, though many condense that list to five: Rodanthe, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras. Of the group, Ross suggests scouting the surf in Rodanthe and Buxton first. “Both offer great east-facing beaches, which will capture swells from the north and south. The lighthouse in Buxton and S-Turns on the north side of Rodanthe are two of the best-known spots on the island for surf, and both are worth checking out.”
Part of the beauty of the jagged cape is the diversity. “If we go out one morning and it’s choppy because the wind’s wrong [in Buxton or Rodanthe], we might head down to the more south-facing beaches of Frisco, Hatteras or even across the inlet to Ocracoke, and it’ll be glassy. As a plus, these beaches typically have a bit greener, warmer water from the Gulf Stream, making them favorites of mine.”
As for securing equipment and booking a lesson, Ross recommends Rodanthe Surf Shop, Natural Art surf shop in Buxton, or the Outer Banks Boarding Company up the road in Nags Head. “If you’re in the area, make sure to go by and visit with Scott [at Natural Art]. He’s a true artist and well-known board maker; it’s fascinating to watch his process and the care he puts into sculpting each board. Plus, he’s just a great guy.” For kiteboarding, check out Real Watersports in Rodanthe.
Hatteras is still quite undeveloped, aside from a plethora of beach houses for rent, which is part of the charm for most. There’s a Food Lion in Avon for provisioning; Café 12 and the Atlantic Coast Café are two popular spots for fresh fish and suds. “It’s pretty simple out here, no shopping malls or high-rises, just consistent waves and plenty of time for surfing and family. That makes it special.”