Surf’s Up on North Carolina’s Outer Banks

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Surfers play in the waves off the coast of Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks.

If you live in North Carolina, there is no need to travel thousands of miles to find some of the best surfing conditions. They seem to be right off the Outer Banks.

“Our surf is being compared with Hawaii and California all the time. It’s become the mecca of East Coast surfing. That’s where everybody wants to come,” says Michael Payne, director of the Outer Banks District of the Eastern Surfing Association.

Surf’s Up! Payne explained why the Outer Banks offers such great surfing conditions and why it’s been the site of  the Eastern Surfing Championships for the past 44 years.

“We’re just warm enough that they’ll be comfortable and we get the wave size that Florida doesn’t get  and New Jersey doesn’t get either,” Payne says.

“We have a lot better quality waves just because the continental shelf runs so close to our shoreline,” he  adds. “It’s more like a Hawaii or California where they have deep water so close to their coastline. We  get the same thing. Plus we’re centrally located on the East Coast. It makes it good all around for  people to get here.”Surf’s Up!

Avid surfers often end up either at Cape Hatteras or Rodanthe, especially when the championships arrive during the third week of September. Payne indicates surfers from as far away as Puerto Rico and as old as 80 come to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for hearty competition.

“We’ve had 15-year-olds signing $50,000 professional contracts after the Easterns. That’s how good the competition is,” Payne says.

The Outer Banks also offers surfing conditions for the beginner, too. Hyde County Farm Bureau member Bob Chestnutt and his wife, Jane, moved to remote Ocracoke Island 13 years ago with their two children to open Ride the Wind Surf Shop.

Hyde County Farm Bureau members Bob and Jane Chestnutt“The biggest single thing about Ocracoke and surfing is it’s not crowded,” Chestnutt says. “You go to a lot of places, and it’s so crowded that they have to have rules about how you can surf and when you can surf. Here on Ocracoke, it’s safe for somebody who is new.”

And when beginners get a taste of what surfing can be like, Chestnutt says, “It’s very addictive. If they actually stand up on a wave, the feeling they get from it is so awesome and incredible they’ll work hard on their own to do it again.”

And quite possibly, they’ll return to the Outer Banks to get that thrill again, too.

“Surfing on the Outer Banks is just special,” Chestnutt says.

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