Like a number of hotspots along the Cape Fear Coastline, Carolina Beach is a favorite destination for East Coast surfers.
Only rivaling only its neighbor to the north, Wrightsville Beach, in terms of local popularity for southern North Carolina surfers, this beach town features a wide range of beaches to choose from, as well as traditionally gentler waves in the summer months that are great for beginners.
As a result, visitors who’ve always dreamed about the surfing lifestyle – or who just wanted to see what all the fuss is about - will feel right at home at this vacation destination where daily life revolves around the beach.
Where to Go Surfing in Carolina Beach
There are ample options for surfers in Carolina Beach, regardless of skill level or expertise.
Newcomers will likely want to head to the local lifeguarded beaches, (there are roughly 20 lifeguard stands in a three-mile long stretch of shoreline in the summer season), to ensure safety and to enjoy smaller waves that are perfect for beginners. Lifeguards are available from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and generally from roughly 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. or so, depending on the spot.
More experienced surfers who want a little more of a challenge – even if the overall terrain is flat in the Carolina Beach waters – will want to go to the beaches close to the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, which have become a hotbed for visiting and local surfing vacationers alike.
Regardless of where you go, Carolina Beach’s waves are generally optimal for longboard fans and surfing newcomers, although the area can experience a nice swell when a seasonal hurricane or nor’easter passes miles offshore.
Expect leisurely rides throughout the year and a little bit of competition for the good waves. Surfing is popular in this region of NC, and many Wilmington residents and inlanders will make a trek to the beach for the day if the waves are exceptional.
Surf Lessons in Carolina Beach
Carolina Beach is a fantastic destination for beginning surfers, thanks to a shallow and gently sloping ocean floor, generally small waves in the summer months, and ample wide beaches for preparation. As such, it should come as no surprise that there are a number of local surfing schools and instruction options available for people who want to learn.
One of the most popular local schools, the Tony Silvagni Surf School, has one of the best teacher-to-student rations in the area, (with an average of “one teacher for every two students”), and as such, offers a wide range of classes that can range from adults who want to hone their skills, to kids who want to try a new adventure. Additional options, like Odysea Surf and Kiteboard School, or a number of private instructors that can often be contacted through local surf shops, are also available, making it easy to take a willingness to learn to the next level.
Instruction can range from 1-2 hours on the beach to full-day camps where all the fundamentals are covered (and then some.) Surf lessons and camps are prevalent throughout the summer season, Memorial Day through Labor Day, and additional shoulder season options may be available as well – specifically in the spring and fall months – when swells can be bigger and more challenging. Most all equipment is accounted for at a surf lesson or camp, although surfers will want to bring along plenty of sunscreen fort he adventure.
Surf Rentals and Surf Shops in Carolina Beach
There are a number of surfboard and equipment rental providers, as well as surf shops, which are dotted throughout Carolina Beach, and especially along its “main drag” of Business US 421.
Local surf shops offer new boards for sale, as well as a suite of accessories that can make a surfing adventure easier despite the weather conditions, such as full wet suits or spring suits, surf wax, sunglasses, flip flops, and other must haves. In addition, visitors who just want to invoke the surf vibe will find a number of name-brand apparel and accessories such as Rusty, Quicksilver / Roxy, Reef, and more, which are all famed companies that specialize in apparel, footwear, and accessories that are perfect for life at the beach.
As for rentals, a number of local establishments, like Pleasure Island Rentals, offer a host of beach gear supplies which can include surfboards and extras like wet suits. Surf board rentals can be available for a few hours, a day, or even a full week, and can be ordered in advance online for extra convenience.
For a great deal on new or used boards, shoppers will want to hit the local surf shops in the mid to late fall season. During this timeframe, local rental providers may offer used rentals at a steep discount, while new boards from the current year may be available at a much lower price to make room for the upcoming year’s merchandise.
Regardless of where you land, the casual scene of the local surf shops – as well as a myriad of additional options in nearby towns like Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington – makes it easy to get everything you need to enjoy endless surfing along the Cape Fear shoreline.
Surfing Events and Competitions in Carolina Beach
There are a number of surfing events which periodically land on Carolina Beach, and which have the potential to attract the “best of the best” surfers from all across the East Coast.
The Eastern Surfing Association, (or ESA), is dedicated to the sport of amateur surfing, and has been attracting surfers from all over the Eastern Seaboard since it was first established in 1967. The organization hosts a number of events in the Carolina Beach region, which includes a HotWax Challenge in March, a 17th Street Shred Fest in August, and a Wahine Classic in the late summer / early fall. In addition, it’s not unusual for special events – which can include regional competitions – to be held in the Carolina Beach area if the conditions are right. For a full schedule of upcoming ESA events, visit http://esa-snc.com/calendar/.
In addition, Carolina Beach is home to a new event that’s already gaining steam, the Carolina Beach Longboard Club Surf Contest. Held in the spring, and featuring a Guppies Division, an Amateur Division(s) and a Professional Division with a hefty Men's Pro Longboard Cash Purse, this surfing tournament is poised to put a spotlight on local Cape Fear surfing at its best.
Regardless of a visitor’s surfing pursuits, the sheer number of tournaments that arrive on the Carolina Beach shores make it an enticing destination for visitors who want to join in, or just take a back seat and watch the action. Best of all, with steadily warm waters throughout the year, virtually any visit can be a great time to catch a surf tournament or two on Carolina Beach.
Tips and Tricks for Surfing in Carolina Beach
- Like gentle waves that are perfect for longboards? Stick to summer. With nice wide sandbars and shallow waves, the town is perfect for easy riders in the warm weather months.
- Like more of a challenge? Keep an eye on storm forecasts. When mid-Atlantic hurricanes start appearing off the coastline, the waves pick up to present some challenging and fun conditions for seasoned surfers.
- Watch out for other beach-goers. Summertime is hopping in Carolina Beach, so find more secluded shorelines in order to avoid a collision with swimmers, fishermen, kayakers, and SUP fans.
- Coming for a visit in the winter? A wet suit may be required, but you might be able to leave behind the hoodie. Carolina Beach’s waters stay relatively warm all year round, so pack a full suit and a spring suit, just in case.
- There are tons more watersports to discover in Carolina Beach! Both SUP and kayaking are taking the region by storm, and visitors can easily join in the craze by reserving a lesson, a rental, or both.
Surfing has always been hot on Carolina Beach, and with such a laid back atmosphere, as well as steady summer waves that are ideal for newcomers, it’s easy for new visitors to join in the fun.
Rent a board, book a lesson or camp, and dive into one of the quintessential activities that this beach town is known for. With miles of shoreline to go around, picking up a lifelong surfing habit comes naturally in Carolina Beach.