Surfing Turf

By Matt Heid | |

The Rock coast in New England is famous. But when waves march across the Atlantic Ocean and break themselves on the shore in explosive foam, surfers realize it’s also a prime spot to hit the water. Upper-body paddling, the rush of acceleration down an emerald wave, and the joy of being in the ocean’s domain all combine to produce an intoxicating experience. In New England, surfing is heightened by an absence of crowds in the water—especially after Labor Day when summer beachgoers vanish. Most surf sites host nearby surf shops for renting the essentials, like boards and wetsuits.


The Rock coast in New England is famous. But when waves march across the Atlantic Ocean and break themselves on the shore in explosive foam, surfers realize it’s also a prime spot to hit the water. Upper-body paddling, the rush of acceleration down an emerald wave, and the joy of being in the ocean’s domain all combine to produce an intoxicating experience. In New England, surfing is heightened by an absence of crowds in the water—especially after Labor Day when summer beachgoers vanish. Most surf sites host nearby surf shops for renting the essentials, like boards and wetsuits.
The best season for surfing in New England begins in late August and continues deep into winter because summer waves are usually small to nonexistent. Water temperatures peak during late summer in the low 70s and start to cool down, dropping below 50 degrees by early November. A wetsuit is usually necessary for water sports, though you can get away with “trunking it” during the hot season.

MASSACHUSETTS
Good Harbor Beach

This expansive, dune-backed beach in Gloucester is one of the nicest, closest beaches to the Boston metropolitan area. High tide covers an extensive sandbar with waist-to-chest-deep water, making it easy to walk out into the waves or stand up for a breather. A small creek flows into the sea at the south end of the beach, helping create the best waves during mid and high tides. Gloucester Public Works Department, Beach and Recreation, 978-281-9785; www.gloucester-ma.gov.

Cape Cod National Seashore
Fully exposed to Atlantic wave energy, the outer Cape typically harbors larger surf than mainland Massachusetts and is one of the better destinations in the summer months when small surf dominates the region. Near-endless wave breaks line the outer Cape, with the best concentrated along the stretch between Coast Guard Beach in Eastham and Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. Low tide means that wave conditions tend to be small, though swells break more consistently as they increase in size. Brickhouse Surf Shop, 781-639-4531; www.brickhouseboards.com

MAINE
Ogunquit Beach

Ogunquit has been the center of Maine’s surfing scene for as long as there has been a surfing scene in Maine. Waves break along the length of the long sandy beach; most tides provide great opportunities for beginners to find un-crowded peaks. At the south end, the Ogunquit River attracts more advanced surfers. In good conditions, waves peel across the river mouth, producing one of the longest rides anywhere in the entire state. Liquid Dreams Surf Shop, 207-641-2545; www.liquiddreamssurf.com.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Jenness Beach

Despite having only 18 miles of coast, New Hampshire is renowned for its variety of surf breaks. While North Beach in Hampton, known as where “The Wall” begins, may be the most consistent spot in the region, its namesake concrete breakwater makes for unappealing scenery. Far nicer is Jenness Beach, a pleasant stretch of sand in Rye. Multiple breaks spread surfers out along the white-sandy beach, which produces the best waves during high tide. Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Company, 603-929-7467; www.cinnamonrainbows.com.

RHODE ISLAND
Point Judith

Rhode Island has long been the epicenter of New England surfing. Its south-facing coastline absorbs waves that often bypass east-facing beaches farther north. Point Judith—jutting out to sea like a giant incisor—catches this energetic water. Some of New England’s biggest waves make landfall here. Surfed out? Lounge on the grassy bluffs and watch the experts shred. Gansett Juice surf shop, 401-789-7890; www.gansettjuice.com.