Published: April 20th 2009April 20th 2009
A large winter storm has just hit the coastal area of New England. The plow drivers are working double overtime and the regional school system has shut its doors. When most people are thinking of ski country and hot chocolate the local surf population resounds with excitement for the inevitable swell.
The winds of a typical Nor’easter provide the New England coast with large swells. After the storm passes, the skies are usually clear with an offshore (West or Northwest) wind. These conditions are perfect for surfing. It is not uncommon to surf in water that is just above freezing (+/- 38 degrees). The air temperature might be as low as 20 degrees, but a 6-millimeter wetsuit can keep you warm for at least an hour. Although they haven’t become a trend amongst New England surfers, drysuits (Ocean Rodeo - Pyro
) are a comfortable alternative.
The majority of my winter surfing is done in New Hampshire (NH) and Maine (ME). The local beach breaks are often plagued with strong currents and unorganized waves that can make for a difficult (yet not impossible) paddle out. Fortunately the jagged coastlines of NH and ME make access to most of the local
point breaks a viable alternative. In the summer months or during the much-anticipated hurricane season (August-November), the swells are more organized and beach access is reasonable. Surfing on Cape Cod:
Most of my surfing in this area is done in the summer months. If you are willing to walk, you can easily avoid the crowds. Coast Guard beach stretches for miles. If you hike to the southernmost tip of that beach, you will find a predictable yet turbulent break located at the entry point of a harbor. The sand bars on Cape Cod move often so the “best surf beach” changes each year. Surfing in NH:
Most of my surfing is done in this area. Street parking at Jennesse Beach and at “Rye on the Rocks” is free. “The Wall” doesn’t have free parking, but the meters are not usually enforced after 5pm. If the swell is really big, you can paddle out at the Hampton Harbor, which is located on the North side of this beach across from the Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop. Plaice Cove is a nice beach that pushes a strong wave against its shores. The north side of Jennesse Beach offers an entry point
for big wave days and the surfers there have a laid back vibe. Surfing in ME:
York Beach has lots of metered parking and plenty of room for everyone to surf. The Ogunquit Rivermouth to the North of York usually pumps the swell up an extra foot or two because of the sandbars created by the outflow of the river. There is a limited amount of free street parking to the South of this break. The Ogunquit and Wells beaches are long and un-crowded. Surfing with a North Wind:
When large winter storms rip through New England they are often followed by harsh North winds. Side shore winds can make for poor surfing conditions. This is when the limited amount of South facing beaches turn into prime surf spots, because they provide us with offshore wind conditions. The two optimum locations that accommodate this situation are the Kennebunkport Beach in Maine and Devereux Beach in Marblehead, MA. The Local Surf Population and Respect:
The waters of New England are filled with inexperienced surfers (especially in the summer). This means that more knowledgeable surfers often have to be careful and surf “defensively”. Many surfers do not look both
ways before dropping into waves. Remember..... this is not Rincon or Sunset Beach. Surfers in New England frequently have the water to themselves, so they get in the bad habit of not checking for others, because others usually aren’t around. It is not uncommon for a New England surfer to cop an attitude for no justifiably apparent reason but this immature arrogance is not the local status quo and it is a problem that pervades surf culture worldwide. Respect the environment and others around you..... hang loose..... aloha..... and it’ll be all good. Links: Surf Maps - New England - Vague Directions Surf Maps - Hand Made Surf Maps - Northern New England Surf Maps - New England - Clear Directions Video - Panaramic Video - Late Ride