The Best Surf Towns in America

The Best Places in the U.S. To Eat, Sleep, Work, and Shred

| posted on April 22, 2009

Andrew Gesler in Ocean City. Photo: McCullin

[Editor’s Note: This article appeared in a 2009 issue of SURFER. Towns, surf spots, waves, and stats have changed, but we still stand by these being some of the best places to surf in the U.S. today. Hurricanes and development have taken their toll on a few, but we publish this in hopes of their comeback. You disagree? What town did we miss? Go ahead and let us know in the comments…we figured you would.]

The definition of a great surf town varies depending on whom you ask. Some prefer slow, village-like locales where days are spent surfing and nights are simply spent sleeping off the exhaustion. Others seek out places where their surf life can comfortably coincide with a life rich in mainstream culture or industries. But intrinsic in all surfers is a desire to find a place where waves are plentiful and a balanced life is possible.

America is a nation filled with dozens of diverse and attractive surf towns—some you’ve probably been to, many you’ve probably heard of, and some so obscure and protected that most of us don’t even know exist. We’ve compiled this list, primarily considering quality of life and quality of surf, but also taking into account other variables such as climate, consistency and variety of waves, cost of living, culture, availability of work, and the prevalence of sharks. After consulting, researching, and heavy debate, we narrowed the expansive list of towns down to10—our ranking of the 10 best American surf towns.

Without further ado, let the list begin.

10. Ocean City, New Jersey

Known as “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” Ocean City, New Jersey, boasts more surf accolades than any northeastern surf establishment. Home to Dean Randazzo, New Jersey’s only World Tour Competitor, and a fresh crop of committed and aspiring WQS surfers, Ocean City takes its surfing seriously. The local high school has won eight consecutive state surfing championships, and despite an unfriendly climate, the locale’s consistency and proximity to ledgier surf put it on the U.S. surf map.

Like most East Coast surf towns, you’re negotiating the whims of the sandbar, which means things change; however, Ocean City has the benefit of consistency as a result of its jetties, where hollow rights peel on a north or southeast swell. It’s also probably the most consistent spot north of Cape Hatteras. When craving heavier surf, Ocean City surfers head north to cash in on the pounding, deepwater breaks of the Central Coast where the fact that there aren’t so many surfers around becomes deliciously apparent.

Ocean City’s just a roll of the dice from Atlantic City, where casinos spit filth right on the sand in both human and syringe form. Well, things aren’t all that bad. Not only can you enjoy a Ferris wheel ride on the beach ala Tom Hanks in Big, you can also indulge in Jersey pork roll and the bravado of the Northeast—all the while snagging an authentic Philly Cheese steak just an hour away in the City of Brotherly Love. As far as being a surfer goes, this is the Northeast’s most developed surf town in terms of culture. With supportive shops and a talented crew of local rippers, this is New Jersey’s version of Sebastian Inlet.

Quality of Life
It’s cold here, and like most East Coast beach towns, come winter, there’s not much to do. Luckily, the fish are always biting, and so long as you’ve made a substantial investment in 5mm rubber, you can always get wet. Don’t plan on drowning the mid-winter blues in alcohol, though; Ocean City has prohibited the sale of booze since 1884. The modest pace of life in this semi-urban outpost make it a great residence for the surfer who wants access to metropolitan amenities, but also appreciates the upsides of a down-season.

Average Water Temp: 63 (But gets as cold as 35 in the winter)
Average Air Temp: 53
Median Income: $55,204
Median Home Price: $530,203
Most Common Industry: Construction
Population: 14,923
Nearest city with pop. 200,000+: Philadelphia, PA (63.2 miles , pop. 1,517,550).
Premier Surf Spots: North Street, 8th Street, Waverly
Local Talent: Dean Randazzo, Matt Keenan, Andrew Gesler, Rob Kelly
Shark Attacks Reported (in the state of New Jersey since 1670): 17

Click here to go to No. 9

  • B

    where the hell are the other 9?

    • manders

      you have to click on where it says “click here to go to no. 9” at the bottom

  • C

    ocean city….um no thanks

    • lakisha depew

      why not its amazing down there i used to surf there all the time but im couldnt surf after i broke my leg….!! 🙁

  • 1234567890

    aren’t there supposed to be 10???

  • Aftass

    Wow So fantastic .

  • J

    hit the next buttom down at the bottom dipshit

  • emily

    I think this website is very cool I am a very huge fan of surfing and surfing is my passion.

    • lakisha depew

      hi emily yea im lakisha and yes surfing is my passion to except im couldnt surf anymore after i broke my leg message me on fb its kishii depew


    New Jersey is one of heaven for surfers. I love the pic… 🙂

  • Andres

    I clicked and entered the note because I thought it was America the continent… not USA.

  • Chuch

    Where are the “deepwater breaks of the Central Coast” ?? Is that LBI and north?? Never heard of the central coast of Jersey.

  • Javier Torres

    surfing is my life AMEN!!!!!!!!!!

  • Felicitas

    America is a continent.

    • MorganA

      It’s actually not. North America is. America is not.

      • Brian McManus

        That depends on in what country you learned your geography. South Americans call it one continent while referencing north, central and south as just regions within the one continent. Most English speaking countries are taught that North and South America are two continents. It seems to irritate south americans that we call ourselves americans and if you want to say American when speaking Spanish, in most countries you would say Norte Americano. Which is even more misleading to us since it includes Mexico and Canada.

  • M Gruver

    Beach breaks? Ocean City has em. Sebastian Inlet? I would argue that Manasquan takes that title.

    • arthur

      +1 for Manasquan

  • openeyes
  • Tomas_123

    norepboardshorts d0t com

  • CC

    L.B.I. is way more of a surf town than Ocean City. Better and more famous breaks, Better and more surf shops. The entire Island is centered around water sports of one kind or another. much more core than OC.. just saying

  • mikediggity

    Just need to point out that the photo above was not taken in Ocean CIty. It was taken in Ventnor City, NJ which is just south of the AC casinos and is one of the hearts of surfing in NJ.


    No alcohol, are they insane. I see why no one wants to live in New Jersey.. Good Lord.

    • JEFF

      It’s only Ocean City that doesn’t have alcohol, not the rest of the shore, and you can bring it in, anyway. The Jersey shore is a major club and bar scene. NJ has 9 million people, and gets 60 million tourists per year. Your statement is stupid.

  • Jude I⚡caяiot

    Don’t go to OC NJ unless you are white. It’s a huge hangout for neo-nazi skinheads.

  • xy

    Shattered city.

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