When people think of surfing, they generally picture the warm water and big waves in places like Hawaii or California. Rarely do people picture the surf that builds on Great Lakes or in the East Coast, but winter can bring big waves to these cold climes. If you’re into surfing and looking for a chance to test your mettle, check out one of these cold-water surf areas.
Lake Erie, Cleveland, Ohio
The surf may not be especially high (swells are usually four feet), but if you’re addicted to surfing and live in the Midwest, Lake Erie can be a great place to surf. This year may be the exception, since most of the Great Lakes are frozen (see Lake Superior, below). However, winter generally brings bigger winds, and thus bigger waves, to the beaches in Cleveland. If you’re willing to dodge the occasional ice chunk for a chance to have the surf to yourself, don your neoprene, slather on the Vaseline, and head out to Lake Erie.
Lake Superior, Stoney Point, Minnesota
This was not the best winter for surfing the Great Lakes, which are seeing some of the most extensive ice cover in recent history. However, if you live near Minnesota and you’re itching for some winter surfing, keep an eye on the conditions at Stoney Point on Lake Superior, just outside of Duluth. The surf at Stoney Point is rumored to be unparalleled on the Great Lakes, due largely to the fact that it marks the end of a 300-mile trench, which brings big waves to the beach. For more beta, check out wannasurf.com.
Town Beach, Narragansett, Rhode Island
Reportedly the best surfing on the east coast, the waves at the Town Beach in Narragansett only get better during the winter. This is why the beach is also known for hosting the New England Mid-Winter Surfing Championship, which just celebrated its 46th year. Due to the region’s tough winters, this event usually comes on the heels of a blizzard, providing contestants with consistent waves on which to show their ability. To prepare for next year’s event, start training in the cold water now.
Atlantic Ocean, Kennebunk, Maine
Maine is known for its winter storms (sometimes referred to as Nor’easters), which inevitably bring some great surf to the state’s coastline. Although these storms come with frigid temperatures and a lot of snow, this shouldn’t keep you from exploring the waves off of Kennebunk, Maine. You may have to climb over snowdrifts, but the waves are worth the effort. For beginners, surf schools like Aquaholics offers winter surf camps where hardy people can pick up the basics of surfing.
Rockaway Beach, Rockaway, New York
If you live in NYC, or are planning a winter visit to the Big Apple, Rockaway Beach is the place to surf. In 2012, the area was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, but the beach still offers good waves for surfing during the winter. This winter’s ceaseless onslaught of storms make for good surf conditions for those willing to brave the sub-zero temperatures. On the down side, the ride out to the Rockaways can be tough with a surf board and wet suit, especially on the way home. But, on the plus side, once you get there, you may be one of the only people riding the waves.
Rye Rocks, Rye, New Hampshire
Rye on the Rocks, or Rye Rocks, is known for big breaks, which can be greater than 11 feet tall, although these vary widely depending on the tide. Due to its proximity to the Bay of Fundy, tides in New Hampshire and Maine can vary greatly, sometimes falling or rising as much as twelve feet during the 6-hour tide cycle. This can lead to some great surf, especially in the winter. Located just north of Boston, Rye is a convenient location for surfers looking to get out of the city and into the waves.