Surfing has always been big on Wrightsville Beach, and visitors and surfers from all across the East Coast are starting to take notice. The town was named one of the “World’s 20 Best Surf Towns” by National Geographic Magazine, and was one of only seven town in the US to earn the distinction. The designation was due to the sleepy surf town vibe, the family friendly atmosphere, and even the growing number of things to do for visitors who aren’t necessarily interested in riding waves.
With a solid and growing reputation, and ample options to learn the ropes for beginners, Wrightsville Beach is a great destination for beginners, as well as advanced surfers who want a laid-back and leisurely ride that perfectly complements the relaxed Wrightsville Beach atmosphere.
Where to Go Surfing in Wrightsville Beach
The shoreline along Wrightsville Beach is fairly consistent, with relatively gentle waves all year-round (unless a hurricane or offshore storm comes to town.) As a result, the local beaches are great for longboards, but not necessarily as good for short boards, even though riders of all varieties can usually have a good time. Like many places along the East Coast, the waters can be flat as can be, or nice and big, so a lot of the surfing conditions are dependent on good timing. Luckily, there are many websites with surf reports, wave web cams, and all sorts of info on the daily conditions, so figuring out if it’s worth getting up early and hitting the waves is an easy feat.
Some locals report that there’s a better quality wave south on Wrightsville Beach, but surfers who want to avoid the crowds can also head to the northern end, which is generally populated by locals. All of the beaches are fairly similar due to a consistent shoreline, however, surfers will want to keep a few restrictions in mind.
Surfing is always prohibited in the following areas:
- Within 350’ feet of Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier (between Beach Access No. 15 and No. 16)
- Within 350’ feet of Crystal Pier at Oceanic Restaurant (between Beach Access No. 36 and No. 37)
- Within 100’ feet of the Masonboro Inlet Jetty (between Beach Access No. 42 and No. 43)
From Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day Weekend, surfing is also seasonally prohibited in areas that are within 600’ to 750’ ft. of a lifeguard stand, whenever the lifeguards are on duty (which is generally from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) These areas will be posted with “No Surfing” signs and / or will be marked with flags. Additional “No Surfing” zones may be established during hurricanes, special events, and other weather or town-related occasions.
For info on where to go, (in terms of parking, beach access, and wave conditions for the day), surfers who are new to the area can also pop into a local surf shop. Wrightsville Beach is flooded with surf shops, and the staff can always point new arrivals in the right direction when it comes to where to find the waves.
Surf Lessons in Wrightsville Beach
Because the waves are accessible for riders of all levels, and Wrightsville Beach is extremely popular with the local surfing crowds, the area is a hotbed for lessons and surf camps for new riders of all ages and abilities.
There are several different types of surf lessons available in Wrightsville Beach too, which includes private one-on-one instruction, private instruction in small groups, and full day or afternoon “surf camps” with larger groups and / or multiple instructors.
Private instruction is a great way to go for individuals and smaller parties who want in-depth training in a short period of time, while surf camps are great for visitors who want to have fun in a larger setting, and spend a few hours or a full day dedicated to riding the waves.
Camps and lessons can be tailored to an individual age group or experience level, (and especially beginners), and are held throughout the summer season. Additional lesson opportunities may also be available in the spring and fall months, and even in the winter months through individual instructors.
There’s lots of options and opportunities, but surfers will nevertheless want to reserve a spot as far in advance as possible. Lessons and surf camps can fill up quickly, especially during the height of the summertime, so advanced planning is key.
Surf Rentals and Surf Shops in Wrightsville Beach
There are roughly a dozen surf shops and rental businesses in Wrightsville Beach, which makes it a popular spot to pick up a new board, rent a board for a week, and acquire all the equipment needed to go out and have a great time – (or at least look the part.)
Surfboards and other equipment, (like wet suits, etc.), are often available to rent on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis for visitors, and can be rented on-site or in advance of a vacation through online websites and ordering forms.
Apparel and gear, (like rash guards, wax, etc.), are also available at virtually every surf shop in town, as well as little necessities like waterproof sunscreen, sunglasses, and flip flops.
For a deal on a board, try to hit the local surf shops at the end of the season, (generally October or November), when in-house equipment may be on sale to make room for the next year’s crop of boards and accessories. Surfers may also score a deal on used surfboards that were formerly rentals for the summer season, (and which may be a little dinged up), but which are for sale at a deep discount.
Most of the surf shops are easy to reach and are congregated along the Causeway or in the heart of town, so it’s fairly easy to park and hop from one shop to the next. Have fun exploring, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations on what to buy, and what you’ll need. Because of Wrightsville Beach’s traditionally flat nature, some boards work better in the local wave conditions than others, so a little guidance will come in handy for newcomers.
Surfing Events and Competitions in Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Beach attracts a few surfing competitions and tournaments throughout the year, which includes several big-name tournaments that land in the area for semi-final or even final events. However, one of the biggest surfing competitions in the town is the annual O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest.
Held during the height of summer, the O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest attracts roughly 100 surfing professionals from all around the world in a three-day competition in the heart of Wrightsville Beach. Past pros who have won the competition include Rob Machado, Fisher Heverly and Avon Cormican, and the tournament often coincides with arts and music events at the local Wrightsville Beach Park. Fun for competitors and spectators alike, a visit that coincides with the O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest is a great vehicle for seeing Wrightsville Beach surfing at its best.
Tips and Tricks for Surfing in Wrightsville Beach
- One of the best times to go surfing in Wrightsville Beach, regardless of the weather conditions, is roughly 1-3 hours after a low tide. Try to time a surfing trip accordingly for better waves.
- A good swell direction for Wrightsville Beach is southeast, east, and northeast, while a good wind direction for Wrightsville Beach is northwest, west, and southwest. Watch out for those super-calm summertime days with no wind, when the waves will be miniscule (bit will still be good for beginners.)
- If possible, try to time a trip when a hurricane or tropical storm is passing well offshore. When this occurs, (generally sometime between August and October), surfers can expect big swells that come in from the distant ocean activity.
- Summer is the busiest time for the Wrightsville Beach surfing scene, but fall is arguably the best. With offshore storms, higher winds, and better overall conditions, more advanced surfers will want to plan a trip to Wrightsville Beach in the fall to ensure a challenge.
- Because of Wrightsville Beach’s seasonal climate, surfers can generally enjoy the waves all year-round with a wintertime wet suit purchase. (Depending on the water temperatures, hoodie and boots may not be needed!)
- Want to try a new on-the-water sport? Check out stand up paddle boarding (SUP.) The ocean waves are traditionally calm and gentle enough for SUP, as well as other watersports such as kiteboarding or ocean kayaking.
Wrightsville Beach has been welcoming surfers for roughly 100 years, and it’s easy to see why this tradition continues today. With gentle waves, a friendly atmosphere, and plenty of options when it comes to lessons and equipment, this beach town is the perfect destination for new and experienced surfers alike to hit the water.