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Where Are the Biggest Waves in the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks are unlike any other surfing spot on the east coast of the United States. Annual surfing championships and local training from the greatest in the sport are known to lure surfers from all over the country.

The biggest waves in the Outer Banks can be found in several surfing spots on beaches like Coquina, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills. These are situated on the east coast of the United States, on a stretch of barrier islands and spits off North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.

There are several compelling reasons why the Outer Banks is regarded as the East Coast’s finest surfing location. Read on for more information on where to find the best and biggest waves in the Outer Banks.


Where Are the Best Waves in the Outer Banks?

Here are the places in the Outer Banks where you can watch the best waves.

1. Duck Pier

Woman with surfboard going to surf in the big waves

Over the years, the Duck Pier has remained a famous surfing area. On both sides of this pier, there is excellent seasonal surf.

The Duck Research Pier has been a local favorite for years for its ability to produce heavy, well-structured waves during the yearly swell. Duck Research Pier is one of our favorites because of the consistency of the waves on both sides of the pier, and the uncrowded sand on the beachfront, earning it a spot on our list of the finest Outer Banks surf spots.

2. Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk is still recognized as the home of aviation, and there’s plenty of exciting water sports to be found here. While this stretch of beach produces some of the best waves in Kitty Hawk, a few notable breaks are excellent.

On the northern beaches of the Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk Pier (just in front of the Hilton hotel) provides some of the best barrels. Near the Black Pelican restaurant, a few blocks south, the Bath House has great surf and plenty of free parking along the beach road.

3. Kill Devil Hills

Travel to 1st Street, which frequently spits up rideable curls. It is conveniently placed in front of Goombay’s Grill & Raw Bar, a local favorite beach hangout.  Take in the scent of good food as we continue south into Kill Devil Hills.

The Avalon Fishing Pier, located about half-mile south at milepost 6, is another excellent place with regularly well-formed barrels on both sides of the structure. A great off-shore sandbar provides some unique tubes that break far enough out to allow good, lengthy rides up to the beach at this local favorite surf spot.

4. Nags Head

Since the ocean affects the entire area, in the same way, practically any beach here will be ideal for surfing when the waves are good.

On any given day, both sides of the pier offer fantastic surfing and are reasonably consistent. Despite the summer crowds, Jennette’s Pier is the best in Nags Head. It can’t help but be a top spot for OBX breaks.

5. Irene’s Inlet

The Inlet was formed in 2011 after Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on Hatteras Island, and it is now a popular surfing spot. Irene’s Inlet has sandy beaches and a large number of local and visiting surfers. This Inlet is relatively well-known, despite being the newest surfing area on the East Coast.

6. Corolla and Carova Beaches

Waves on sunset.

Corolla is a remote small beach village with some nice waves in the summer when the temps are optimal for surfing. Carova Beach, further north, provides waves that break further off-shore, providing a better surfing experience for the more brave and experienced surfers.

Carova means the combination of “Carolina” and “Virginia.” It is not as congested as some of the other Outer Banks surfing sites.

7. Coquina Beach

This is a little off the usual road, some 8 miles south of Nags Head’s town limits, along Highway NC 12 near the northern edge of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Great waves may be seen here, and while they aren’t as big as some of the other sites on the Outer Banks, they can last for a long time. With several miles of undeveloped virgin beach, it’s a terrific site for individuals who are just getting started, and there’s significantly less of a crowd here.


Are the Waves Big in Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks of North Carolina have long been noted for their large waves. According to Outerbanks.com, the location is considered the best surfing spot on the East Coast, with “some areas notoriously recognized for constantly producing a sequence of fantastic, huge waves.”


Can You Surf in the Outer Banks?

You can surf in the Outer Banks as it is very popular there. There are rideable waves more days of the year than not because of the several miles of the Atlantic Ocean shoreline.


What Are Areas Considered the Outer Banks?

The Outer Banks are a group of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. 

According to the Visitors Bureau, the area is divided into three regions: the Northern Beaches, Roanoke Island, and Hatteras Island. 

Ocracoke Island is located further south. However, it is less accessible and visited.

The phrase “Outer Banks” refers to the islands, shoals, and spits that stretch north from Cape Lookout, including the Core Banks, and is sometimes abbreviated OBX in regional tourism promotion.

If you are planning to visit these areas in Outer Banks, I recommend staying in these five rental properties in the area:

Sweet Tea3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom
Never Forget4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms
I Left My Heart in Avon4 bedroom, 2 bathrooms
Seven Cousins Cottage7 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms
3 Gulls and a Buoy4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms

Is It Safe to Surf With the Red “No Swimming” Flags?

When the red flags are waving, dangerous ocean conditions exist, and swimming is not permitted. Each town’s red flag regulations for surfing differ slightly. If the red flags are flying, we always advise staying out of the water.


Can I Surf by a Fishing Pier?

Fishing boats at Ajman fish market pier.

It’s no secret that the OBX fishing piers frequently have surfable waves. However, it is illegal to surf right next to a fishing pier. 

Each pier has signs indicating how far you must remain away from it when in the water, whether 100 yards or 300 feet. Nothing ruins a trip like surfing into a pier piling or getting a fish hook lodged in your foot.


Do I Need to Wear a Wetsuit?

Before you go to the beach on the Outer Banks, check the water temperature. 

You should consider wearing a wetsuit for comfort when the water temperature is at 65 degrees or below. Many surf businesses rent wetsuits if you don’t have your own.


What’s the Best Time of Year to Surf Outer Banks Pier?

Summer, and especially the month of July, is the perfect time of year for surfing Outer Banks Pier with continuous clean waves (rideable swell with mild / off-shore winds). 

In July, clean surfable waves can be discovered 28 % of the time, while blown out waves were found 35 %. Most surfers consider it too tiny for the remaining 37% of the time; however, it may be suitable for beginners.


Final Thoughts

The top surfing beaches and biggest waves on the Outer Banks are different, and each surfer has their favorites.

As a general guideline, if you’re a novice, keep an eye out for parked cars along the roadside and surfers on the water. This means it’s probably an excellent position with consistently good waves — follow the pros’ lead to pick your favorite spot!