Surfing Your National Parks

Hang loose: from coast to coast there is great surfing in your national parks!
Kelly Smith TrimblePursuits

Whether you’re new to the board or an experienced surfer, you’ll love ditching the crowds to chase waves on these clean, protected beaches across the country.

Most parks allow surfing only outside of lifeguarded areas, so surf at your own risk.


Here in south Texas, the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters reach temperatures in the 80s in summer and low 70s in winter, and constant southeast winds create consistently good surf, making Padre Island  a prime spot for catching waves. The Corpus Christi area really embraces surfer culture, and local shops cater to their wave-loving clientele, including offering lessons ranging from afternoon classes to multi-day camps.


Rich in history and beauty, Cape Cod is comprised of 40 miles of shoreline that are sure to offer fun Atlantic waves. And with relatively shallow surf, Cape Cod is a good spot for beginners, though the chilly water demands a wetsuit year-round. You’ll find the best surf on the ocean side of the outer Cape (not the bay side) at well-developed spots like Coast Guard Beach, Marconi Beach, Nauset Light Beach and Head of the Meadow Beach.

Man surfing in Cape Cod


Beautiful waves breaking on sandbars make for a fun day of surfing on Assateague’s pristine beaches south of popular Ocean City. When swells are smaller, it’s a great spot for beginners, but even intermediate surfers could be challenged on big-surf days. Water temperatures reach the 70s in summer, while cooler temps the rest of the year require a wetsuit.


Along the Atlantic coast of central Florida, an area famous for its surf, this protected national shoreline offers warm water, great waves, and a retreat from the masses of sunbathers and swimmers. Local surfers love Playalinda Beach, at the southern access near Titusville, for its smooth break that’s beginner-accessible.


While all five southern California islands offer nice waves, Santa Cruz Island is most well known as a surfing destination. In winter and spring, head for the north shore; in summer and fall, try the south shore. The downside? You can only reach the best waves by private boat, though some adventurous surfers carry their boards on trails in search of hike-in spots.


These 80-miles of protected shoreline just north of San Francisco beckon ocean lovers, but only very advanced surfers should attempt the big, strong, sometimes gnarly waves. Be aware: Sharks are often seen in these waters, especially in fall when seals and sea lions visit the shores, and rip currents are very possible. For the experienced set, try Drakes Beach, Limantour Beach and spots along Great Beach — all are accessible via the North and South Beach parking lots — but check wave reports before you go. This chilly water rarely exceeds 50 degrees, so a wetsuit is a given.

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