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Atlantic Ocean Surf Spots - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip


Book Cover There is nothing like riding the waves. You can be in a kayak, on a surfboard, on a body board, or on your stomach. The thrill is more than just riding them in. It's punching out through the surf zone and paddling out, maybe even catching some air as you ride up and over an incoming wave. It's waiting for that one perfect ride, bobbing out beyond the beach while dolphins swim around you. It's the adrenaline rush of racing down the face of the wave, then turning around and doing it all over again.

Practicing proper surf etiquette is extremely important. Paddle surfers must share the waves with board surfers, swimmers, and other boaters. In some areas, surfers are very territorial and do not like others invading their turf.

Trip Highlights: Adrenaline pumping double overhead waves, or mellow ankle slappers, it's all good.

Trip Rating: Intermediate with sit-on-top kayak, advanced with decked white-water kayak.

Trip Duration: Each trip will vary, depending on wave and weather conditions. I've been out as long as three hours at a time when there is a swell, and I know folks who stay out all day, with very few breaks. To each his own.

Navigation Aids: ADC Map of the Outer Banks.

Tidal Information: Look at a tide table before heading out. Make sure you get the tide for the proper area on the beach. The best surf is two hours before to two hours after a low tide.

Cautions: This chapter is not to be taken as a replacement for surf kayak instruction. It merely lists some good surf spots. Make sure you wear the proper safety gear, including a PFD and a helmet.

Surf kayaking should only be attempted by experienced paddlers. Inexperienced paddlers can easily lose control of their boats. They can take out anyone in their path as they are pushed to shore in the soup.

Here are the rules of surf etiquette:

  • Don't paddle out directly in front of anyone riding the waves. Paddle out to the side, and move if someone comes toward you.
  • The wave belongs to the first surfer to catch it.
  • If two or more surfers catch a wave at the same time, the one closest to the peak or steepest part of the wave has the right-of-way.
  • Once a surfer is on a wave, don't try to catch the same wave. Wait for the next one.
  • When you are riding on the wave, you must take evasive action to avoid other surfers and swimmers.

Trip Planning: If you are unsure of your roll or paddling skills in the surf zone, you might want to try a sit-on-top kayak first. These are perfect kayaks to learn in or use to boost your confidence. Almost anyone who can use a paddle can get out in the surf and start paddling right away in a sit-on-top kayak. Be sure to use a paddle leash. Before you head out into the surf, you will want to watch the waves for a while. Notice how they are breaking, how the sets are timed, and how far offshore they break. Notice which direction the wind is blowing. An offshore wind will tend to "stand up" the waves, while an onshore wind will make them break sooner. The best thing to do is visit a paddle shop or surf shop and ask a local surfer where the best breaks are when you are there.

Launch Site: Listed here are several good surf spots in the Outer Banks area. These locations have a good offshore sandbar, a pier, or a landform that creates a natural break, such as Cape Point. Keep in mind that sandbars move. A storm could cause a break to disappear overnight.


All of these surf spots are accessible from NC-12 or the Virginia Dare Highway:
  1. Avalon Pier, Kill Devil Hills.
  2. Third Street, Kill Devil Hills.
  3. First Street, Kill Devil Hills.
  4. Ramada Inn, directly off the hotel, Kill Devil Hills.
  5. Bonnett Street Public Access Area, Nags Head.
  6. Nags Head Pier, north side, Nags Head.
  7. Jennettes Pier, north side, Nags Head.
  8. Oregon Inlet. You will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle for this spot. From the beach access road, turn north toward Coquina Beach. There is a good break about halfway to Coquina. If you turn south, there are several good breaks just north of the inlet.
  9. Pea Island, on Hatteras Island. Cross the Oregon Inlet Bridge and turn into the first parking lot on your left. There is a good break just north of this access. On Pea Island, keep an eye out for cars on the side of the road. This usually means surfers have found a good break here.
  10. Pea Island S Curves, on Hatteras Island. The S curves are just north of Rodanthe. This is a good break, but usually loaded with surfers.
  11. Rodanthe Pier, just north of the pier, Rodanthe, Hatteras Island.
  12. Salvo, Hatteras Island. Take the first beach access once you leave Salvo. The best breaks are south of the road.
  13. Cape Point, Buxton, Hatteras Island. A classic spot, but there are so many other surfers you'll wait a long time for a wave.
  14. Frisco Pier, Frisco, Hatteras Island. Surf south of the pier. This break is great with south winds. The water is much warmer than farther north.


Jellyfish come in all shapes and sizes. The most common jellyfish on the North Carolina coast is the stinging or sea nettle, and this species causes the most aggravation. Appearing here first in June and early July, significant numbers often appear after strong southeast winds. The nettles usually disappear during September. The stinging nettle is usually white, but some have red- or purple-streaked umbrellas or red tentacles. Color makes no difference: They all sting.

The Portuguese man-of-war is another dangerous but infrequent visitor. Blown onto beaches by storms and offshore winds, the man-of-war's toxin is extremely venomous. This animal is easily identified by its purple, blue, and pink balloonlike float and long tentacles. Stay away from this one.

Exercise care when handling beached jellyfish. Although the animal is dead, the stinging cells or nematocysts can still deliver a painful sting.

If you are stung by a jellyfish, apply a solution of diluted ammonia or vinegar to relieve the sting. You may also make a paste from meat tenderizer (the plain type) and spread it onto the affected area. The properties of the tenderizer break down the walls of the stinging cells and bring relief.

For severe stings, call for medical assistance. Wash the area with cool salt water. Try to remove any clinging tentacles, with gloves if possible. Pour alcohol, diluted ammonia, or vinegar over the injured area. Dust the area with a dry powder (flour, baking soda, etc.), which the stinging cells will adhere to. Carefully scrape off the powder with a knife or edge of a shell and wash the area again with salt water.

Book Cover Excerpted from Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina : The Best Day Trips and Tours from Currituck to Cape Fear by Pam Malec with permission from Falcon Publishing.

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