The Basics of Surfing in New Hampshire
Believe it or not, but NH has some great surfing spots.
A surfer off the New Hampshire coast
Photo by Ed O’connell for Eastern Surfing Association
Surfing’s long been heralded in popular culture. Past generations took to the waves because of movies like the cheeky 1959 flick “Gidget” and the sweet harmonies of the Beach Boys singing the groovy “Surfin’ USA” in 1963. That helped foster a solid foundation for today’s hardy, fun-loving and tight-knit Granite State surfers.
Forget California and Hawaii-sized breaks and waves. Surfing the Seacoast, and much of the New England coast, is often a hit-or-miss affair with lazy summer surf ripe for beginners while diehards wait for those swirling times when wicked weather rears its wild wrath.
“New Hampshire has a rich surfing culture and history, and a plethora of amazing point breaks and beach breaks,” says Rye’s Summer Sessions Surf Shop co-owner Ty McGill. “It is the perfect spot to learn to surf in the summers, and when the hurricanes hit in the fall, it can be world class.”
Whether for body, mind or both, surfing’s a rejuvenating aerobic activity with a strong connection to nature. New Hampshire’s surf season lasts all year but the water has a friendlier disposition from May to September. Not exactly a stop on the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Championship Tour, there are a handful of Eastern Surfing Association contests held in Hampton and the Core Cup off the Maine coast.
But for those who want to catch a wave to think they’re sitting on top of the world, then look no further than the Seacoast.
“Make this the summer you learn to surf,” says McGill. “Cross it off your bucket list and get down to the beach.”
Fact Credit for “discovering” surfing goes to British captain James Cook, who during a 1769 exploratory voyage to Tahiti saw the locals hanging ten.
Ready to Hit the Surf? Here's What You'll Need
Novices tend to feel comfortable on wider boards. BIC’s easy-going G-Board is designed for beginners and comes in a number of sizes from children to adults ($259.95-$519.95).
Seacoast water temps in summer peak around 70 degrees so a 3/2mm full wetsuit like an O’Neill Reactor ($109.95) is the way to go.
Exude cool with classic Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer Surf-Up shades (about $100).
Expert Advice From Tyler McGill
The McGill brothers are synonymous with New Hampshire sand and surf. Tyler, 30, and Ryan, 32, grew up on Rye Beach and opened their Summer Sessions Surf Shop in 2002. Ty’s surfed Africa, Indonesia, Fiji, Central and South America, Europe and, of course, the Seacoast. He answered the questions.
Surfing? New Hampshire? Really? Most people don’t even know New Hampshire has a coastline, let alone waves. Although with only a 17-mile coastline, it’s hard to blame people, especially since most surfers like to keep the Granite State’s surf their little secret. But New England is now one of the fastest-growing markets in the entire surf industry, and pros and novices alike are starting to discover our beautiful beaches.
Do I need to be a good swimmer? Not to learn The great part about surfing in New Hampshire is that it offers a little something for everyone. Where we teach at Jenness Beach, it is a flat sand-bottomed beach with no current, a perfect set-up for teaching surf. So, in any of our beginner lessons, you will never be out over your head — not to mention, you are attached to big floaty board, which always helps.
Do I need a wet suit? A dry suit? Normally you do. Even at the height of summer we rarely have water temps that allow us to be in board-shorts or bathing suits while surfing. When you are surfing for an hour or more you will normally want a wetsuit. The good news is that they are always included in a lesson or rental.
Surfing’s a youthful pursuit. What makes it attractive? I think surfing has always been viewed through the prism of youth, but that perspective is definitely starting to shift. Surfing is crossing generational boundaries; especially with the inclusion of paddleboarding into the surf family, we are seeing more and more late-blooming surfers. Surfing’s attraction is both physical and spiritual, which draws all ages to the ocean.
What’s a typical lesson like? We get you fitted with a board and a suit and then get you down to the beach. We do some warm-up stretching and practice the basics on land, then we hit the ocean. Our coaches are never on boards themselves, but next to you in the water at all times, to ensure you catch as many waves as possible and have a blast. We guarantee we will have you up and riding in the first hour.
Can people who grew up listening to records and 8-track tapes learn to surf? Yeah, and some of them still surf better than us young bucks! You are never too old to learn. Last year we taught a 77-year-old and he was up and riding on his third wave. So, you are never too old to rediscover surfing or fall in love with it for the first time.
Surfers in New Hampshire talk about the Wall. Where is it and what is the appeal? The Wall is in Hampton and is one of the most well-known surf spots in New Hampshire. It generally has bigger waves than other locations, and as a result is often more crowded.