The Best 5 Surf Cities in the United States

By Aleksei Stojanovic

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Surfers everywhere believe their home break is the cream of the crop, but what are the actual best surf cities in the USA? Is your home break really the best?

What do we think makes the best surf cities? A mixture of:

  • Wave Conditions
  • Size
  • Culture
  • Localism
  • Variety of breaks through the city

5. Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks, North Carolina

The breaks around the city are plentiful and range in all sorts of difficulty and conditions! Outer Banks was widely publicized and glamorized by the recent TV drama “Outer Banks”. However, it holds its ground in terms of surf, in an article posted by Surfer.com it has been acclaimed to be one of the most peaceful and tubular places to surf on the eastern seaboard. Beach breaks and sandbars are the norm for surfing.

The summer is flooded with people and tourists and small waves. In the winter when the water is freezing and hurricanes are more apparent, you will see some of the wildest peaks in the east! On average winter swell reaches 8-10 feet. Water temp drops below 40 F at some points, so dedication is key.

Localism has mixed opinions, but we can safely say there is a tight-knit community that dominates the spots in the OBX.

4. Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz has been considered one of the best places to surf in California, but it truly depends only on your preference. The crowds are less prevalent with a city population of 55,000. A little history on Santa Cruz is that it was one of the first places in the continental US to be surfed. Since the lineup has grown and seen so many different styles of surf and legends throughout the years.

Almost every kind of break you can imagine exists here, beach breaks, points, rocky reefs! You will have plenty of choices if you ever get the chance to see this eerie surf town. Santa Cruz cna handle almost any direction of swell, you just have to know the spots! When people think of Santa Cruz they think of Steamer Lane, but the secret gems are what makes this town one of the best!

The culture in Santa Cruz is a true blue-collar worker town, the inflation of home prices has messed with the roots of that a little, but you will find a lot of core surfers with blue-collar jobs in the lineup as well as rising stars from the NorCal surf scene. Surfe.com has also mentioned that despite the 40-mile stretch that is Santa Cruz there are 70 surf spots riddled throughout the coast. Localism here can be a little off-putting...

Winters are huge, cold, and barreling. Some of the coldest temperatures in California are in Santa Cruz. Summers can be crowded, small, and filled with tourists wanting to claim the title that they have surfed in such a prominent surf town.

3. Ventura, California

Ventura! The god-sent city for a regular-stance grom. The classic pint breaks breaking right. Ventura has some of the most historic spots in California. C-Street and Rincon have made this town legendary. The channel islands can block swell coming from the west due to the channel islands, but in comparison to Santa Barbara, most westbound swell bodes well in Ventura. 

The culture within Ventura is a very relaxed upper division working-class beach town. A perfect place to take life slowly, filled with mexican restaurants, dive bars, and burger joint

Localism used to be one of the main characteristics of this dreamy beach town, but as time has gone on the change of conditions in specific spots has caused localism to mellow out. However, some of the most stylish surfers represent Ventura.

2. Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach is the acclaimed “SurfTown USA” and has some of the sickest waves on the California coast and the USA! There is a downside to being such a highly-acclaimed surf town, the volume of people in the lineup can be laughable in comparison to places like Santa Cruz…

Huntington pier gets some of the most media attention throughout the surf industry. The US Open occurs here yearly! People come from all over to see the competition at Huntington pier. Conditions here are great year-round! There is not a swell direction this famous surf spot can't handle. Dominantly beach breaks…

The culture consists of higher class (sometimes snobby) individuals with the ability to live in such a high-income housing area. Quality of life is high and so is the price. Localism is not as prevalent here as people come from all over to surf this area of the southern California coast, San Diego and Los Angeles are a stone's-throw away. 

1. Haleiwa, Hawaii

Haleiwa!!! The outskirts of Honolulu consists of a leafy-jungle dream leading to some of the best surf you have ever seen. White-sand beaches, gorgeous light blue ocean water, amazing waves, and palm trees for miles. Swell here has been claimed to be INSANE from October - May on the north shore. 

The variety of breaks here mainly consists of reefs but here are some epic beach breaks as well, reef breaks here left and right! Goofy and regular stance-individuals thrive here. If you ever get the chance to surf here, come prepared, it will be life-changing. Pipeline is the main attraction here, but there are a ton of other amazing spots throughout Haleiwa

The culture here consists of islanders, some city folk, a lot of rising stars in the surf industry, and some legends who just look to spend the rest of their days surfing great waves and enjoying the island lifestyle. Localism is very strong here! With great waves comes great surfers, know your skill and respect your elders and locals.