Surf Guide: Outer Banks, North Carolina

If you’re looking for MI OLA ambassador Adrienne, you’re sure to find her surfing, kiting, playing in the water, or chasing sunrises in her beautiful home in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. With 200 miles of beaches in the Outer Banks, Adrienne certainly loves to #GetOutThere, from surfing, biking, windsurfing, kitesurfing…you name it! We caught up with this super busy mermaid to get the local info on surfing her home break, all 200 miles of it, the Outer Banks! Check it out below!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Where to Surf:

The Outer Banks is a 200 mile long barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean, running parallel to the coast of North Carolina. You technically can pull over anywhere, go over a sand dune (be careful not to disturb the vegetation holding this sandbar in place) and find a surf break. The Outer Banks is sandy bottom, which means the waves will be located on sand bars in the ocean up and down the beach. This also means that the breaks will shift and move with the ocean currents. There tends to be good surf near the piers, which are located from Nags Head all the way down to Frisco. But, be careful of the fishermen chumming the water with bait.


Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

The wind direction and the swell direction will help determine where to go. On a Southeast and Northeast swell with offshore (west) winds, the surf will be good on the northern half of island: Nags Head, Rodanthe and down to Avon. With a strong south or southeast swell with northern winds, the south side of the island will be breaking best, Lighthouse beach in Buxton down to Frisco, and even Hatteras. If you see multiple cars pulled over on the road, pull over and go check out the waves as this can indicate a good break!


Cape Hatteras Wave Map, compliments of REAL Water Sports.


When to Surf:

There is surf here year round, but it does change dramatically with the seasons. The summer surf is mellow, clean and smaller, with warm, clear waters and usually not much current. The winter surf is heavy, messy, fast drops and ripping barrels, with a strong current and many rips (which can be a fast way to get out). The side seasons provide a mix of the two, with some days seeing a nice clean south swell, and then wind changes to the north and the swell can be big, a bit disorganized, but still very fun.(For more information on all things waves and surfing, be sure to check out our Surf Science blog posts.)


Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens


Water and air temperatures:

Summer: Your MI OLA bikini! Mid to high 80s. Add a rashguard for sun protection!

Fall: Water is still warm from the summer (around 80 degrees), but the air starts to cool off. A spring suit with long sleeves will suffice.

Winter: It can get nasty (50-60 degrees water/ 60 degrees air), so use good rubber for the best sessions. A 5/4 wetsuit with hood, 3mm gloves and 5mm booties is recommended.

Spring: Water is still chilly (high 60s), but the air temp is warming up. A spring suit with long legs and short sleeves will be best.


Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens


Crowd Factor:

There is barely ever a line up in the Outer Banks. Usually you can have a perfect break all to yourself or with friends! If there is a crowd, everyone knows each other and is usually good about sharing waves. The locals are pretty salty (experiences), so if you’re new to surfing, be sure to steer clear of the locals or follow surf etiquette to ensure a good time. Or, just walk a bit down the beach and find a uncrowded break! The possibilities are endless. There is also a Water Rescue Team that is amazing and patrols through the main parts of the towns just in case.


Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens


Other Activities:

No waves? If there is wind, then go kiteboarding, windsurfing, or hang gliding. No wind? Enjoy the miles of beach or take to the sound and go on an epic SUP adventure. We have the BEST sunrises and sunsets as both happen over water! Take the ferry to Ocracoke Island and learn about pirates, wild horses, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic history. There is great seafood to enjoy, local artists and live local music. Basically there is always something to do or see while you’re visiting!


Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens


Check out Adrienne’s #GetOutThere Guide to the Outer Banks for more activities!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

How to Get here/Where to Stay:

If you can road trip here, do it! Otherwise fly to Norfolk, VA and rent a car. The drive is an easy 2 hours to the start of the island. Raleigh, NC is also another airport option. It is bigger and usually has better prices/flight options, but a littler farther away than Norfolk (3 hour drive). You definitely need a car to get around on the Outer Banks as there are no taxis, Uber or shuttles. Once you get to the Outer Banks, navigating the island are easy. Try as you might, it’s virtually impossible to get lost here as the ocean makes a pretty good landmark and there is only one main road, Highway 12. For more detailed instructions, click here.


Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

There are PLENTY of beach homes for rent on the Outer Banks, the common way to stay here. There are only a few hotel/motel options, as well as a couple cool campgrounds, like Cape Hatteras National Seashore Campground, that put you right in the sand dunes. One of the best places to stay is Watermen’s Retreat, luxury condos that are on REAL Watersports property, so world class kite boarding and surfing are steps from your door! There also are some National Seashore Parks camping grounds and family owned camping.


Have any questions? Feel free to contact Mermaid Adrienne and she’ll let you in on the secret surf spots, as long as she can come surf with you!

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