Surfing in the Northeast:
What to wear, what to ride, where to ride, best times of year.
Surfing in the Northeastern United States (Rhode Island, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire and Maine) can be very good. Most guys/gals up here
are die-hards and will go out in any sort of weather year round.
The water can be as warm at 75-80 degrees mid summer and drop
down to below 40 degrees in the peak winter month of February.
I am writing this article for those of you who will be uprooting
and coming out here and don't know what to expect.
There is surf in the Northeast, ok? That being said, the best
times of year are Winter, Spring, Hurricane Season, and Fall.
Winter, Fall and spring being the most consistent. Average surf
days here would be between 1-2 feet 6-10 days a month, 3-4 feet
maybe 4-5 days a month, and 6-12 feet maybe once a month after
a large storm or post hurricane. Then again, we do have flat spells
just like everywhere else on earth so it is not uncommon to go
a full 2 weeks without surf. In the winter we see a lot of Nor
Easter storms that park themselves off the coast of Maine that
produce very large and cold surf. In the summer/fall months we
are glued to the 50 minutes past the hour tropical update on the
Weather Channel checking the latest progress on any Tropical developments
that could become a hurricane and work its way up the coast.
What to ride:
As you can see the surf here is under head high most of the time
so you don't always need that 6'0 thruster to have a good surf.
Most people have a 2 or 3 board quiver. A longboard is a necessity
for those small days (which are many). I also recommend a longboard
for those cold winter months as they provide more float and paddle
much faster to get you to the lineup. Believe me, it is no fun
duckdiving through sets in 38 degree water. Your head will feel
like a frozen pineapple after 2 or 3 go unders. Your other board
should be a funshape or a shortboard. Reason being that they are
a lot of fun to surf at the many point breaks that exist and it
is good to jump on another board every now and again. Shortboards
are great in hurricane swells in the summer, you have plenty of
top to bottom wave, you don't have to wear much rubber (if any
at all) and you can duckdive the large sets without getting cold
at all. I would also like to add another ingredient to the mix.
The Northeast sees extreme temperatures, we have winter days that
are below freezing and summer days that top 100 degrees. Make
sure to purchase the right wax for your stick before you get to
the beach. So anyway, a longboard and a shortboard is the ideal
setup (especially for fat old guys like myself).
What to wear:
If you think you have what it takes to do the year round gig you
will need a few things. A winter wetsuit, boots and gloves. You
will be in this suit from December to about Mid-April. That's
5 months boys and girls, so you better get a good one. I own a
Billabong 6x4x3 zipperless. The magic of the suit is that it is
pretty light, very warm and has good flex in all the major joints.
The only downside is the pricing, suits of this type are pricey
but well worth it. There are a number of shops that sell used
suits as well, but just remember the water will be cold and the
air will be even colder sometimes even snowy. That is a rotten
time to discover the used suit you just picked up has a small
tear in the back. Now, in the spring, you can start to thaw yourself
out by going to a 3x2 with boots and gloves and then just a 3x2
(unless its a rocky point, duh!). For a short while in July/August
you will finally have the opportunity to shed everything and trunk
it, which is the ideal condition for most. It is at this point
that all the wanna-be's and the "summer-surfers" come to roost
and get in the way with their out of shape bodies and shiny new
boards. After this happy happy time though the fall will start
late September and you will slowly layer up for another winter.
Ok, I am not going to totally sell out here, but, in general terms.
Rhode Island will pick up a lot of pre hurricane surf and any
other low pressure area surf heading north a few days before anywhere
else because they face straight south. The next place to pick
up this type surf is the Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod and then
New Hampshire, Maine (in that order). Spots that work real well
for Nor Easters are Maine, NH and Massachusetts. Most spots really
like a west, south west or northwest wind, but there are many
nooks and harbors that will take a north, northeast wind. You
will want to seek these places out because it is a predominant
wind in the Northeast coming down out of canada.
Anywhere you go though you will not run into too much attitude,
the water will be clean and comparatively speaking to the more
tropical spots around the world - the lineup will be almost empty.
Do have fun, don't be a jerk. Hope this helps.