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Off the Beaten Path: 6 Underrated Surf Towns in the U.S.

From the surf-saturated streets of Malibu to the wicked waves at Pipeline, it goes without saying that surfing has become intertwined with the history of many great coastal cities across the United States.

But what about those lesser known surf spots that don’t make the mainstream media? 

America's 95,471-mile-long coastline holds so many memorable surf towns that are just begging to be explored. 

So from Ocean City, NJ to Oceanside, CA, we're going to introduce you to six underrated U.S. surf towns you need to check out if you want to make some awesome seaside memories this season.

We're talking about beaches with pristine waters for swimming and surfing; hidden spots for fishing, kayaking or just soaking up some sunshine on a peaceful day; and small-time towns that are rich in local culture away from bustling crowds. 

Whether you’re ready for a totally off-the-grid escape, or just want to discover a new corner of your the country, this blog post is here to help guide you toward six exceptional destinations—all hiding right under our noses!

Crescent City, California

Located in Northern California, Crescent City offers waves that are perfect for surfers looking to mix things up. 

Here, you'll find a secluded and serene surf scene with a stunning backdrop of the California's Redwood National Park. 

With its pristine beaches, whimsical swells, and generally uncrowded lineup, this quaint little town offers a truly one-of-a-kind surf experience. 

During the prime surf season, Crescent City's unique rugged coastal geography creates a wave-rich environment, providing breaks that will both challenge and inspire.

From the beginner-friendly South Beach to the more demanding breaks near Battery Point Lighthouse, you're sure to find a great time. Just be sure to pack your wetsuit, because that NorCal water means business!

The local surf community here is welcoming, fostering a relaxed and easygoing atmosphere that enhances your overall surf experience. 

Whether you're a seasoned surfer looking for a new adventure or a beginner seeking a unique environment to learn, Crescent City is a great overlooked surf town that deserves a spot on your water recreation bucket list.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach is a hidden east coast gem waiting to be discovered by anyone who enjoys just being near water.

This underrated surf town offers a remarkably well-rounded experience that definitely sets it apart from the crowded tourist destinations. 

Surfers of all backgrounds can find their bliss in the comfortable water temperature and favorable surf conditions, providing an ideal playground to catch the perfect wave. 

Folly Beach also presents an array of family-friendly water activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing, so no matter your pastime, you'll definitely be packing the schedule.

The warm and welcoming community radiates a laid-back charm that instantly makes visitors feel at home, while beachside amenities and cozy accommodations add to the overall allure that will keep you coming back.

Ocean City, New Jersey

Nestled along the Jersey Shore, Ocean City boasts awesome surfing conditions combined with a taste of that classic family-friendly coastal town charm.

An infamously "dry" town (ie. no alcohol served here!), it often gets overlooked by vacationers as a top surf spot. But between the good vibes, fun activities and surf scene, you're guaranteed to find plenty of things here that will enthrall you all the same.

Stretching for miles right along the beach, their iconic boardwalk offers a vibrant atmosphere with shops, arcades, amusement rides, and timeless treats like saltwater taffy and funnel cakes. 

After you've spent the day embracing the water, cruise the boardwalk as the sun sets and watch it come alive with breathtaking views and an energetic nightlife.

Ocean City, New Jersey basically combines the best of both worlds—an extraordinary surf experience and the intoxicating (but non-alcoholic) fun of a bustling hotspot—creating an unforgettable destination for surfers and water enthusiasts alike.

Nags Head, North Carolina

Located on the Outer Banks, Nags Head is a spot renowned for its clean surf, and is a haven for wave enthusiasts in search of both epic rides and coastal comforts.

Surrounded by natural beauty, it maintains a mix of beach breaks and mellow sandbars, with offshore winds providing optimal wave conditions for any ripper, new or old.

Though less known than other destinations, Nags Head offers a relaxed surf culture that rivals many well-known surf towns, yet remains delightfully undiscovered. 

In and out of the water, you'll find a sense of camaraderie among fellow surfers and locals, creating an inviting and inclusive surf culture.

And if you're looking to do things a little differently, you can hit up Jockey's Ridge State Park, where towering sand dunes beckon in hang gliders and sand boarders year-round. 

South Padre Island, Texas

A lesser-known strip of land near the Gulf of Mexico, SPI beckons water recreation enthusiasts of all kinds with its untamed beauty and thrilling waves. 

Picture sunny golden beaches, where the rhythmic crash of waves sets the stage for your aquatic adventures. 

But what really sets this area apart is its untouched tranquility, letting you escape the crowds and get back in touch with nature in your own way.

Between fantastic surf conditions and a diverse ocean ecosystem, the beauty of this place will definitely entice you to grab your board (or strap on your snorkeling fins) and check out its amazing oceanic marvels.

Beyond the surf, the surrounding Laguna Madre Bay and South Padre Island Nature Preserve add to the place's unique beauty, playing host to a variety of wildlife and providing plenty of opportunities for birdwatching, kayaking, and nature walks.

If you're a lover of nature, definitely don't miss out on all that South Padre Island has in store.

Oceanside, California


Oceanside, California embodies a rich surfing heritage and a remarkable surf town experience that is often overlooked by the masses in favor of its famous neighbors San Diego and Los Angeles.

But with its wide open beaches, pulsating waves, and the iconic Oceanside Pier, O-side (as it's called by the locals) is a dream for water-lovers that will absolutely leave you craving more.

The area is blessed with consistent swells that produce fantastic waves almost year-round, ensuring plenty of opportunities for easygoing rides (and providing the perfect spot for surf competitions). 

From longboarders cruising along mellow lines to shortboarders taking on more challenging sections, Oceanside really has what any surfer needs. 

Overlooking the water, the historical Oceanside Pier allows visitors an up-close glimpse at the convergence of surfers, fishermen, and enthusiastic spectators, all immersed in the lively coastal atmosphere. 

It's the perfect city to enjoy panoramic views of the ocean, savor delicious local Mexican food downtown, indulge your inner Top Gun enthusiast, or just chill out and cast a line with fellow anglers on the pier.

Hit the Waves Like a Pro!

Surfing is an experience like no other and it’s even better when done in smaller, lesser-known surf towns. 

From waves suited for surf veterans to gentle rollers that beginners will appreciate, and a unique small-town culture to match, these six underrated surf towns truly offer something for everyone. 

And while discovering the uncrowded surfing gems in our own backyard is an adventure that goes far beyond these six destinations, we hope this blog post has given you a glimpse into the vibrant surf culture awaiting exploration across the nation.

So now that you know where to find some excellent waves without having to travel far or fight swarms of tourists, get ready to grab your board and go!

And don't forget to save this post and share with your friends so they can reap the rewards of these off-the-beaten-path surfing destinations. 

Now what are you waiting for? Grab your boardshorts and rip it up!


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