Almost everyone learns to surf at a beach break. Sand hurts less than reef, and beach breaks offer plenty of room to spread out while you flop around and jettison your board skyward. However, not all beach breaks can be considered kiddie pools. Many are quite good, and some are downright spectacular. Here are six of the best beach breaks in North America.
Blacks, San Diego
Big waves, big barrels, and warm water in the heart of Southern California – Blacks almost seems to good to be true. It holds serious size without losing its shape and is consistently one of the best waves in town. Blacks is without question one of the best beach breaks in North America.
Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Yes, pretty much every Mexican beach break could be on this list, but rather than list every obscure Mexican town on the Pacific, we will limit this list to the alpha and omega of Mexican beach breaks – the Mexican pipeline – Puerto. Board snapping, bone crunching, sand sucking, deadly and beautiful, Puerto Escondido is a perennial contender for best beach break in the world. To add some personal perspective: I got the best barrel of my life, snapped my board, and nearly broke my neck…all on my first wave at Puerto. This place demands respect. The barrel of a lifetime is a real possibility every time you paddle out at Puerto, but as every Puerto regular will tell you, if you spend enough time in the water there, eventually you will get hurt. As everyone’s favorite fictional surfing antihero says, “If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.”
Ocean Beach, San Francisco
Ocean Beach is often ugly and often scary but based on consistency and power alone it most certainly deserves a spot on this list. Ocean Beach locals are some of the most hardcore and in-shape surfers in the world. It’s not quite as cold as the East Coast breaks on here, but it’s more powerful, more consistent, and more humbling than every other spot (outside Mexico). Ocean Beach requires dedication, but if you’re not afraid of sharks and rip currents, it can be one of the best beach breaks in the country.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Look at a map of the East Coast. See those islands that stick way out in the middle of the continent. Those are the Outer Banks. The continental shelf is short, the swell window is large, and the sand bars are often perfect. Wait for a hurricane or Nor’Easter, make the drive, pick your peak, and find out why the Outer Banks are a right of passage for every East Coast surfer.
New Jersey / Long Island
This section of the coast likes big barrels, big hair, and big women. It’s really easy to make fun of Jersey and Long Island, and that’s fine. They don’t care. They’d rather keep their perfect beach break barrels to themselves. It’s probably too cold for you anyway. The sandbars shift all the time, so there are very few consistently spectacular spots. However, when there is swell in the water, somewhere in this region is unquestionably firing.
Sebastian Inlet, Florida
This is not a normal beach break. The jetty at Sebastian refracts swell in such a way that waves tend to double in both size and power. Sebastian is the epicenter of Florida surfing and has produced more talent than every other spot on the East Coast combined (Kelly something…). It’s not the best surf spot in North America, but it arguably produces the best surfers.