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Three East Coast Spots that Survived July

Photography by Will Vogt, Cody Hammer/REAL Watersports, Mike Nelson, Daniel Pullen 

So apparently, July 2023 was the hottest month humanity’s ever experienced, or 120,000 years as evidenced by temperatures found in ancient sediments and ice layers. The UN’s calling this time “an era of global boiling.” Spooky stuff. You know what else? This was also the weakest month of the year for East Coast surfers. Because y’know, isn’t it always?

But as far as Julys go, this certainly wasn’t the worst one we’ve ever seen — more flat days than flat spells overall — and between surf culture’s shiny, happy cast net and the ever-spinning foil/kite/SUP/finless/soft-top revolution, the very concept of unrideable has been thoroughly vanquished. These days, we’re never lacking in surf. Only perspective.

There were, however, at least three beachbreaks that overachieved last month. None of them in and of themselves are the best surf spots on the East Coast. On any given tropical or frontal swell, better surf can and will be found elsewhere. But the way the cookie crumbled this summer — and by cookie we mean sand and by crumbled we mean settled — these breaks really maximized our meager July swells to accommodate a wide range of surfers.

Summertime Truth #1: There are no fast waves. Only slow surfers. Ava Earle picks up the pace at Jax Pier. Photo: Will Vogt

Summertime Truth #2: One air-three is worth a hundred cheater-fives. Dallas Tolson, stoke overload at Avon Pier. Photo: Cody Hammer/REAL Watersports

Were they crowded? Sure, that’s exactly what makes a hotspot a hotspot. Not just longboard conditions or kid’s stuff, but dumpy bowls and zippy wedges. Shredder domain. At various points throughout the month, Surfline cams revealed figures of all sorts cruising or ripping, learning or progressing, sharing or owning these lineups. And while we’re all happy to turn the page to August, leading us ever closer to the climatological peak of the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season, let us first celebrate three sandbars where the action was hotter than the hottest month on record — along with a few upcoming events that’ll close out Summer 2023 in style.

Says the local: “July was pretty decent, definitely above average, with rideable surf just about every day. The standout day was a few weeks ago when we had that cold front, South Atlantic swell and tropical swell all mixing together. That was very good summer surf for Lincoln Blvd. and easily the best day of the summer so far. This past weekend was also pretty fun. If you’re a grom, you were absolutely pumped on how July panned out.” -Mike Nelson

Says the forecaster: “It doesn’t take much to get waves that meet our low summertime expectations. Long Island in general was the beneficiary of several sources of surf, and the sand-trapping groins of Long Beach in particular helped shape the modest summertime swell into peaky lines. In early July, swell from Tropical Storm Cindy mixed with windswell that developed ahead of a cold front to produce a fun little run. Some long-period swell from the South Atlantic also blended in mid-month. A similar pattern developed over the last weekend of July — enhanced mid-period trade swell meeting short-period S swell — to produce user-friendly but still rippable waves. So while we haven’t had any solid swells on the East Coast this summer, that mix of swells working together really punched above their individual weight at Lincoln Blvd.” -Rob Mitstifer

Lincoln Blvd.: Live Cam | Regional Forecast

Summertime Truth #3: If you’re flexible enough, you can make any wave overhead. Charlie Gallo, sizing up the situation at Lincoln Blvd. Photo: Mike Nelson

“The combination of Cindy swell, frontal windswell, mid-period tradeswell and long-period SATL swell effectively made this the best day of the summer in Long Beach,” says Surfline’s Kurt Korte, “but the key was really the groin-assisted sandbar optimizing wave shape.” Photo: Mike Nelson

Remaining summer attractions up north:

August 3: Surfing With Smiles presented by Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co. at The Wall, Hampton, NH, provides those with intellectual, physical, sensory and/or mental disabilities a full day of surfing for free.

August 17: Water Brother: The Sid Abbruzzi Story premieres at Fort Adams State Park, Newport, RI, the documentary film detailing the life and times of the surf/skate legend.

August 20: VetSurf Waves for the Brave Clinic at Nantasket Avenue, Hull, MA, shares the healing power of adaptive surf therapy with disabled veterans from New England.

Says the local: “It’s been a pretty consistent summer here on Hatteras Island. No big waves, but something to ride almost every day and there have been decent sandbars around the pier all summer long. There was always something to photograph from sunup to sundown, and I worked really hard trying to document all the girls and groms that have been surfing there. The Girls Surf Club is my favorite thing to shoot right now. It’s refreshing to be out with a group of girls that are so excited about surfing, hooting each other into waves and pretty much taking over the lineup. A few dudes have gotten bent out of shape about that, which I find funny because Avon Pier has such a cool family vibe. Local families will hang out all day and help watch each others’ kids. Overall, the local surf scene is alive and well on Hatteras Island, and it’s an exciting time to be documenting surf culture.” -Daniel Pullen

Says the forecaster: “The Outer Banks mainly survives off southerly windswell and ESE trade swell in the summer. That isn’t good for spots north of Oregon Inlet, but down on Hatteras Island you can find a rideable wave more often than not, even during the smallest of summer days, due to one or both of those swell sources.  This summer, a little swell from the South Atlantic helped out, too. So while I’m sitting across from a flatness-cursed Avalon Pier, 50 miles south people are getting two or three turns off and shooting through the pilings in Avon.

Avon Pier: Live Cam | Regional Forecast

Summertime Truth #4: The best part about being young is not having to remove wax clumps from your chest hair. That and surfing all day long, every day, without getting sore or hurt or tired or fired. Photo: Daniel Pullen

Summertime Truth #5: Every generation should absolutely tear down the one that came before them, and do things their own way. Kai Wescoat, held to a higher standard by the grom who’ll one day replace him. Photos: Daniel Pullen

Summertime Truth #6: The days are long, but life itself is short, so appreciate the moment. Misty Elder, just being present on Hatteras Island. Photo: Daniel Pullen

“Even with all those possibilities, amplifying a foot or two of trade swell or a couple feet of short-period chop into something meaningful depends entirely on having the right sand configuration. Just offshore Hatteras Island, there’s Diamond Shoals, Kinnakeet Shoals and Wimble Shoals, and as those shoals shift, swell will focus on different zones. Within that larger pattern, the bathymetry is where the waves actually break — the sand off the beach focuses the surf and the sandbar shapes it — so when things align, it’s just enough to turn summertime dribble into something more satisfying.” -Kurt Korte

Remaining summer attractions mid-coast:

August 11-12: Farmhaus Presents Dow-na-shore Art Show at Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ, features work by East Coast surfer/artists Ben McBrien, Nick LaVecchia, Chris Pfeil and more.

August 20-27: Coastal Edge East Coast Surf Championships (ECSC) at First Street Jetty, Virginia Beach, VA, is the oldest continually run surfing competition in the world, headlined by the QS 1,000 Virginia Beach Jaycees Pro.

August 30-September 3: WRV Outer Banks Pro at Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, NC, is a QS 1,000 event and North Carolina’s marquee professional surfing competition.

Says the local: “You just have to really be on it down there. There were some mornings and evenings that were really fun. At first glance it might look flat, but 2 feet at 5 seconds is rideable, even rippable, with the right sandbar. Sometimes it’ll pulse for an hour or two, then it goes flat again, then it’ll get another burst of windswell. It’s been ideal for our surf camps. The groms have been the standouts, though. We have dozens of up-and-coming kids that rip and are on it every day, and it’s been firing for them. They’ve basically had the pier bowl to themselves all season long… Living the summer dream!” -Austin Clouse

“New Smyrna Beach is usually the front-page story every summer,” says Surfline’s Charlie Hutcherson, “but thanks to a combination of factors, another break challenged Florida’s stoke capital this July: Jax Pier.” Photo: Will Vogt

Jacksonville Pier: Live Cam | Regional Forecast

Says the forecaster: “Jacksonville is the most exposed beach in the state to ESE/SE trade swell, and when some additional tropical spice like Cindy or the odd disturbance joins in to boost the trade bump, the Jax beaches will receive that swell energy, while spots south of Cape Canaveral are limited by the Bahamas shadow. Also, the shelf off North Florida is very shallow, usually eating up the longer-period energy, while those well-directed, short-mid-period trade swell pulses maintain their energy until hitting the sand. Once you have the swell, the next ingredient is a hard structure, like a pier, which can trap sediment to build shallow, well-shaped sandbars that can turn a one-foot swell into a waist-high bowl or grom cavern.

Summertime Truth #7: No matter where you’re from or what you think you deserve, the best surfers will always get the best waves. Accept it. And get the next one. Austin Clouse, ditching fins and making fans at Jax Pier. Photo: Will Vogt

“The secret sauce this month, though, was all the localized southerly windswell. Summertime is storm season in Florida, when sea breezes collide in the middle of the state, then push off into the Atlantic in the evening, aiming storm-to-gale-force winds over water at Jax Pier. If the tide’s right the next morning, an expected flat day can turn into a pulsing peak factory as steep, short-period windswell appears and disappears just as quickly. An extreme example of this happened the last week of July, when a tropical wave developed a surface low right along the cape. The onshore winds wrapping around to the north built an unexpected pop of windswell that continued as the system slowly lifted through the region.” -Charlie Hutcherson

Remaining summer attractions down south:

August 12: Surfers for Autism Flagler Beach Surf Festival at Flagler Beach Pier, Flagler, FL, unlocks the potential of people with autism and other developmental delays and disabilities via a fun day of surfing.

August 12-13: Wahine Classic at the South End, Wrightsville Beach, NC, is the original all-female surfing competition on the East Coast, featuring pro and amateur divisions.

September 7-9: Surf Expo at Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL, is the largest, longest-running boardsports/beach lifestyle tradeshow in the world.

Check The Hotspots: New Smyrna | Hightower Beach | Crystal Pier | Washout

Summertime Truth #8: Regardless of your skill level or board choice, it just feels really good to go fast on a wave. Taylor Meekins, speed blur in Avon. Photo: Daniel Pullen

Summertime Truth #9: Lighten up, it’s just surfing. Photo: Daniel Pullen

Surf the Live Streams: Cams from Your Beach | Caribbean Cams Too

Watch Waves In Every Zone:

South Beach, FL | Lake Worth, FL | Cocoa Beach, FL | New Smyrna, FL | Jax Pier, FL | Washout, SC | Crystal Pier, NC | Bogue Inlet, NC | S-Turns, OBX | 1st, VB | Ocean City, MD | Long Beach, NJ | Terrace, NY | Second Beach, RI | The Wall. NH | Long Sands, ME 

Expert Analysis From Your Local Forecasters:

New England | Long Island | Mid Atlantic | VB-Outer Banks | Southeast | Florida | Puerto Rico


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