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Hatteras is the Surfing capital of the Atlantic coast. The long boards from Hawaii and California have given way to shorter boards for the smaller waves. The VW microbuses and Chevy vans have given way to PT Cruisers and Honda Elements. Hollywood isn't making movies about the Buxton beach scene, and The Beach Boys are nowhere to be found. But the sport still has plenty of followers. Some of them live and work here, showing up at the beach every afternoon. Some live in Washington, Charlotte or Norfolk, driving past their own beaches every Friday after work en route to The Iron Jetty. Some take weeks off from jobs in Chicago, Atlanta or St. Louis. Gidget no longer sits on the dunes waiting for her man to come ashore. She's now out there on her own board. And she's pretty good. Many of the best surfers are now females. The sport has become a family pasttime. Mom can be seen out on the water instructing her son and daughter while Dad watches from shore with his digital camcorder. So surfing has gone main stream. If you come to Hatteras, you have to try it.

The photo top left is at The Iron Jetty. At top right is North Beach across from Pea Island Wildlife Refuge. At right is Kite Point Beach about a mile north of the Buxton town limit.

These two photos are at Lighthouse Beach. The girls are both in grade school, proving that even young kids who don't live near the beach can learn to surf quickly under good instruction and with the proper equipment. Both of these shots show waves breaking over the bar at low tide. Most students can learn to mount and stay on the board, catch a wave and ride it to shore in the first lesson. However, it usually takes a second or third lesson before the student can successfully stand on the board and remain upright all the way to shore.

There are several places at Hatteras where you can start from scratch and learn to surf. They can rent you the equipment, teach you the basics and bring you through several days of instruction until you're surprisingly good by the time you go home. They offer kid, beginner, group and family rates.We suggest the Avon Surf Shop, shown at left. We have had some very good surfing instructors here over the years and they are good with kids individually and in groups. Scheduling is somewhat tentative. They wait for good breaking waves and the right tidal point.

As Chris conducts this class, he talks about how to get the board out beyond the surf line, then discusses proper riding technique and standing up on the board. During the first hour, students learn to catch and ride waves in while laying down. During the second hour they get up to a kneeling position, then work on standing. A typical lesson lasts two hours, although some students cannot last the full time. They lack the upper body strength or stamina to stay out on the water. Chris recommends anyone coming to Hatteras on vacation swim laps in a local pool every day for six weeks back home to build arm strength and stamina.

 

Iron Jetty Beach is known to surfers as The Wave Magnet. It sits between Buxton and Lighthouse Beach, where the beach zigzags 50 yards. That zigzag is due to the jetties, built in 1967 to protect the Navy Base and lighthouse. They caught the sand moving southward and built out the shoreline. Today, the base is closed, the lighthouse moved, and the jetties deteriorated. But this point still attracts the biggest waves on the Atlantic Coast. For 50 years this has been a surfing hangout. This is where locals come after work, and vans with faraway license plates bring deeply tanned surf bums with multiple boards and wetsuits. The Eastern Nationals have been held here often, and photos from here frequent surfing magazines. This is not a swimming beach. The jetties make that dangerous. It is not a place for new surfers unless accompanied by a qualified instructor. But if you have experienced surfers, this is where to bring them. They can try the big waves, and learn by watching and talking to the best this side of the Banzai Pipeline. A large parking lot is only a few steps from the sand. In this photo, you can make out the surfers just left of the jetty.
The North Beach refers to the long stretch from Rodanthe to Oregon Inlet. It gets the second best waves on the island, and does not have the jetties to worry about. For parking, everyone just pulls off onto the sand, but the sand here is loose , so just about every day a tow truck is pulling someone back onto the pavement. You have a huge dune line to haul over. Currents can be tricky here because the current coming out and the tidal flow coming in and out of Oregon Inlet twice a day sets up eddies which curl South and interact with the waves coming straight in. It doesn't make it dangerous, but you find yourself continually misjudging break lines. The North Beach doesn't have the trough and bar profile. It's definitely worth one day, but we don't think the North Beach beats The Iron Jetty.
Kite Point Beach is about a mile north of Buxton. It offers a very shallow shelf far out into the water and excellent wave breaks, so is ideal for beginners. Many instructors bring their classes here. There are no tricky currents and few swimmers cluttering up the water. Parking can be a problem, however. Four wheel drive vehicles can park on the oceanside of Route 12, but the soft sand will trap regular two wheel drive cars. With one of those, you have to park on the Soundside. There is a convenient drive going down to the water where kayakers, kiteboarders, fishermen and windsurfers launch. But that can often be jemmed with vehicles.
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