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The surfing scene of your parents' generation has subdivided into six categories, and Hatteras is the best place on the Atlantic Coast for all of them. You can get lessons, rent or buy equipment, sit and watch others, and pick a beach ideal for beginners, intermediates or advanced practitioners of whichever type you prefer. We like to spend our mornings Wind Surfing and Kite Boarding and our afternoons at the beach Tubing, Body Boarding and Surfing. All the photos on this page were taken in June and July at Lighthouse Beach, The Jetty or Kite Point Beach (about a mile north of the Buxton town line) or back on Pamlico Sound at either Canadian Hole or North Avon.
Tubing originated in the 1950s with black rubber real car inner tubes. Cars no longer use inner tubes so manufacturers now make brightly colored vinyl tubes in three sizes. You don't need lessons and a tube costs $10-20, so this is the least expensive surf sport to take up. Obviously, anyone can wade into the ocean with a tube under his arms, feet touching bottom, and let the waves lift him up and down. But if you intend to sit on the tube with your butt in the water and your feet up in the air, you find out pretty quick you need a sense of balance, instincts for wave dynamics and good paddling skills. After bouncing around in the surf for a while, the better tubers take on two zones. One is the outside of the bar, the first break line. The other is the inside break line, where the waves break a final time before collapsing on shore. At low tide, the action is outside. At high tide, it is inside, where you can get some surprisingly spectacular rides high on the crests, but run the risk of being flipped and hurled rather viciously down into the sand. We like our kids to start off with a day or two of tubing to develop their balance, instincts and skills and get over any fear of the churning water.
Then we move them up to Bodyboarding. It's easy to get into, and fundamentals you learn transfer up to full board surfing. Bodyboarding is less expensive and is the best suited for the waves along the front beaches on most days. You do it closer to shore, so lesser swimmers feel comfortable doing it. And, with national competitions, websites, magazines and instructional programs, it is just as big time as any other type of surfing. We just rent body boards for our kids for $40 for two weeks. The ones you rent from a legitimate surf shop like Fox Watersports or Avon Surf Shop are a real piece of sports equipment, unlike the cheap foam boards you can buy at a gas station or grocery store.

Windsurfing is a cross between surfing and sailing. We've had sailing instructors tell us windsurfing is the greatest introduction to sailing they know, since it teaches all the fundamentals. It is the most colorful of the surfing genres, with the big bright colored sails cruising back and forth against the sun, sky and water. Most of our girls like it much better than the other types of surfing because their lower centers of gravity allow them to balance better on the boards. At Hatteras, windsurfing is done Soundside, that is, on Pamlico Sound, where the water is calmer. Other top windsurfing locations are Nantucket, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Cayahuga (NY), Erie (Pa.) and Hood River (Oregon), but none can match Hatteras.

We especially like windsurfing because it fits so neatly within a schedule if you bring a youth group or family to Hatteras. You can take the group windsurfing in the mornings, come back to the house or campsite for lunch, then hit the beach for the afternoon. It is also one of those activities which lends itself to adult supervision. A sponsor or parent can sit on shore and watch while the kids take their lessons or sail to the horizon and back, but with the water in the Sound only waist deep, nobody gets in trouble.

Surfing was the original board sport, invented in Hawaii and popularized in California in the fifties. In all the old movies, they were using the famous Long Boards and riding the giant waves of the Pacific, with names like The Banzai Pipeline. Today, especially on the Atlantic side, boards are only a fraction as big but maneuverability has replaced raw power. For most of your vacation, the waves will be mild, and surfers will just be cruising in. If you're lucky, once during your stay, a storm will pass offshore up the Atlantic, stirring up the larger waves. The hard core surfers will suddenly appear, and you'll be treated to quite a show.
Kite Boarding is the cutting edge of modern surfing. You ride a board towed by a large nylon kite flying far above, which tows you along at high speeds. Our kids see Kite Boarding as more like water skiing than surfing. Once you can keep the board balanced and steer it, you can actually lift out of the water and skim for short distances before touching back down. Originally, the equipment required a certain weight of the users, so kids under 18, particularly girls, were unable to participate. However, equipment is now available which allows much younger kids to do it.
Surfyaking is kayaking the waves, basically surfing with a paddle in a seated position. People who might not have the body balance to stand or even kneel on a surfboard can often do quite well in a surfyak. As the name implies, this is a cross between kayaking and surfing, and kids who back home had experience canoeing or kayaking pick this up with little trouble. The true surfyak is very short, quick and maneuverable, an adaptation of the squirt boats used on whitewater rivers. There are variations. The most common variation is the wave rider, an open sit on top kayak. The advantage to these is that when you get dumped, which while learning is often, you simply roll off the kayak and climb back on. In the enclosed surfyak, you have to disentangle yourself, then climb back inside. Because of the particular way the waves break here, Hatteras is the best place on the East Coast to surfyak. Many "water jocks" think surfyaking will eventually surpass surfing here.
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