Surfing in OCNJ

Your Guide to Surfing in OCNJ

While historians believe surfing to be an ancient Hawaiian and Polynesian practice, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that it became popular in the United States. And Ocean City, New Jersey, has been one of the nation’s most vibrant surfing spots since the sport’s official inception — in fact, OCNJ is the birthplace of several famous pro surfers, including Rob Kelly and Andrew Gesler.

With 8 miles of clean, well-maintained coastline and some of the best waves in the region, there’s no surprise that Ocean City, New Jersey, is the East Coast’s premier surfing destination. This guide will give you everything you need to know about surfing in Ocean City, New Jersey, from helpful visitor tips to typical surf conditions. 

Waves and Surf Breaks in Ocean City, New Jersey

When it comes to surfing conditions, Ocean City is similar to most other East Coast beach towns. Its jetties create consistent waves regardless of the overall weather conditions, though breaks tend to change throughout the season due to nearby sandbars.

Most of the year, temperatures in OCNJ are fairly cool. Peak season temperatures range from the upper 60s to the lower 80s, while the off-season temperatures can drop to the 40s. Water temperatures typically peak in August but are comfortable from the spring through the fall. 

You can check the conditions before setting out with one of these popular real-time surf forecasting apps and websites:

  • Surfline
  • Windy
  • WindGuru
  • Windfinder

If the weather happens to turn sour one day, the city has plenty of indoor activities to keep you and your group busy and entertained!

The 3 Best Surfing Beaches in OCNJ

While there are plenty of beaches to choose from in Ocean City, only three are designated exclusively for surfing. Water activities other than surfing are off-limits at these beaches during the day, giving you and your group plenty of space to enjoy the waves. 

All three surfing beaches have lifeguards on duty throughout the summer, and the guards typically end their season around Labor Day. You can also surf at any beach south of 36th Street as long as the lifeguard stands are three blocks apart.

Need help deciding where to go? Here’s a quick overview of the designated Ocean City, New Jersey, surf beaches.

1. Waverly Beach

Waverly Beach in OCNJ is close to the northern tip of the island, just off Waverly Boulevard and East Atlantic Boulevard. As the quietest of the three designated surfing beaches, its hundreds of feet of golden shoreline provide endless hours of enjoyment for surfers of all skill levels.

Surfing here is best when offshore winds from the west and northwest combine with southeast swells, creating long-lasting, ridable waves with clean angles. The main drawback to the Waverly Boulevard beach is that, since it’s off the beaten path, you’ll need to drive or walk to get to any of the island’s Boardwalk attractions. 

Here’s what to know before you go:

  • Beach access and parking: Waverly Boulevard is not part of the OCNJ Boardwalk, so you’ll need to park on the street near the beach entrance.
  • Amenities: Public restrooms, showers and drinking fountains are available at the Waverly Beach entrance.
  • Best time to surf: You’ll find the best surfing conditions for Waverly Beach during midsummer, typically around July. However, the water is surfable year-round.

2. 7th Street

The 7th Street surfing beach is OCNJ’s original surfing area, with a legacy spanning over half a century. Although the beach’s profile has changed significantly over the years as a result of various beach restoration projects, it’s been a mainstay of the OCNJ surfing scene since the sport became legal in the city in 1967.

The beach itself is exposed, with a reef break that creates a consistent surf on good days. However, the three outfall pipes extending into the break can create an intense current and steep drop on rough days. Always check the forecast before setting out for the day.

Here’s a quick overview of what to expect at this historic beach:

  • Boardwalk access and parking: You can easily access the 7th Street surfing beach from the OCNJ Boardwalk. Parking lots and metered street parking are available nearby.
  • Amenities: The nearest public restrooms are located just off the Boardwalk on 6th Street, and there are plenty of food stands and surf shops nearby for any last-minute needs. 
  • Best time to surf: Although 7th Street is a great surf spot at any time, the best surfing conditions usually occur around late summer. Surfing is also great in the off-season, though you’ll need special gear to keep yourself warm.
  • Events: 7th Street is a hotbed for amateur and professional surfing competitions, so be sure to see what’s on the schedule before your visit!

3. 16th Street

If you still want to be near the excitement of the Boardwalk but enjoy a slightly more laid-back vibe, head to the beach on 16th Street. 

The surf here is fairly consistent thanks to the exposed sandbar break, which combines with both distant and local winds to create even waves. Conditions are optimal when the swell comes in from the southeast and combines with a northwestern wind.

Here’s what you need to know about surfing:

  • Boardwalk access and parking: You can access the 16th Street beach directly from the Boardwalk. Metered street parking and parking lots are available nearby.
  • Best time to surf: Late summer is the best time of year for surfing on the 16th Street beach. The conditions are just right for lasting, ridable waves. You’ll want to be out on the water around medium tide when the waves are just starting to pick up.
  • Amenities: The nearest public restrooms and first-aid station are located on the Boardwalk at 12th Street. There are assorted restaurants, amusement and shops nearby.

Guarded vs. Unguarded Beaches: Where Should You Surf? 

Whether you should surf at a guarded or an unguarded beach depends on your group, your skill level and your comfort in the water. 

Guarded beaches have lifeguards on duty from the late morning until the early evening on weekdays during the summer season, which spans from late June to Labor Day. On the weekends, daily guard duty typically goes a little later. You can check here for specific information on guard patrol hours. 

Some beaches remain guarded at the beginning and tail ends of the season, though none of them are designated surfing beaches. Unguarded surfing means riding the waves when there aren’t any lifeguards on duty. 

The risk associated with surfing at unguarded beaches is significantly higher — which is why the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) strongly encourages all beachgoers to surf and swim only at guarded beaches. If you want to try catching some waves at one of the unguarded beaches, make sure you have an experienced surfer in your group who knows how to handle emergencies. 

Planning Your Trip to OCNJ: What You Need to Know

OCNJ is a laid-back, family-friendly beach town with plenty of activities for visitors of all ages, from carnival rides to aquariums and everything in between. 

Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to consider while you’re planning your trip:

  • Accommodations: If you plan on staying overnight during peak tourist season, we recommend booking well in advance to ensure you can get lodging close to one of the surfing beaches. There are many hotels and other accommodations along the island, so you have plenty of options to suit your tastes.
  • Getting around: Walking and biking are the best ways to get around the town, though you will need to obey specific restrictions if you plan to ride your bike on the Boardwalk.
  • Accessibility: If you or someone in your group needs a wheelchair, we recommend taking advantage of the city’s free Surf Chair program. These chairs are specially designed for use in the sand, ensuring everyone in your group can enjoy the sun and sand.
  • Passes: Anyone over the age of 12 must have a beach tag to gain access to the beach during peak season. These tags are available from various online and in-person locations on a daily, weekly or seasonal basis.
  • Beach access: Most beaches are a short walk from the Boardwalk, though others, like Waverly Beach, are accessible from residential neighborhoods. You may also drive a 4×4 onto the beach during the off-season as long as you obtain a permit from the city’s chief of police.
  • Crowds: Peak tourist season in OCNJ typically runs from late June to early September. You can beat the crowds by choosing to surf at quiet times, but the summer will always be the best season for surfing.
  • Gear: The city has plenty of great surf shops stocked with all the essentials, from wax to wetsuits. Most shops also offer hourly and daily board rentals if you need one.
  • Surfing lessons: If you’re new to surfing — or you just want some extra pointers — you can book private or group lessons at one of the many local surf shops or private surf schools. You’ll get one-on-one instruction from experienced surfers who love the sport, which can make your learning experience even more exciting.
  • Special regulations: It’s important to note that Ocean City is also a “dry” city, which means the sale of alcoholic beverages is not permitted within the city’s borders. You can bring your own drinks, but you will need to consume them in a private setting.

FAQ: Surfing in OCNJ

Want to know more about taking an OCNJ surfing trip? Here, we answer some of the most important questions surfers ask.

Can You Rent Surfboards in Ocean City, New Jersey?

Whether you had to leave your board at home or you’re completely new to surfing, OCNJ has you covered. You can rent boards by the hour, day or week at one of the many surf shops in town. While you’re there, you can also pick up the following essential equipment and accessories:

  • Wax
  • Wax remover
  • Wetsuits
  • Board leashes 
  • Surf watches
  • Board bags

Check out our business directory for a complete list of all the shops and surf schools on the island.

Can You Surf if There Is No Lifeguard on Duty?

Yes, you can surf on any of Ocean City’s unguarded beaches. Due to the increased risk, though, we recommend checking in with yourself and your skill level.

Some popular spots for unguarded surfing include:

  • 1st Street: The jetty here produces consistent rights and occasionally strong lefts, making it a great spot to surf during the off-season. The main downside is that any amenities are several blocks away, so you may need to drive.
  • North Street: This exposed beach and jetty break provide excellent surfing conditions year-round, with the best waves appearing in late fall and early winter.
  • St. Charles Place: Surfing the beach here is possible either early in the morning or later in the evening when the guards are not on duty.
  • 8th Street: Located just one street from the famous 7th Street surfing beach, 8th Street offers consistent surf conditions regardless of the tide. Fair warning — it tends to get crowded when the waves are good.

Can You Swim at Surfing Beaches?

No, swimming is not allowed at any of the three designated surfing beaches. Waves that are great for surfing are rarely safe for swimming, and being in the water near fast-moving surfers can put you at risk of injury. All water activities other than surfing are also off-limits, so surfers can ride the waves without having to worry about causing an accident. 

Check out our surfing page for more information about designated beaches and important regulations.

How Old Do You Need to Be to Surf in OCNJ?

Surfers of all ages and experience levels are more than welcome to catch a wave at OCNJ. Kids and new surfers can take lessons at any of the island’s surf shops or surf schools, and the OCBP will ensure your kids remain safe while you’re surfing on any of the designated beaches.

Note that only children aged 12 and up need a beach pass to be on the beach during the summer. Children younger than 12 can enjoy the beach for free.

In the event your kids find that they don’t like surfing, there are also plenty of fun things to do on the beach to keep them entertained. 

How Much Does It Cost to Surf in OCNJ?

A surfing trip to Ocean City can be as affordable or as costly as you make it. For example, cooking meals at your lodgings will generally be cheaper than eating out every night.

That said, the exact cost to surf at one of our beaches will vary depending on what you already have and what you’ll need to get started. For example, weekly beach passes will cost more than daily passes. Taking surfing lessons will add to your expenses, as will renting or purchasing equipment.  

We recommend planning your trip and jotting down any of the purchases or rentals you’ll need to get a good idea of the overall cost before you travel.

Come Ride the Waves in Ocean City, New Jersey

Here in Ocean City, we’re proud of our reputation as one of the country’s top surfing destinations. 

So, are you ready for an awesome beach adventure? From clean, consistent waves to mouthwatering eats and family-friendly entertainment, OCNJ has everything you need for a vacation you’ll remember for ages. 

Download our free visitor’s guide to get started planning your trip to one of the beautiful surfing beaches in Ocean City, New Jersey, today.

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