Whether you are an avid surfer or have always wanted to learn, Sandbridge Beach is a surfer’s dream. It has the same favorable conditions for surfing as Virginia Beach — without the crowds. For beginners, wide-open spaces mean you don’t have to fight for waves or run into other surfers, and you can get the basics down in relative privacy. Waves are also usually small — 2 to 4 feet on average — making it much safer for newbies to learn.
What Time of Year to Surf
You can surf Sandbridge Beach almost year-round, depending on your tolerance for cold. January and February water temperatures can dip into the low 50s, but begin to approach mid-70s by May. June through October water temps remain in the high 70s to low 80s, and usually don’t fall below 65 until the end of December. The best time of day to go surfing is at low and mid-tide when the currents aren’t as strong.
Where to Go
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can surf the beaches from Little Island Park to North Sandbridge and North Sandbridge to Dam Neck all day Mondays through Thursdays. No surfing is allowed between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Little Island Park is the best place for beginners. Swells are small but steady and the bottom is sandy.
Gear Up for Safety With Wetsuits
When water temperatures fall below 70 degrees F, it can impair breathing and create a dangerous situation. In winter you’ll want a wetsuit, a hood, gloves, and booties. In early spring or late fall, you can get away with a lighter wetsuit, but do wear some form of thermal protection.
Olympic swimming pools are heated to at least 77 degrees F, so unless you’re surfing in June, July, or August, you’ll need a wetsuit. Check the water temperatures before you go to be sure.
Surf wax keeps you from sliding off the board in the water; however, after a few hours of contact while paddling out on your stomach it can cause a stinging reaction called “board rash.” If you’ve rented a traditional hardboard or are taking lessons while you’re at Sandbridge Beach, you probably will be riding a waxed board. Your best defense against board rash is a rash guard: a thin, tightly fitted neoprene shirt. If you’re renting a foam-top board, you won’t need wax — but a rash guard can help with sun protection too.
The Ins and Outs of Surfboards
In general, the smaller the waves, the bigger the board you’ll need. Sandbridge Beach surfing usually means long-board surfing. If the waves kick up, rent or bring a shorter one. Short-board surfing is more sporty, so when the waves are higher, experienced surfers are usually out en masse.
Rental surfboards come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and materials. The smallest boards are about 6 feet long and are best for experienced surfers who want to go fast and turn sharp. Short boards can also serve as learner boards for little ones. Bigger foam-top boards are made for beginners. They’re not as slippery as hard-top boards, so it’s easier to learn how to stand from a paddle; plus, they are wide and have plenty of float for more stability.
In Sandbridge Beach, the closest outfitter for surfboard rentals is Ocean Rentals. They have a wide variety of options for all skill levels, including 6’6″ short boards, and long boards up to 9’6″.
Rip tides are currents that pull away from the shore when a storm is near. Rip tides are strong enough that even the most experienced swimmers can’t fight against them. If you find yourself caught in a rip tide, don’t panic — swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current. Undertows are powerful bottom currents caused by water from breaking waves moving back out to sea. If you’re coming out of the water carrying a surfboard, wait for a trough before standing up.
The best way to learn to surf is by taking a few lessons. Surf & Adventure on Sandbridge Road offers a variety of lessons and camps. The least expensive option is a group lesson, a two-hour class for ages 8 and up. For just a bit more you can take a private two-hour lesson. This is a good choice for those with some experience who want to hone their skills, or for new surfers who want to learn quickly.
Sandbridge Beach has some of the best surfing on the East Coast for all skill levels. Small, gentle waves and a soft, sandy bottom make Sandbridge Beach a good place to learn to surf. When waves kick up, experienced surfers can take advantage of bigger waves without the crowds.