The words urban surfing are more likely to conjure images of skateboarding or train hopping than wave riding. As such, it may be surprising to learn that some of America’s most urban landscapes boast some pretty great surf.
South Shore, Hawaii
Most people don’t think of cities when they think of Hawaii, but Honolulu is most definitely a city. It has tall buildings, outrageous traffic, money, crime, and crowds. It also –unsurprisingly– has great surf. Diamond Head, Bowls, Kaisers, and Waikiki are all world-class waves breaking in the shadows of thirty story buildings.
South Bay, Los Angeles
Yes, Malibu and Palos Verdes are both in LA, and both arguably hold better surf, but neither of those spots can really be considered urban. Malibu and PV are out on the fringe, where the haves can look disdainfully at the have-nots. South Bay beach breaks, on the other hand, are an all inclusive surfing free-for-all for the human menagerie that is Los Angeles. The waves aren’t that great, it’s crowded and dirty and smells kind of funny, but hey, it’s LA, and on the right fall or winter swell, you will get barreled.
Rockaway Beach, NY
Quiksilver brought the world tour to Long Island, but New York City’s only true surf spot is in Queens. Rockaway Beach is the epitome of urban surfing. Government housing projects and high-rise apartments line the beach. Surfers ride the subway with board bags and dripping wetsuits. It’s gritty and industrial. The winters are brutally cold, the flat spells are brutally long, and the 7‑mil booties on your feet offer necessary protection from more than just the temperature. Not many people know you can get barreled in New York City. Not many people care. And for the dedicated locals that surf Rockaway after October, this relative obscurity is totally fine.
Fort Point, San Francisco
It’s not the best wave in the area. It’s not even the best wave in San Francisco. However, this left point that breaks directly under the Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the most unique surf spot in America and is without doubt the ultimate in NorCal urban surfing.
Blacks, San Diego
Blacks feels much less urban than many of the other spots on this list. The cliffs block out most of the city and the whole place feels pretty pristine. It is, however, right in the heart of San Diego, and it is one of the best waves in Southern California. So, in terms of quality surf in the heart of a major city, Blacks earned its place on this list.
South Beach, Miami
To say this spot is fickle would be an understatement. South Beach rarely breaks. The Bahamas block swells from the East and South, so only rare steep-angled north swells make it through. In fact, Miami has so few surfable days per year that some might find contention with its placement on this list. Still, when a sizeable north swell does manage to trickle into South Beach’s perfectly groomed bars, the place absolutely pumps. Besides, good surf is so rare around these parts that the models on the beach might even be impressed by that spastic flailing you call shredding.