Six Best Urban Surf Spots in America

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.

urban-surfing1South 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.

urban-surfing2South 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.

urban-surfing3Rock­away 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. 

urban-surfing4Fort 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.

urban-surfing5Blacks, 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.

urban-surfing6South 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.