Corolla Beach—Corolla, North Carolina
Surf Report: Here on the northern end of the Outer Banks, you'll find warm water and mellow surf from spring to late summer.
Scene: A relaxed hot spot for East Coasters from Maine to Miami. Bonus: Scuba diving at hundreds of offshore shipwrecks.
Bonus: Scuba diving at hundreds of offshore shipwrecks. Hang gliding and hiking at the East Coast's tallest natural sand dune in Jockey's Ridge State Park.
Wax Run: Corolla Surf Shop, 252-453-WAVE, www.corollasurfshop.com
Cocoa Beach—Cocoa Beach, Florida
Surf Report: Picnic Tables, north of Patrick Air Force Base, churns out gentle rollers year-round.
Scene: Novices from Tampa and Orlando; seasonal snowbirds.
Bonus: Watch rockets launch at Cape Canaveral while practicing your own take-offs.
Wax Run: The Goods Surf & Skate, 321-723-5267, www.thegoodsshop.com
Surf Report: Veteran instructor Jason Borte takes his surf classes to 5th Street, which offers a user-friendly break and a two-block surfing area that is rarely used. The general setup at Virginia Beach is shorebreak, then deeper water leading out to sandbars. These sandbars are always in flux, so any stretch can be good or bad for beginners.
Scene: Although the local ordinances have eased up a bit in recent years, Virginia Beach is notoriously anti-surfer and threatens fines for surfing either without a leash, too close to the pier, or in a restricted area. Better surfers hang out at the First Street Jetty, while beginners flock to Camp Pendleton and all over the North End.
Bonus: Nightlife, good times, occasionally good surf. If you get good, the Outer Banks are only two hours south-potentially epic.
Wax Run: 17th Street Surf Shop, 757-422-6105; Wave Riding Vehicles, 757-422-8823; www.waveridingvehicles.com; Billabong Surf School by Jason Borte, 757-965-9659, www.billabongcamps.com
Folly Beach—South Carolina
Surf Report: Twelve miles south of Charleston, Folly Beach's summer windswell kicks up enough surf for beginners, and waves are almost always 20 to 30 percent bigger than any of the other beaches accessible by car in the area. Folly is soft and sandy, and the surf is just right for learning the basics.
Scene: A kickin' time. Good old boys and coeds from the college in Charleston getting loose.
Bonus: The bar and nightlife scene in Folly Beach and Charleston in summer is jumping, but if someone walks up to you and asks if you want to shag, be very careful how you respond. Down here, the shag is a dance, which came out of a local "Beach Music" scene going back to the 20s.
Wax Run: Ocean Surf Shop, 843-588-9175, www.oceansurfshop.com; McKevlin's, 843-588-2247, www.mckevlins.com
Wrightsville Beach—North Carolina
Surf Report: Top East Coast pro Ben Bourgeois learned the ropes in this area of the country. Facing southeast into the Atlantic, and tucked behind the Outer Banks, Wrightsville's soft, sandy beaches are the perfect venue for beginners and perfectly warm in the summer. Great for beginners, but a little frustrating for anyone beyond that.
Scene: Packed in summer with tourists, locals, inlanders, and students from nearby University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
Bonus: Non-stop socializing from Wrightsville to Wilmington and back. And if you want to move on to higher education, road trip-the Outer Banks are only four hours away.
Wax Run: Sweetwater Surf Shop, 910-256-3821, www.sweetwatersurfshop.com