The Best North American Beginner Surf Spots


Jan 5, 2006
Outside Magazine
Otter Rock Beach

Otter Rock creeps out into the ocean, creating a beginner surfing haven.    Photo: Ossie's Surf Shop

The Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area—Otter Rock, Oregon
Surf Report: One hundred and six miles from Eugene and 123 miles from Portland, Otter Rock is an exception to Oregon's rocky, craggy, windy coast. With water temperature hovering between 48 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year full wetsuits, boots, and gloves are a must. A huge headland protects the beach from wind and giant swells.
Scene: Known as the "Waikiki of Oregon" more people have probably learned to surf here than anywhere in the state. A ton of beginning surfers, tourists, families, body boarders, and skim boarders. Family friendly with zero bad vibes.
Bonus: A beautiful, mostly undeveloped coastline, so it's just you and the waves. There are public rest rooms and outside showers for day use and Beverly Beach Campground is just two miles down the beach.
Wax Run: Ossies Surf Shop, 541-574-4634,; Otter Rock Surf Shop, 541-765-2776,; Lincoln City Surf Shop, 541-996-7433,

Frank Island—Tofino, British Columbia
Surf Report: On the south end of Chesterman Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island is one of the best beginner breaks in North America. Cold in the winter, cold in the summer (this is Canada, after all so pack your wetsuit).
Scene: Tofino is the Surf City of Canada, a shockingly beautiful hamlet that gets 118 inches of rain per year, so it's craggy like Ireland, quaint like New England, and as green as Hanalei, Hawaii. Beach fires and family BBQ's line these sandy beaches, the smell of fresh cooked salmon wafting into the line-up most summer evenings. Tofino is a mellow scene that some say is similar to that of California in the 60s. It's an out of the way place very popular with Canadians and tourists from all over. Snow covered glaciers and 1,000-year-old cedar trees form the backdrop. Don't forget to look ahead for black bears when walking down the beach trail. This part of the world gets huge surf half the year, but Frank Island knocks down all that fury allowing beginners to splash away like baby ducks on either side of the tombolo (spit of land) that connects the island to Vancouver Island.
Bonus: Great stream, lake, and ocean fishing; kayaking by river, fjord, and open sea; and sight-seeing that is a little bit New England, a little bit Viking, a little bit Paul Bunyan. A place most people don't even know exists, but is one of the best, most unique beginner spots north or south of the border because of that weird little tombolo.
Wax Run: Surf Sister, 1-877-724-SURF, Live to Surf, 250-725-4464,

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