If you’re living along the East Coast, it could be a bit difficult to travel across the country to Hawaii or California for that perfect surfing spot. Georgia might not be your first choice when it comes to surfing, but with the warmer waters, beautiful surrounding islands, and stunning wildlife, there are quite a few reasons to visit Georgia, the details of which we’ll look at in this article.
When it comes to surfing in Georgia, it's best to visit around late Summer to early Winter, when hurricanes can potentially make the waters more suitable. Tybee Island should be the best place to learn surfing, while areas like North Jetty, St. Simons Island, and Wolf Island can all be great for general surfing.
Before we go into the details of finding the right spot, let’s first have a look at why you might want to choose Georgia as a spot to surf in the first place.
Why Surf in Georgia?
When you think about going surfing, Georgia probably won’t be the first place to pop up in your mind, with its seemingly lackluster waves and somewhat difficult trek reaching the beaches. But, if you find yourself along the East Coast, there are several reasons why Georgia might be a strong option for you to explore.
Decent Waves with the Right Timing
Although the waves present off Georgia typically aren’t a great fit for surfing, the 100 miles of coastline and roughly 60-80 miles of continental shelf can provide many areas to catch a swell. This is especially true during the late summer to early winter seasons when northeasterly and hurricane winds can provide more suitable waves for surfing.
While you might find the waves less appealing during the warmer months, another benefit of surfing around Georgia is that you can surf year-round thanks to its more southern location compared to states such as Maine or New York.
Casual Surf Culture and Crowds
Because the idea of surfing isn’t so strong in Georgia, there’s not a whole lot of competitive surfers (or even in general) who would be willing to wait for the right waves and so there’s not a whole lot of localism when it comes to the sport.
The surf breaks are also usually public beaches, with surfers of all kinds visiting. Overall, this means that you should feel confident when you go out to surf in Georgia, as just about everyone there is doing so casually.
Surfing Season in Georgia
The surfing season in Georgia can vary annually, but generally, the best time to surf is from late summer to early winter. While these times are best for professional surfers and those looking to catch a powerful wave, there are benefits of surfing during the other seasons as well.
Surfing in Summer
Summertime in Georgia tends to be hot, especially in August. With water temperatures rising to over 80 degrees Fahrenheit in late August, you are more likely to find hurricane-force winds starting around then.
Tropical weather systems usually begin around mid-July, so be sure to keep an eye on the Weather Channel or National Hurricane Center for updates around that time. You’ll also see if it's an El Nino or a La Nina year, in which you can expect around 3-4 storms for the former or 5-6 for the latter.
Except for hurricanes, though, you probably won’t find many waves optimal enough to surf on in the Summer. Considering the high pressure that comes in from Bermuda and the typical southeastern winds, it can be difficult to find a wave to surf.
Surfing in Fall
Fall can be a great time to surf as water temperatures will usually vary from the low 80s to the mid-60s, and most tropical storms and nor’easter weather systems will occur during this time. During hurricane season, the waves will become more steady and powerful, making Georgia much more attractive to seasoned surfers.
Surfing in Winter
The chances of waves can be quite unpredictable during winter. While you may be able to find good swells when low-pressure systems come, the increasingly cold weather (and hence cold waters) can make the whole trip more difficult as the season goes on.
Be sure to pack a good wetsuit when the outside temperature drops to around 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Surfing in Spring
While occasional passing fronts and late nor’easters do bring in some strong waves during Spring, the majority of the season will see more mellow and calm waters. Spring is arguably best for beginners who are looking for more tolerant weather and those seeking to avoid the bugs, snakes, and alligators that usually roam the area.
Best Surfing Spots in Georgia
Because Georgia isn’t a place well-known for surfing, it’s crucial to find the right location and timing if you wish to catch the biggest wave. Here are some top places to check out:
1. Tybee Island
Tybee Island is arguably the best spot in Georgia to catch a wave. Its waves are consistent and usually average one to two feet during high tide.
Tybee Pier and Little Tybee both offer routine waves, and the offshore sandbar breaks between the two locations can be great for longboarding.
Location: Past McQueen’s Island and near Savannah, along the coast of Georgia
2. North Jetty
While beginner surfers often visit Georgia, this is especially true in North Jetty, since it has few crowds.
Though waves are not as consistent here as around Tybee, waves break here and along the beach, therefore you’ll still be able to find plenty of chances when they do break and the weather’s kind.
Location: St. Marys’ Entrance would be best
3. St. Simons Island
Though St. Simons Island is small (roughly 22 square miles), the barrier island has enough open beach breaks that you can potentially ride one or two, especially during hurricane season.
Location: Roughly a 2 hour’s drive south of Tybee Island via I-95 S, an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville
4. Wolf Island
Wolf Island has a good number of swells and cross-shore winds from summer through early fall.
Besides the waves, Wolf Island is also a National Refuge, meaning that it is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and thus contains a diverse group of animals and plants. Specifically, people often go there to observe shorebirds.
Because of its location, Wolf Island is also used as a fishing, crabbing, or boating spot, so you can be sure you’ll find an activity to do there even if you’re not there to surf.
Location: East of the Brunswick Airport and immediately north of Little Egg Island
Best Areas to Learn Surfing in Georgia
While some things are required for all beginner surfers, such as being able to swim or being aware of hazards in the water, some areas in Georgia are better than others when it comes to learning the sport.
1. Tybee Island
With Tybee Island being the most often visited surfing spot in general, it's not surprising to see it being so popular among beginners as well.
With consistent and mild waves during most of the year, the island is great for those just getting into the water.
2. St. Simons Island
Another popular spot is the previously mentioned St. Simons Island, which has a handful of beginner-friendly spots, with East Beach being particularly popular thanks to its mild waves and sandy bottom.
3. Jekyll Island
Along with St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island is also a popular beginner-friendly spot in the Golden Isles. Driftwood Beach has similar traits to East Beach, making it just as attractive to beginners.
What are some hazards you might encounter?
Common hazards you might encounter include animal attacks, thunderstorms, and heat.
Georgia’s many islands are home to a large diversity of wildlife, such as alligators, rays, jellyfish, and sharks. It's imperative to know where these animals usually stay, such as saltwater inlets (sharks), beneath the underwater sand (rays), and along beaches (alligators).
Be wary of these places and bring necessary protective gear (i.e., Sting-eze, hat, sunscreen, etc.) to keep yourself safe from the animals and elements.
What activities can you do when waves are absent?
The main reason why Georgia isn’t such a popular surfing spot is due to the lack of waves. As such, you may want to find some other activities to do if you happen to travel there during one of those times.
When it comes to wildlife, besides spots like Wolf Island, another potential candidate is Providence Canyon, sometimes called the “Little Grand Canyon.”
If you’re more into urban life, you can consider visiting Atlanta or Savannah, with the former having several well-known sports teams and stadiums and the latter being very close to the coast and having a plethora of old southern-style architecture that’s certainly worth your time.
Although Georgia probably wasn’t on your list of potential surf spots, hopefully, this article has convinced you that the state can be worthy of your time. With its many islands and surf spots, immense diversity, and overall peaceful atmosphere, the Peach State has much more to offer than one may think.
Written by Edward Zhang
Edward is an accomplished author with a deep passion for the ocean. He holds a masters in marine science degree at the University of New South Wales and a bachelors in biology from Stony Brook University.
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