Summer Fun

Small State, Big Waves

The ultimate guide to surfing in RI

So Rhode Island Magazine ·

Summer may be halfway over, but hurricane season is just beginning, and with big storms come big waves. Starting in June and stretching all the way till the end of November, the nor'easter surges are sure to send thousands of surfers flocking for the 400 miles of Rhode Island coastline. Bringing waves of all shapes and sizes, hurricane season promises to challenge, delight and frustrate even the most experienced surfer.

Although some of the hottest summer days have passed, the ocean is just heating up. The depths of the Atlantic take longer to warm up than land, and just as long to cool down, so while the waters are still icy in June, temperatures rise to the mid and upper 70s by August and September. But don’t leave your wetsuit at home just yet.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, every surfer needs the basics before hitting the waves:


Wetsuit: Even with rising sea temperatures, a wetsuit protects from more than just the cold. It keeps your body insulated and provides a barrier between you and the environment. Wetsuits protect your skin from scraping rocks, reefs, and anything in between. The suit also protects from prolonged sun exposure and burning.

Waterproof Sunscreen: With or without the wetsuit, waterproof sunscreen is a must-have. Time flies when you’re having fun; it’s easy to get burned after hours in the waves.

Surfboard: We hope this one is obvious, but make sure the board is the right board foryou. The right board depends on its length, width and thickness, and the rider’s body type. Beginners should stick to a long board: they are slow, provide easy paddling and better wave catching, and overall more stability for the inexperienced surfer. Short boards are fast and easy to turn, but require more experience and balance.

Leash: A leash, or leg rope, is a necessity on the water and attaches the board to your leg. Remaining inseparable from your board is essential, for the safety of others and your own. A leash guarantees your board will be there when you fall off, instead of chasing it into shore, and keeps the board under control and less of a hazard to other surfers.

Surf Wax: Make sure you have extra surf wax for emergency application; wax keeps the rider from slipping off the board when paddling or riding a wave.

Waterproof Camera: This isn’t a necessity, but a plus! Attach a GoPro Camera to catch all the action, or play it back later to improve your techniques.



Warm Winds
With over 500 surfboards in stock, Warm Winds is committed to finding the perfect board for every customer. The shop also offers lessons, rentals and gear, including specialty hard-to-find items. Located right across the street from Narragansett Town Beach, Warm Winds is a must-stop-shop for all your surfing needs. 

Island Surf & Sport
Carrying the hottest brands from Roxy and RVCA, to Hurley and Volcom, Island Surf & Sport has it all. Located just between Middletown and Newport, this shop is the ideal place to stock up on any gear for the beach; surfing, paddle boarding or otherwise. Next stop, the Newport beaches!

Narragansett Surf & Skate Shop
Family owned and operated, the Narragansett Surf & Skate shop is small in size, but a pretty big deal. Just a short walk from the Narragansett Town Beach, the shop is the only one in the area to offer surf lessons and equipment rentals all year round! Who ever said it was wrong to catch some waves in February?

Living Water Surf Co.
With a vision to help young and old North East surfers maximize their surfing potential, the Living Water Surf. Co. offers a wide range of surf gear, accessories, apparel and services to prepare you for some major waves. Switch gears and skate like you surf, with the vast selection of skateboards in stock.


East Matunuck State Beach

Wave Quality: Great for longboarding, slow waves turn into speedy walls, break over cobblestone/boulder reefs
Best Tide: Incoming high tide
Swell Range: 2-15 feet
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Parking: Year-round free parking lot

First and Second Beach

Wave Quality: Fun beachbreak waves
Best Tide:
All tides
Swell Range: 2-6 feet
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Parking: Closest beach to Newport with all facilities and parking lots

Narragansett Beach

Wave Quality: Consistent, fun and peaky beachbreak waves
Best Tide: Low to mid tide
Swell Range: 2-8 feet
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Parking: Pay car park and full facilities

Warning: Be cautious of the sunken barge in the surf zone that can cause dangerous currents; the barge is completely submerged with rusted edges

Point Judith

Wave Quality: Rocky right-hand point break
Best Tide: High tide push
Swell Range: 3-18 feet
Skill Level:
Year-round free parking at the Pt. Judith lighthouse


Wave Quality: Needs a big swell to break; true big wave spot
Best Tide:
Low to mid tide
Swell Range: 2-15 feet
Skill Level: Advanced to Expert
Parking: Difficult on side streets




Hurricane season can offer incredible surfing opportunities, but a gnarly wave can easily turn into a ride-gone-wrong. Follow these basic safety tips to ensure you’re always prepared for the worst situation. 

  1. Know the area: Look before you leap! Familiarize yourself with the area before plunging into unknown waters. Be aware of any rocks, reefs and shallow water to avoid potential danger.
  2. Watch the weather: Hurricanes can bring great waves, but they’re still a force of nature that should not be reckoned with. New England is infamous for quick turns in the weather; keep an eye on the sky and recognize when it is time to head for shore.
  3. Know your limits: Don’t surf in an area you know is beyond your skill level. Recognize when it is good to challenge yourself, and when you are too far out of your comfort zone. Don’t take on waves you can’t handle.
  4. Don’t panic: Riptides and strong waves are some of the sneakiest dangers of the ocean. The most important rules to follow if you get caught are to relax, hold your breath, protect your head, and don’t fight. Trying to swim against the current will only result in overexerting yourself; relax and go with the current until it weakens, or swim at a diagonal towards the shore. 
  5. Tell someone: Never head into the water without telling someone where you’ll be. The inviting ocean can rear its ugly head; it is ideal to have a spotter from shore to keep an eye on your safety. 



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