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The Best 5 Surf Spots

A respected surfing friend posed the question, "What might be considered the 'Top 5' East Coast and 'Top 5' West Coast surf spots and why?"  My humble assessment follows, "I can give you my two cents, and why, but must caveat it by saying many of these spots I have never surfed myself. Nonetheless, we are both very familiar with them after 30+ years having read about them or talked to others that have ridden these spots. I can honestly say that on any given day you or another could easily persuade me that spot "x" is better than one of the listed Top 5."  This list could easily be expanded to include other geographical areas.
East Coast USA
(no particular order)
Reef Road Central Fla spot that holds size, shape and speed
Sebastian Inlet Nice hot jetty wave
Cape Hatteras Take your pick - it's a "spot" when you make the journey
Indian River Inlet Southside  Home of the suicide bodyboarders
Manasquan Inlet Awesome huge jetty break in NJ - mouth watering since the '60s
Bonus The reefs and points in Rhode Island and NE.

West Coast USA
(no particular order)
Mavericks The best big wave spot.
Rincón The best point break.
Malibu The best hot dogging, longboard summer break.
Blacks The best for channeling swell from any direction,
lefts & rights, all size waves, exceptional "beach" break.
B** R*** Killer left on a sucking shallow reef.
Bonus Northern Calif., Oregon and Washington - mysto spots.

Puerto Rico
(no particular order)
Tres Palmas Western Atlantic destination for large waves.
Maria's - Rincón Classic reef/point break - my old "home" break.
Gas Chambers Inverted hollow, sucking pits.
Wilderness Breaks from 2 to 20'.
Chatarra Sizzling left.
Bonus Outer reefs.

(no particular order)
Sunset Reef/point break with an infamous bowl.
Pipeline The left that sets the standard for all others.
Waimea The legendary big wave challenge.
Ala Moana South shore left with a wide open face.
Sandy Beach Bodyboarder's pit haven.
Bonus Aloha.  The rest of the North Shore.

The "downsides" of all these waves: they are very well known and can become extremely crowded, except for Hatteras' long stretch of ever moving sandbars.

Top 5 Surfable Waves in the US
Bruce “Snake” Gabrielson
May 8, 2003

There are many great surfing breaks throughout the East Coast, West Coast, and Hawaii. This list presents my pick of the top 8 surfing spots based on overall quality of the wave as well as breaks that provide waves that many surfers can handle in any size swell. I’ve also emphasized more those areas that offer less crowded conditions and that are good for both longboard and shortboard surfing. The list excludes spots like Mavericks that are primarily surfed by serious big wave surfers, but includes Pipeline, primarily because of wave quality. Several surfers provided their inputs in compiling this list.

Top 8 Overall

1. Sunset Beach, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
2. Blacks Beach, LaJolla, California
3. Cape Hatteras Region, North Carolina
4. Trestles Region, San Clemente, California
5. Malibu Beach, Malibu, California
6. Pipeline, North Shore, Hawaii 
7. Sebastian Inlet Area, Central Florida
8. Huntington Beach Region, Huntington Beach, California

East Coast USA
1. Cape Hatteras Region (North Carolina) There are many quality spots in this area.  The breaks can handle swells from any direction, both large and small, plus you can usually find a less-crowded rideable break regardless of wind direction most of the time.
2. Sebastian Inlet Area (Including Spanish House and Monster Bowl) (Central Florida) The inlet jetty is a fast right breaking jetty wave that often gets crowded.  The other beach breaks in the area are challenging and offer plenty of great places to surf.
3. Manasquan Inlet (Manasquan, New Jersey) A long breakwater/jetty break that handles larger long, hollow waves.  Experienced surfers only.  Good on east, south, and southeast swells.
4. Reef Road (Central Florida) A hollow fun spot that holds size, shape and speed.  Handles a northwest and north swell best.
5. Assateaque Island (Near Ocean City, Maryland) Several quality beach break surfing areas that can handle large numbers and any ability.  Best on south swells and may close out when the surf gets big.
West Coast USA
1. Blacks (LaJolla, CA) This high quality, hollow, powerful, beach break handles a swell from any direction and virtually any size.  There are numerous takeoff spots for lefts and rights that don’t suffer from wind action until later in the day most of the time.  More experienced surfers only.   Breaks on a northwest, west, or southwest swell.
2. Trestles Region (San Clemente, CA) A series of point-like breaks that offer high quality shaped long rights and also fast lefts regardless of season and in almost every swell direction.  The waves are consistent regardless of tide (at low tide wear boots) plus the wind holds off from trashing the surf most mornings.  Crowds are in the water all day long every day.
3. Malibu Beach (Malibu, CA) A summer right point break with long high quality shaped waves.  Subject to tremendous crowds but many takeoff spots.  Can be surfed on both short and longboard with ease.
4. Huntington Beach Pier and Beach Region (Huntington Beach, CA) A long stretch coast that provides a quality beach break wave regardless of tide and swell direction.   Surfable most every day.  The Pier itself often breaks like a point but is usually very crowded.
5. Lanada Bay (Palos Verdes, CA) A tremendous quality powerful right reef and rock break with long lines. Can handle large swells and breaks on northwest, north and west swell. Subject to localism.
6. Steamer Lane Region (Including the Hook) (Santa Cruz, CA) A series of long reef and rocky point breaks that offer fast quality waves, primarily for more experienced surfers.   The Lane breaks on low to mid tide in northwest, north, southwest, and south swells.  The surf can get large and dangerous.
Oahu, Hawaii
1. Sunset (North Shore) A high quality right point break over a reef with an inside bowl.  Capable of handling any size swell.
2. Pipeline (North Shore) One of the world’s best breaks.  A steep hollow left and a backdoor right that get bigger as the swell increases.  Usually crowded and not a good place for the less experienced.
3. Haleiwa (North Shore) A good quality right point-like (jetty) and beach break that can handle strong swells and be surfed by both experts and the less experienced alike.
4. Ala Moana Region (South Shore) Plenty of quality lefts with a wide open faces.

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Last updated on: 09/14/18