Scoop & Anne Collins on the beach at Ocean City, Maryland 1942. Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum.
The evolution of the sport of surfing in Ocean City, Maryland, is just as unique as the Town itself. When surfing first took off in Ocean City, there weren’t any surf shops. Using mahogany and pine, local surfers had to create and build boards by hand. Many of the first boards built in Ocean City resembled those popularized by Hawaiian surf culture.
Ocean City's first surf shop opened on 18th Street in 1964. The Eastern Surfer, owned by Bill Wise and George Pittman, was located in the basement of the Sandy Hill Motel. Surfers on the East Coast had access to some of the most high-quality boards through the business, which ultimately expanded to three locations in Ocean City. PRO TIP: For more OC Surfing history, I encourage you to check out the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum Surfs Up! – Riding the Waves of Change exhibit.
Today our 10-mile beach town is still home to some of the finest surfing on the east coast and gains national recognition for its quality of waves each year. We also have numerous local surf shops in town that carry everything you need when it comes to surfing. The core surf shops include K-Coast Surf Shop, Endless Summer, Malibu’s, Quiet Storm and Chauncey’s.
One super common question I receive is “where are the best spots to surf in Ocean City?” The short answer is easy: It depends on the day! That’s essentially the short answer to a lot of questions when it comes to this sport. The coolest AND most frustrating thing about this sport is the ever-changing aspect of the ocean. Because of that, the answer to the question changes every single day.
One bit of advice that can assist a lot of surfers on the search for the best spot is, discover one without a lot of people. Even if that spot isn’t the #1 sandbar in town, you are typically better off with fewer people. That merely means more waves for you! If you do decide to search for the best spot in town on any given day, it’s always an excellent idea to understand the etiquette when it comes to surfing. The guys over at Surf Captain did a great job of producing a visual illustration on surf etiquette for everyone.
Ocean City has a few options for surfing. First, you can surf anywhere you want before 10 am and after 5:30 pm. During the hours that the guards are on duty, the Town of Ocean City provides 2 floating surfing beaches. One is typically in the north end of town and the other in the south. You can find a schedule on the Ocean City Beach Patrol site. You also have the option of the Ocean City inlet on weekdays.
To help identify a spot, you typically want to look for cleaner (not choppy) surf. The small bend in the orientation of the coast in relation to the wind direction will influence the surface conditions of the waves. The lighter the winds or more directly offshore the wind is (coming perpendicular to the coast from the land to the ocean), the cleaner the surf conditions will be. For the most part, our area has clean conditions with a west wind, but as you head south in Ocean City, the coastline bends farther south facing. As a result, a Northwest wind is more offshore as you head south.
In the summertime, we typically see more sand build up in the north end of town that makes the waves break closer to the beach. This happens when the waves are smaller for a longer period of time. It typically takes a storm with larger surf to come in and rearrange the sand to remedy this.
Since the ocean floor in our area is all composed of sand, the “best” sandbars are undoubtedly always changing. Some people have their location/favorite spots, but the best options are constantly changing. My advice is ENJOY the search! Discover a spot with fewer people or even better, all to yourself. They are definitely out there!
If you're interested in learning more, check out my video series: Learn To Surf From A Pro, or stop by The Wave Riding School.