Originally Posted by surfer1280
A few weeks ago I went to Scarborough State Beach in Naragansett.
I had heard Naragansett offered some of the best surfing in the northeast.
I was disappointed.
The surf wasn't that great...and in fact...all of the RI beaches I have been to, Misquamicut/Charleston...weren't much better than what I had hoped for.
I thought Rhode Island beaches had generally warm water and a good surf...instead the felt pretty cold and not much like the ocean but a better version of the sound.
This prompted a couple of questions I wanted to know about
1) Which Rhode Island beaches are good ones for surfing?
-Is Misquamicut/Scarborough/Roger Wheeler/Point Judith any good or do you have to go to Narragansett Town BeachNewport to get a good surf (which I want to avoid because it is SO expensive).
2) About the water...is it best to wait until August?
3) Do any of the Rhode Island beaches touch the Atlantic Ocean instead of the Block Island or Narranagansett Bay?
As an older beach bum…maybe I can help. I have surfed a bit up and down the Atlantic from Rhode Island to Florida, and spend a fair amount of time on East Coast beaches 12 months a year. Living in eastern Connecticut I go to Rhode Island and Long Island, NY beaches often.
First, a geography note: I am a bit confused by your question “Do any of the Rhode Island beaches touch the Atlantic Ocean instead of the Block Island or Narragansett Bay” ?
The ENTIRE Rhode Island south coast touches the Atlantic. Block Island Sound is NOT an enclosed body of water (like Long Island Sound). The name Block Island Sound is just the name give to the area waters around tiny Block Island (about 3 miles wide, 15 miles off Rhode Island coast near Green Hill). When you are standing on most of the beaches in South County Rhode Island (Misquamicut, East Beach, Point Judith, Narragansett…etc), and look out over the Atlantic…the next land mass in front of you is Grand Turk Island in the southern Bahamas (lol).
Now on to just a few things to remember:
1) The Atlantic surf takes a long time to warm up in spring… and a long time too cool down in fall.
Water heats up and cools off slower than land. So while the Atlantic surf can still be cool in June…it can be quite warm in early October. I spend much more time swimming the last weeks of September than in early June (September is the best beach month on the East Coast by far). The year before last, there was 70 F surf off RI/Long Island, NY until mid October. Bottom line
…the surf is cool (below 65 F) until mid July, then it’s fairly warm (70 - 74 F +) until the first week of October. Of course much depends on getting normal summer weather (this year the very cool spring was not helpful). Forget swimming/surfing north of Rhode Island. The true New England coast (Massachusetts’s north to Canada) is way to cold to swim/surf with out a heavy wet suit (and gloves) and the water is pitch black.
Remember (this always shocks people)… in a normal summer, the Atlantic surf in the lower Northeast (from Rhode Island south to Ocean City, MD)…is just as warm (or warmer) than the surf off southern California in summer. Of course from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina southward to Florida - the Atlantic is like bath water in summer (often 83 to 86 F), while it’s 65 F off San Diego or Santa Monica, CA.
The West Coast may have the waves…but the water is freezing most of the time (lol).
2) Wind Direction…SOUTH or SOUTHWEST.
While I agree with the post above that South Shore Beach in Little Compton, Second Beach in Newport, and Ruggles Avenue in Newport has some good surf without a tropical storm, and better than most other areas (in fact anywhere north of the Outer Banks, NC)… waves are still weak when there is little wind. One of the reasons that Rhode Island, Long Island, NY, and southern North Carolina has some of the best surfing along the whole East Coast… is that they are geographically orientated west to east.
When the winds come out of the south/southwest periodically during the summer it creates good swells along the whole East Coast - and really good swells on south facing beaches. This occurs under two situations:
A) A big building Bermuda High will set up shop of the Atlantic coast east of the United States (over Bermuda/northern Bahamas),
...with a semi-steady southwest wind flow over the ocean. After a day of this flow pattern over the ocean… waves build and can create some good sized swells on south facing beaches (Misquamicut, East Beach, Green Hill, Matunuck, and Narragansett which is east facing). On a typical mid summer day with temps in the 80’s, a nice humid south/southwest wind coming out of the tropics, and long even steady waves… it's as good as it gets.
B) The hurricane/tropical storm swell is what surfers along the East Coast from Rhode Island south live and die for
... Although you don’t need to wait for a hurricane/tropical storm for good surf…once you have experience tropical surf the rest seems anemic.
The position of Rhode Island/Long Island is very close to the corridor where tropical systems move north to south off the East Coast. The tropical storm swells of course are influenced by the length and number of tropical stytems in the Atlantic. There are many years when the tropical swells start as early as July and storms just keep firing until November. In some years there is absoloutly nothing. Also, hurricane/tropical storm swells build for days and it takes days for them to subside. So a hurricane as far as Bermuda will send good sized swells toward the south facing beaches of Rhode Island/Long Island.
Here is a train of hurricanes and tropical storms showing the East Coast.
Here is a typical mid/late summer situation, that will generate big waves on the South Shore of Long Island and Rhode Island south facing beaches, this is Hurricane Alex in 2004. Alex sent swells for days along the south shore of Long Island and Rhode Island, although there was some minor damage from overwash and flooding in a few areas.
Here is some surf form Beryl in 2006, a weak tropical storm that passed just off Rhode Island. Although the waves weren't that big, they perisisted for a week, this was taken in Misquamicut. I still remember that day: the waves were 6 to 10 feet, although they got sloppy at the end. It was nice because it was hot (85 F or so) and humid and the water was about 74 F. This guy lost his board near the end.
the surf is warmest from mid July to the first weeks of October, watch for a good south wind (check the NWS forecast), and keep an eye south off the Bahamas for cyclone development. South facing beaches will always have the best surf under the above conditions. One word of caution, when hurricane or tropical storm surf is building…WATCH OUT FOR RIP CURRENTS! Hurricane swells have strong undercurrents. EVERY YEAR, people drown in rip currents on the East Coast.
Read how to get out of rip currents on the NWS site and don’t swim alone in hurricane surf.