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Surfing in the Outer Banks

Looking for things to do on your Outer Banks vacation? How about surfing in the Outer Banks? Here’s how you can take lessons with OBX Surf School and learn from one of their patient, passionate instructors.

Man on a surfboard in the ocean.

Thank you to the Outer Banks Visitor Bureau for arranging and providing surfing lessons for my kids.

When my daughter learned we were taking an Outer Banks vacation, she had one request.  She wanted to learn to surf.

In fact, all three of our grown kids were excited to take Outer Banks surf lessons with OBX Surf School. Their instructor, Zach Knapp, has over 20 years’ experience, is CPR/FIRST-AID certified and is an expert in ocean safety. He’s also incredibly patient and passionate about surfing.

OBX Surf School offers group and private lessons for all skill levels, and they will meet you at your Outer Banks vacation rental for lessons. They also provide a photographer, Sam Sykes, who can photograph the lesson or provide video footage for an additional fee. He got some great shots and we did buy his photo package (though the photos used in this post are my own).

On the day of the lesson, the kids had driven all night and arrived in the Outer Banks mere hours before their lesson – with unshaved legs – to find a HOT instructor. This is their unforgettable experience as told by my daughter.  

Surfing in the Outer Banks

When you think of the ocean, what is the first thing to pop into your head? I think everyone can agree.


Am I right?!

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

My family recently took a (mostly) relaxing, and all-around amazing trip to the Outer Banks. Lots of fun activities were planned, one of my favorite being Outer Banks surf lessons!

Anyone who knows me knows that struggles happen to me on a daily basis. They eventually turn into great stories, but at the moment they are flippin’ scary or flippin’ embarrassing.

This story is a mixture of both.

I’m one of those people who will try anything once. I definitely don’t want to miss out on anything, but I’m honestly scared of pretty much everything, too. I act brave and don’t let this stop me because who wants fear to run your life and cripple you to amazing opportunities?

Two people carrying surfboards to the beach in the Outer Banks.

We met our surfing instructor at Kitty Hawk Kites in Rodanthe (which has super cute sweatshirts if you’re ever in the area).

From there we drove to our surfing location right down the street and suited up in the wetsuits. We grabbed our provided boards before trekking onto the beach.

Practicing on the beach for surf lessons in the Outer Banks.

We briefly practiced getting up on our boards on the beach – for all of five minutes – and then we went straight into the ocean. I guess I thought we’d practice a bit longer but practicing on the beach was a bit awkward.

I snowboard in the winter and figured surfing would be like snowboarding so I wouldn’t have much struggle.

Let me tell you, surfing is not like snowboarding in any way. The general form is the same, but other than that they’re nothing alike.

Preparing to surf in the Outer Banks.

A bit of backstory… One of my BIGGEST fears is the ocean. I don’t particularly like water when I can’t touch the bottom, or even see the bottom for that matter. The ocean is no exception. I’ve waded into the water, but I’d never swam in the ocean. From a young age, my mom would freak out if my brothers or I would go past our ankles in ocean water for fear of us being swept out to sea. (TRUE story)

Trying to surf in the Outer Banks.

Obviously, while surfing in the Outer Banks you have to go out a little past your ankles.

I didn’t even have time to be fearful because our surfing instructor was super great and led us straight to a sand bar about 30 – 40 feet offshore so that we were able to touch the bottom when we fell off our boards. Which pretty much happened repeatedly for the next 90 minutes.

Surfboard flying over the surf.

When the waves didn’t assault me, I was using all my arm strength to get back to the group. But again, our instructor was amazing and ensured we were all having a great time.

When he realized Liv and I were absolutely exhausted from paddling he would pull us back to rejoin Nickolaus. It probably sucked for him to pull two grown women through the ocean, props to him for that.

We were all having a great time. We were hitting some waves, attempting to stand up and ride a wave, drinking plenty of saltwater and generally laughing at our feeble attempt to excel during our Outer Banks surf lessons. 

Learn to Surf in the Outer Banks

How My Outer Banks Surf Lessons Ended

Liv and I were taking a short breather before paddling out again; we were just lying on our boards watching Nick when all of a sudden I see something move in my peripheral vision.

Guys, it was like a scene out of a movie or something. I’d say Jaws, but I’m too young for that. It was a gray fin.

Short little side note: My mom makes fun of me for this, but when I’m in high anxiety situations like any adult would, I close my eyes. I don’t know why maybe because if I don’t see it it’s not there? I don’t know the reasoning behind this, but this situation was no different. I close my eyes for a hot minute, pretend like I didn’t see this fin and try to continue with this conversation Liv and I were having.

But this thing wasn’t going away. The fin popped back up closer than before and I was out. It was no further than about 6 feet away. WHAT?! I calmly look at Liv and say “shark!” You wouldn’t have known we were exhausted by how fast we were paddling back to shore.

In all seriousness, we were going so slow, if this were an actual shark that wanted to eat us, we’d be dead. There’s no way we would’ve been able to out paddle a shark in the ocean.

We make it almost all the way back to shore when our surf instructor came paddling over and asked us where we were going, I look him in the eyes and say “I saw a shark, I’m out.” He looks at me with all seriousness and responds with probably as much patience as he could muster, “It was probably just a stingray. Sometimes when their wings go up it looks like a fin.”

Okay, I understand that reasoning, but didn’t a stingray kill Steve Erwin? Our instructor wasn’t ready to give up on us yet. Liv and I were pulled back out to the depths to continue surfing. And every time I fell underwater I pictured those creepy sting ray faces! I fed stingrays in Cozumel, I did not enjoy that experience and I had no intention of swimming with the creatures.

Walking out of the ocean with a surf board.

I finished up my surfing session without incident while Liv, on the other hand, came very close to dying (yes, I am THAT dramatic). The stingray apparently stayed near us the entire time and on her last wave not one but two stingrays came poppin’ right out of the water right in front of her! Needless to say, after that we were all finished.

Our OBX surfing lesson was the highlight of the trip. Our instructor, Zach, was very patient with us (even when we asked if he had ever watched Rocket Power…), taught us thoroughly, assisted us in getting the best waves we could handle and made sure we were all having a good time.

If you’re ever in the area and want to have an adventure, I highly recommend you learn to surf in the Outer Banks. Hit up Zach through OBX Surf School – you won’t be sorry!

More Things to Do in the Outer Banks

You’ll love these when you visit the Outer Banks:

Surfing in the Outer Banks


Tuesday 11th of July 2017

We did this at Waikiki Beach many years ago with our entire family. Though I pretty much made a fool out of myself, my kids had a great time! Protection Status
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