I did a double-take the first time I saw people surfing in Maine. It was shortly after Christmas at Higgins Beach in Scarborough—a popular winter surfing locale—and a pair of wet-suited surfers were having the time of their lives. Winter, spring, summer, fall—the ocean water is never particularly warm in Maine (maybe in the low 60s on a good day), so why be put off by something like multiple feet of snow on the ground? Surfers in Vacationland don’t get the towering swells of various Pacific hotspots, but hey, the beaches are pretty, the waves are surfable, and there’s a tight community of riders throughout the state, including a few board manufacturers and a handful of surf shops with lessons and rentals. The experts there are a great resource for finding spots to carve, but these five beaches get some of the most consistent waves in Maine.
Long Sands Beach
A long stretch of clean beach with waves breaking over a sandbar, and none too rocky, Long Sands Beach in York attracts both beginners and vets. You may have to line up, as this is a popular spot, but you can kill time between rides at Liquid Dreams Surf Shop, which overlooks the water.
Waves at Gooch’s come in fast and break steep, and it’s easy to get to, located at the southern edge of the town of Kennebunk. It’s a popular swimming beach, so you won’t be alone in the summertime, but Gooch’s is also big with surfers in the winter.
Surfers come to the exposed beach break called Higgins Beach for some of the biggest waves in the state—fifteen-foot swells are not unheard of. There are a few rocks to watch out for, so beginners proceed with caution. In summer, Higgins is closed to surfers between 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
At the bottom tip of the Phippsburb peninsula, this small, secluded, and south-facing beach gets some of the heavier waves in Maine surfdom. It’s a short hike in with your board, which keeps crowds away, though it’s ironically just down the shore from Popham Beach, one of the state’s most popular places to swim.
There are a handful of breaks on this seven-mile stretch of coast in the town of the same name. Try the jetty on the beach’s north end, where waves break hard to the right during a big swell. Wheels N Waves, Maine’s original surf shop, is less than a mile off the beach and rents boards and wetsuits, plus kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.