It may not be obvious upon your first visit to our shores, but surfing is ingrained in the fabric of who we are in Virginia Beach. Ever since James M. Jordan Jr. road his 100-pound, 12-foot redwood surfboard into the history books as the first to surf a wave on the East Coast in the early 1900’s, the stage was set for what has become one of our most treasured pastimes. Depending on the season, the swell may not always match the intensity of some of the surfing hotspots on the West Coast, but scoping out the ideal conditions in Virginia Beach has become an art form in its own right. As many of our resident wave-riders will tell you, riding the perfect wave here comes at the cost of patience, tenacity and a little bit of luck – and that’s just how we like it.
In the century that has followed since James Jordan’s first ride, Virginia Beach has produced a host of well-known wave riders, in addition to being home to the esteemed East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC), the second longest continuously run surfing contest in the world. Early resident surfers like Babe Braithwaite and Bob Holland Sr. were instrumental in bringing ECSC to Virginia Beach, from its previous home in New Jersey, and paving the way for those who followed. Local legends, Pete Smith, who started the popular Freedom Surf Shop, and Bob Holland Jr. opened Smith and Holland Surf Shop on 19th Street in 1962, which was the first surf shop of its kind in the state of Virginia. A few years later, fellow local star, Bob White, opened Wave Riding Vehicles, which remains one of the top board manufacturers on the East Coast.
With boards becoming more easily accessible, the Virginia Beach surfing scene has continued to grow ever since. In addition to WRV, local surf shops like Pungo Board House, Surf & Adventure Co. and VB Surf Sessions offer everything you need, from equipment rentals to surfing lessons and camps, that will have you upright and in the water in no time. You can even experience the thrill of shaping your own board with the one-on-one guidance of an experienced shaper like Dirt Bag Surf Co., who does their shaping out of a storage-unit-turned-shape-shack in the Oceanfront Resort District, you can be a part of every step of the surfboard shaping process – from Styrofoam blank to your shaped-up new ride. You design it; you use the tools; and you bring your vision to life. There’s no better way to become one with your board than by being the driving force behind its creation.
From the birthplace of East Coast surfing to the time-honored East Coast Surfing Championship, surfing is a way of life for many in Virginia Beach. Don’t be fooled. Though the waves may often be small, many who have ridden them have become larger than life and have forever changed the face of surfing in America. The only question is: who will be next?