Growing up surfing on the 4×4 beach was a dream.
In Swan Beach, the summertime offers up west, southwest winds fairly consistently in the morning. This means the potential for fun, clean longboard waves all to yourself. Summer surfing at its best.
The sandbars vary year to year based on storms, tides, and winds. However, most summers there are surf spots on the 4×4 beach that have very shallow sandbars and offer surfable waves all day long.
There are great surfing spots on the Outer Banks. Actually, there are numerous surf spots down south that would be considered much better than the 4×4 beach, located in the most northern part of the Outer Banks. The waves are typically bigger and more performance oriented. I agree with that notion, but I also know that there are days where I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
There are multiple reasons why the 4×4 beach is a special place to surf.
The 4×4 beach is one of the only spots on the East Coast where you can drive up and down the beach, stop at your favorite spot, take a few steps, and then go surfing all by yourself. The beach is also home to wild horses and plenty of other wildlife. Last, there is a stretch of sandbars starting at about mile marker 14 that seems to form every summer.
The sandbars go from the shoreline straight out for about 50 yards with no trough interrupting them. There is almost always a deep hole that borders the sandbar on the north side. This helps create perfect peeling rights anytime there is a swell from the southeast. Several mornings in the summer offer up longboard waves that break for around 50 yards or more on sets or bigger days. A two to three-foot wave from the southeast with light west winds creates the perfect summer longboard wave here on the 4×4.
Aside from just the scenery, convenience, and fun long waves, these sandbars can light up when storms are just southeast of the Outer Banks.
One example would be Hurricane Bertha a few years ago. It was small in the morning, and I thought like I have many times before “should’ve gone down south.” I ended up going to lunch with my brother and a buddy because we were thinking that the storm wasn’t going to do much and that buoys would stay small up north in Corolla.
When the tires hit the hot sand going back to the house after lunch, we noticed a four-foot wave that broke right on the sand. In front of the beach access, there is never usually a great sandbar, but it can give you an indication of the size. We were slightly optimistic after the pretty average morning. The beach was lined with cars since it was a sunny day in July. As we approached the sandbars we longboard all the time, there was a gap in the cars and all three of us got a glimpse of a perfect shoulder high right go all the way down the beach until it ended on the sand.
We raced down the beach to the house, switched out the longboards, and hustled back. For the next 4 hours, we traded perfect chest-to-head-high waves all to ourselves with no one else out for miles.
The 4×4 beach in Corolla is never the first option among people looking for storm surf on the Outer Banks. To be honest, it’s never really my first option when there is a storm either, and it’s my front yard. However, if you stick around on the right storm you can get some really long rights on good sandbars with nobody out. As we all know, empty, quality waves are something hard to come by. Maybe I’ll stick around next storm.
Luke Hurley interned at Twiddy & Company during the summer of 2018. He graduated from Loyola Blakefield in Towson, MD, and currently attends Drexel University where he is studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Over the last twelve summers, he has had the unique opportunity of living on the 4×4 beach and knows this area well.