North Carolina has a much longer coastline than the Outer Banks, but the real quality waves are concentrated off these thin ribbons of sand. At Buxton, the recently relocated icon of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse draws surfers like moths to a flame, and most surfers refer to the Outer Banks as 'Hatteras.' From Easter to Thanksgiving, this means crowds, particularly at the big-name spots. The sheep mentality is always a factor because for every quality peak with a crew at work on it, there is another, empty, quality peak a short walk north or south. This whole area is rife with good beachbreaks, and the only constraints are finding a place to park – unless you have a 4WD to disappear down the beach to your own private peak.
Outside the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the more developed Kitty Hawk to Nags Head coastal stretch is a stronghold of the East Coast surf industry. All the main players are represented by a plethora of surf shops, while the local pier waves provide a good proving ground for equipment testing by the large population of resident and transient surfers.
The southern half of North Carolina sweeps away to the southwest, increasing the width of the continental shelf and weakening the energy of the waves. Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle face due south and, consequently, miss out on NE swells; but they light up when there is a good S or a hurricane swell. Access restrictions to a lot of pier-surf areas mean hassles, particularly in summer, but winter brings some good conditions, since the prevailing angle of the coast is perfect for offshores during winter nor'easters.
Wrightsville is one hotspot with punchy waves, where a dedicated crew of shredders competes with the crowds from the large campus at Wilmington. More well-defined set-ups can be found near Carolina Beach before rounding Cape Fear to the sheltered, south-facing areas of Long Beach and Holden Beach.