If you close your eyes and picture someone surfing, you may visualize the tropical, turquoise waters of Hawaii or the sun-scorched, mile-long beaches of the West Coast. Maybe you even know a thing or two about surfing and think about Kelly Slater tearing it up in Florida. What you probably don’t visualize are the empty, snow-covered beaches and rocky shores of New England. Surf season in New England is not during the warm summer months—it’s during the frigid wintertime when Nor’easters bring swells up the East Coast. While I could get into comparing East Coast versus West Coast surfing, this article will focus on how our little, 2,000-student college may just be the best college for surfing in New England. Now I know some of you may be wondering why this claim even matters—frankly it doesn’t matter much—but some of you may decide to try surfing in Maine or even add Bowdoin to your list of colleges to apply to after you read this.
To begin, there are five states in New England that border the ocean: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Take Connecticut off that list because its swell is blocked by Long Island, and now you have four. With Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine left, it’s important to mention that all four of these states have well-established surfing communities and feature world-class surfing at various times of the year. However, in terms of the crowd and sheer coastline, Maine has a much smaller population than that of California’s, despite having a longer coastline. Sure, much of this coastline is not surfable and is made up of inlets and islands; however, this jagged profile makes Maine a picturesque surf destination for any level.
Maine’s surf community is pretty localized to the south where mile-long beaches are accessible by highway, and locals can get a quick session in before heading off to work in the Portland area. North of Portland, most people surf at Popham Beach and Reid State Park, though there are plenty of lesser known spots rife with opportunity. I’ve heard of people who surf, further north, off of point breaks, rock reefs and even Acadia National Park. Bowdoin, a mere 30 minutes from Popham and 45 minutes from Higgins Beach (south of Portland), provides accessibility to both the untamed North and the popular spots down South.
Bowdoin also boasts a decent surfing community that was fragmented during COVID-19 but is now coming back better than ever. The Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) offers learn-to-surf trips almost every week in the fall, where students can head out into the waves without owning any equipment or spending any money.
“Drop in, smack the lip—WHA-PAH” is what you will soon be saying if you decide to give surfing a go up here in Maine. It really doesn’t get any better than heading out to an empty beach, watching the sunrise and, if you are lucky, surfing in the snow. If you have any interest in surfing with me shoot me an email and keep an eye out for the BOC surfing trips I’ll be leading next fall!
Alex Ordentlich is a member of the Class of 2026.