State of the Beach/State Reports/DE/Surfing Areas

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Delaware Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access77
Water Quality89
Beach Erosion7-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill7-
Shoreline Structures6 3
Beach Ecology6-
Surfing Areas45
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}

Inventory and Perception of Status

Delaware's nine identified surf spots are in a wide range of conditions, ranging from “improved” to poor or threatened. The following table (scroll down) shows a breakdown of the status of the surfing quality in the areas that have historically been used for surfing.

Surfing Area Quality Change Since 2007
Herring Point Good, Crowded Improved by groin repairs
Gordon’s Pond Poor, rarely surfed Negative Impacts from beach fill
Rehoboth Beach Fair-poor, rarely surfed Negative Impacts from beach fill
Dewey Beach Poor, rarely surfed Negative Impacts from beach fill
Indian River Inlet north side Fair-good Negative impacts from shoreline erosion. There is concern that proposals to build a seawall to protect the highway, along with beach fill, may negatively impact the surf.
Tower Road Fair Possible impact from adjacent beach fill in Dewey Beach
Indian River Inlet south side Fair Unchanged
Bethany Beach Poor Negative Impacts from beach fill
Fenwick Island Fair Unchanged

The report The State of Surfing in Delaware was an attempt by the Delaware Chapter of Surfrider Foundation to objectively quantify the changes in surfing opportunities in Delaware.

Another issue the Delaware Chapter is monitoring is the effect of a 2013 beach nourishment project on the north side of Indian River Inlet - the first there in over 30 years. This is Delaware's only designated surfing beach, and is one of only two spots in Delaware that remain consistently surfable. Unlike any other Delmarva beach nourishment, the Corps put language in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) document acknowledging the surf break preservation issue, and predicting that through the use of finer grained sand long term negative impacts to the North Indian River Inlet surf break were expected to be avoided. The chapter is monitoring this situation, and with the one-year anniversary of this project, they will be releasing a monitoring report on this surf break.

There are threats to specific areas. Beach fill projects implemented since 2005 have buried groins in Gordon’s Pond, Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach. Bypass of sand, transported northward through littoral drift, tended to accumulate on groins forming surfable waves. Since beach fill, these areas have developed a more uniform and steeply sloped bottom causing waves to break very close to shore.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers and State DNREC jointly operate a sand bypassing system which pumps sand from the south side to the north side of Indian River Inlet. This system extracts sand from the beach or near shore intertidal zone on the south side of the inlet and deposits the sand on the beach on the north side of the inlet, a process which can change wave shape and surfability as the sand is moved and the beach slope in altered. DNREC attempts to manage the sand pumping outfall on the north side of Indian River Inlet in a way to maintain or enhance surfing quality, but recent observations (2010 – 2012) indicate that surf consistency on the north side of Indian River Inlet has decreased.

Delaware conducts frequent beach fill projects, as detailed in that section of our report. These projects can make surfing conditions better or worse, depending on the steepness and shape of the created underwater topography. Sand grain size appears to play a significant role in the manner by which beach fill projects affect surfing. In 1998, finer grained material was used in the communities of Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach, and surfing conditions improved for several years as the beach slope became flatter, and sandbars formed offshore. Medium-coarser grained sand used in these and other communities more recently appears to have steepened profiles, causing waves to break closer to shore, reducing surfability.

Water quality is also a concern at Indian River Inlet, where the water suffers from nutrient enrichment problems. Sand pumping activities that may interrupt surfing at Indian River Inlet cease during the summer months.

A recent issue of concern was the deterioration of the Herring Point (Naval Jetties) surf break at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. The jetty there eroded, with only an island of rocks at the seaward end of the jetty remaining. Currents eroded away the beach at what used to be the north side and ravaged the dune line. The bluff above, one of the highest elevations in Delaware, was crumbling into the sea, jeopardizing the parking lot and historic buildings left over from the old World War II fort. In 2007-2008, these groins were replaced and surfing quality has improved significantly.

During the summer, access is a big issue for surfers. Beach access is being denied at four of the nine surf spots in Delaware, two of them being North Rehoboth and Dewey Beach. Lifeguards there typically restrict surfing between the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For the towns of North Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany and Fenwick, these restrictions are not an issue with town officials because they do not consider these surf spots to be valuable recreational resources.

Beach areas in Delaware State Parks are managed for various types of coastal recreational activities. Permitted activities are marked at each site and designated on state parks maps.

According to the Delaware Coastal Management Program, along the 14 miles of State Park beach, there are four designated board surfing areas. Guarded swimming areas are restricted to board surfing between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Division of Parks and Recreation’s Rules and Regulations 7.3 and 7.4 state that no surfboards shall be allowed in designated guarded swimming areas unless approved by the Director or designee.

For municipal beaches, board surfing is restricted along guarded swimming beaches per local ordinances.

Recognition by State

Delaware recognizes waves as a valuable natural resource for recreation and takes surfing into consideration during coastal planning.

The city council of Rehoboth Beach has designated the beach at the north end of the city limits of Rehoboth as a "Surfing Only Beach." This action was taken at the request of the Delaware Chapter of Surfrider Foundation.

Surfrider Foundation Chapters

Delaware Chapter38° 35' 29.41" N, 75° 17' 28.69" W

<html><fieldset class="rcoptions"> <legend></html>Delaware Chapter<html></legend></html> Delaware Chapter Website

A recent issue of concern was the deterioration of the Herring Point (Naval Jetties) surf break at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. The jetty there had deteriorated, with rocks at the seaward end of the jetty all that was left. These rocks were almost like a little island, completely cut off from land. Currents had eaten away at what used to be the north side and ravaged the dune line. The bluff above, one of the highest elevations, in Delaware, is crumbling into the sea, jeopardizing the parking lot and historic buildings left over from the old World War II fort.

Lewes Sewage Treatment Plant - The City of Rehoboth Beach is looking into Ocean Outfall as an alternative to their Sewer Plant's outfall pipe in the Lewes/Rehoboth Canal - the chapter is opposed to this alternative!!!

The volunteers of the Delaware Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation have played a critical role in identifying the problems in Delaware's Inland Bays. The Chapter will make every effort to coordinate efforts with DNREC and the Center for the Inland Bays to develop and implement a plan toward cleaner water.

You can contact the Delaware Chapter via email at


Surfrider Staff Contact

John Weber
Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager

Also check out Surfrider Mid-Atlantic Region's website for Surfrider news from New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Information Sources

The summary of surfing areas comes from Surfer Magazine's The Surf Report issues for the state. Surfrider Foundation Chapters were surveyed to establish surfing conditions in the state.

Other sources of information on surfing in Delaware include

State of the Beach Report: Delaware
Delaware Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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