Tybee Island surf is probably – AKA definitely – the best in Georgia. Here, the Peach State takes a nod from Cali, with a couple of pier breaks that work in good autumn and winter swells. It’s good fun.
An introduction to Tybee Island surf
Tybee Island is the surf capital of Georgia. Now, we know that’s not really the same as saying that so and so is the surf capital of California, or the surf capital of Hawaii. But it still counts for something, since this dog-leg of a barrier isle gets certainly the most consistent and fun waves in the whole of the Peach State.
They largely rely on a combo of late-summer hurricane storms down in the Caribbean (those give SE swells) and classic winter nor’earsterners, which will sometimes have enough moxie to send big, punchy groundswells all the way past the OBX and into this corner of the Eastern Seaboard. Together, those actually offer pretty darn fine consistency, at least for Georgia.More than that, Tybee has the only real surf infrastructure in the state.
There are board rentals. There are hotels aimed at surfers near the beach. Hell, there are even surf schools. The downside? It’s a Southern dame of a summertime escape, so expect crowds and lots of em.
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This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Georgia
Tybee Island surf at a glance
What’s in this guide to Tybee Island surf?
Where is Tybee Island?
Tybee Island is located near the city of Savannah, at the eastern end of U.S. Route 80 on the Georgia coast. It’s at the mouth of the Savannah River and is part of Chatham County, Georgia.
Notice how the Atlantic Ocean dominates the whole eastern side of the isle. That’s the reason this place has almost certainly the best surfing in the whole of the Peach State. Well, that and the jetties and sandbars, and it’s easy accessibility…
Do I need to hire a car to surf in Tybee Island?
It’s a good option, renting a car for Tybee. But it’s also not 100% neccessary. Most people do drive over because it’s the quickest way in, plus the main beach is quite long so getting from one surf spot to the next can be a push if relying on legs alone.
Just remember that it’s more likely that you’ll be going from break to break, and most hotels here are on the shoreline anyway, so you don’t HAVE to have wheels.
Tybee Island surf spots
The surf spots in Tybee Island mainly dot the more exposed southern edge of the 2.8-mile beachfront here. It’s the jetties that give the best waves, or the exposed sandbars off Tybee to the south.
The Tybee Island Pier
Okay, so the Tybee Island pier ain’t no Californian breakwater. It’s not got the peelers of Huntington et al. But it’s pretty good on its day, with a wedgy, short right on the north side when there’s more E or SE in the swell and a semi-hollow left hander that shoulder and sections across about 50 meters of the bay. It tends to work better on pushing mid tides and is almost always busy. Best season, as for the rest of Tybee, is fall into mid-winter.
The 18th Street Jetty is a rather grand name for what’s actually at the location: A small cluster of old concrete breakwater rocks that gets almost completely submerged at high tide. Catch it with 4-8 foot in the NE swell channel, though, and a hollowish left will pop up on the south side of the stones. It’s a great wave when it’s on and works relatively common throughout the peak winter months. Just expect a crowd it’s that nice.
Sandbars is the name that the local surf crowd give to the patchwork of very low-lying sand islets that spread through the strait between Tybee Island and Little Tybee. These shift a lot throughout the season but given a good ESE swell will offer up nice long shoulders for trimmers on the logs. They do demand extra volume but work fairly consistently. Boat is the best way over.
Believe it or not Little Tybee is the more consistent of the two Tybees. It’s also the larger of the two islands – whoever named these should be banned from crab fritters for life, eh? Anyway, some will paddle over but we don’t recommend it. If the tide shifts then you’ll be caught in a rip that all but guarantees a one-way ride into the open ocean.
Take a boat instead. That way you can cruise the southeast-facing shore for the best waves, which are all sandbanks that pop up without warning as the hurricane swells move em around. NE swells or late-summer hurricane pulses are best.
Where to stay when surfing in Tybee Island?
Much of the accommodation in Tybee is self-catering, which suits us down to the ground. You’re looking for spots with easy access to the main beach, and preferably that pier. Here are some suggestions…
- #3 B 18th Place – A very cool East Coast pad with marine-style interiors and a sumptuous lounge. Can sleep up to 8 people and you can all share the cost!
- DeSoto Beach Terraces – Just as the name implies, these terrace-fronted rentals offer the finest views over Tybee’s main beach. Check the surf without even leaving!
- Brass Rail 106 – Also with room for a group of eight surfers, this condo-flat is a stunner, complete with modern interiors and a beautiful lounge area with flat-screen TV. Just around the corner from the pier break, too!
Step-by-step guide to planning your Tybee Island surf trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Tybee Island surf…Lately, we like Omio for searching flights. It’s a nice interface and has lots of airline options. We also use Skyscanner because that sometimes offers deals that even beat going direct to the carrier!
Step two: Book your surf camp Book Surf Camps is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages on the internet right now. Then there’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check EXACTLY how close your hotel is to a surf break.
Step three: Get insuranceThis is kinda’ important. Not just for surf trips but for any trips. SafetyWing is great for nomad travelers. They offer rolling contracts that cover amateur surfing.
Step four (optional): Rent a car If you’re surf camping then you might not need wheels. If you’re not then we’ll just say this: We’ve never been on a surf trip that wasn’t improved by having our own car. Use RentalCars – they’re the best.
Step five: Enjoy!
When to surf in Tybee Island?
September to December is the sweet spot for Tybee Island, when you can catch regular hurricane swells but also big NE low pressure systems from the upper Atlantic.
Spring and early summer often bring gentle, long-period swells, ideal for intermediate surfers. However, the late summer’s tropical storm activity can produce more substantial and consistent groundswells. They combine with the strongest of the winter NE storms throughout November and early December, marking the peak of the surf season across Tybee, Georgia, and much of the East Coast.