Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

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HamdiD
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Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

I am wondering about top places to windsurf within a few hrs. of Atlanta (not including Lake Lanier), ideally all year around. I have gone to Destin and Gulf Breeze, FL area a few times and had a good time, though the Destin area (Gulf Seashore) had a lot of sand dunes to avoid. During the recent ABK camp, I heard people talk about Titusville, FL. I have also heard about Merritt Island, FL. What is your experience? Nag's Head & Hatteras were great but a little too far for a few days trip. Thoughts? Top 3-4 choices?

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moredownhaul
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL
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Randy
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

I don't think there are any places much closer than Destin that are substantially better than the local spots (Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona). There are other lakes (e.g. near Augusta, or near Columbus) but I think the conditions are probably about the same and for most of us - pose more unknowns. I've not tried West Point or Lake Juliette and some people think they are worth the drive once in a while particularly in the cold weather months when those Lakes are warmer. From my point of view it is drag to drive 30 minutes to an hour to one of our lakes and get skunked - but it is twice as bad to drive twice as far and get skunked - so you need to be pretty confident of the forecast.

I love Destin (6 hours or so), The Gulf side is not the best place to sail - the bay is much better and far easier. It has shallow water a good distance out from shore and is warmer than Atlanta. The wind is smoother, though it probably is not stronger than our local winds. There are many places to launch on the bay side. I've gone only in the fall - a few times in October but most times in November around Thanksgiving week. I've never windsurfed at Tybee or Jekyll, though in the spring Jekyll seems to have a fairly dependable seabreeze. I windsurfed St. Simons and Isle of Palms near Charleston years ago. It was fun but that was years ago and the sandbar's etc move around. Hilton Head is where I took my first lessons and it is probably about 7 hours. I windsurfed once in the Ocean. Ocean sailing is more difficult than lake sailing for sure. At the time, I didn't like the fact that I had to carry my gear so far across the beach.

Isle of Palm in Charleston was a big windsurfing spot we used to go to in the Summer but the sandbar moved and last time I went - there were wall to wall kites and little room to sail. Plus parking is both a mess and a mystery - hard to even know where to park. If you find a space - be prepared to a long walk with your gear to the launch. We decided to SUP elsewere instead.

There are other places I've been to in Florida (St. Pete are or St. Augustine) - but they are probably more than 7 hours away. In the end, there is a reason why so many of us go to the Outer Banks. It's worth the drive.

There is no off season.

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Thank you Randy. A little more insight to reason for my post - I am looking at getting a vacation condo near a beach and would like to be able to go for the beach (swimming, hanging out with family) and watersports - windsurfing as well as kayaking and paddle boarding. Ideally the distance would be such that we could potentially go even for a weekend (or a 3 day weekend). Outer banks is great but a little out of range for a 2-3 day trip I think. Destin-Navarre-Gulf Breeze area is a definite possibility for all the reasons you mentioned as well. Inquiring with the ABK instructors last week, I was told Titusville and Merritt Island are great choices for windsurfing in FL- I might check them out later this summer. They are about 7 hrs from here; so a little more than Destin but not as bad as Outer Banks. Do you know anything about those places? What are couple bay launch places in Destin that you like? Thanks

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webguy
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Ooof... I could write an essay if not a book on this. Once you expanded upon your question it became a lot more complex. You have a lot of criteria involved here, some that involve windsurfing, some that involve personal preferences and still others that involve at what stage of life your family is.

From a windsurfing perspective - almost any water within driving distance will have its pluses and minuses. For example, while the Gulf is reasonably close, it also suffers from the same cold fronts we do in the winter and often is not much warmer in the winter months than it is here. In the summer, the Gulf warms up more and sooner than the Atlantic so the seabreeze season is shorter and often less intense. You can still get a good seabreeze at times on the Atlantic side into July by which time the Gulf water is close to bathwater. OTOH, the Gulf has more OBX-like locations on sounds (e.g Ft Walton, San Blas) with reasonably shallow water good for your stage of windsurfing where the Atlantic is more "sail off the beach".

Conversely, Charleston can still be bitterly cold in March but get a kicking seabreeze into July.

If you stretch the driving distance a little to Tampa/St. Pete or Cocoa/Merritt Island, then you open up the Nov. to March period significantly for windsurfing in comfortable weather.

Personal preferences: Are you and your family into "Old Florida"? Jacksonville south to Cocoa is more old-school Florida. Smaller towns, less high rise condos. Tybee and the GA coast have their own vibe while Charleston is a world unto itself. The Gulf Coast tends to be more built up and a lot busier in the spring which can mean too many people or that your kids' friends are all there during spring break.

Also, are you looking for a place to go when it's warm in GA and the kids are out of school or cold here and you need a break? If you are looking for an April to September place you can go further north. If you want to get on the water during the deepest cold here, you really need to get down to Cocoa/Tampa part of Florida to dependably be some place warm

Your family: Are the kids younger and tethered to school, sports/activities, etc? Getting away in the winter is more difficult so Gulf/Atlantic coast is fine because you aren't going to be taking too many weekends to go windsurfing from Oct to May. OTOH, anything that's reasonably close to Orlando (Cocoa is closer to the Mouse than I am to Van Pugh) may give your family great alternative activities while you're windsurfing all day. Are you looking for some place you might retire? Some Atlantans have ended up down in the Tampa/St. Pete area, others in the Savannah/Charleston area. Good windsurfing plus large communities for things like healthcare and day-to-day activities. (Being in Bumf*k, AL, needing medical care and Mobile being an hour away is not optimal as we get older.)

As I mentioned at the top, point me to a general region and I can give you some good places to windsurf. I've windsurfed at a large number of the spots on the maps. I will say that the larger windsurfing communities I know of now tend to be Charleston, Tybee, St. Simons, Jacksonville, Cocoa, Tampa/St. Pete, Tallahassee. There is a bunch of kiting in the Destin/Ft. Walton and Mobile Bay areas but I don't know how big the windsurfing community is.

Lastly - probably a bit too far but probably the only exception to all this is north of Charleston to NC. It is surprisingly arid in terms of decent windsurfing spots as almost everything is just beach front and access isn't even that good. Wilmington, though, has a bunch of good spots.

Hope this gives you some useful points to consider.

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gene_mathis
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

I think all Atlanta Windsurfers (and foilers, kiters, SUPers, Kayakers, bikers) should buy places in Tarpon Springs! (Well maybe not ALL.)

Gene
.
(same distance as Merritt Island)

Gene Mathis

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FoilDodo
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

What webguy said. If you haven't already seen it, Places to Kite & Windsurf under the Explore tab has massive amounts of info:
https://windsportatlanta.com/wiki/Places_to_Windsurf

Thanks, webdude for maintaining this excellent site.

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moredownhaul
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

We have windsurfed in the Choctawhatchee Bay right past the bridge that goes from Destin to Ft Walton before.
It has some shallow spots but as long as your fin is less than 40cm you'll be fine.

Easy access to the water from the parking lot at
1 Gulf National Sea Shore Dr
Okaloosa Island, FL 32548

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

thank you, I will check that out next time there.

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Thank you so much for the detailed response - when is the book coming out ? Smile
Given the depth of experience and information you have, maybe we can meet sometime (windsurfing, coffee, lunch, etc.) and discuss? Not a big hurry, could be in the next few weeks at your convenience. If you would like to catch up like that, my cell is 770.403.0243

Having said that, some responses to a few of your questions: I have one son in college- so, fortunately done with the Mouse (until grand kids in the distant future?). Not sure about retiring; likely won't worry about that right now - if/when we decide to elsewhere, that could be separate than the condo we are considering now. Main thing is to be able to get away for long weekends (or even regular length weekends), maybe 1-2 week long vacations - ideally year around. 7 hrs (ish) would probably be still ok, though at about the limit - I think St. Pete, Cocoa/Merritt island, Titusville, etc. all at around that distance and thus acceptable. Further south will probably be too far. It seems like Titusville, Merritt Island, Cocoa beach will have both off the beach and sound/bay sailing options, right (and that's not the case for Tybee, St. Simons - ie. only beach to ocean for them)? I am not into crowds - so, Destin, Tampa, Charleston, maybe even St. Pete are not as good options.

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Thank you so much for the detailed response - when is the book coming out ? Smile
Given the depth of experience and information you have, maybe we can meet sometime (windsurfing, coffee, lunch, etc.) and discuss? Not a big hurry, could be in the next few weeks at your convenience. If you would like to catch up like that, my cell is 770.403.0243

Having said that, some responses to a few of your questions: I have one son in college- so, fortunately done with the Mouse (until grand kids in the distant future?). Not sure about retiring; likely won't worry about that right now - if/when we decide to elsewhere, that could be separate than the condo we are considering now. Main thing is to be able to get away for long weekends (or even regular length weekends), maybe 1-2 week long vacations - ideally year around. 7 hrs (ish) would probably be still ok, though at about the limit - I think St. Pete, Cocoa/Merritt island, Titusville, etc. all at around that distance and thus acceptable. Further south will probably be too far. It seems like Titusville, Merritt Island, Cocoa beach will have both off the beach and sound/bay sailing options, right (and that's not the case for Tybee, St. Simons - ie. only beach to ocean for them)? I am not into crowds - so, Destin, Tampa, Charleston, maybe even St. Pete are not as good options.

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webguy
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Will do. Warning - I talk a lot. Really, really a lot.

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webguy
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL
moredownhaul wrote:

We have windsurfed in the Choctawhatchee Bay right past the bridge that goes from Destin to Ft Walton before. It has some shallow spots but as long as your fin is less than 40cm you'll be fine.

Easy access to the water from the parking lot at 1 Gulf National Sea Shore Dr Okaloosa Island, FL 32548

Marked, btw, on the West Panhandle map. I think I was last there about 5 years ago. Kiters tend to launch in the shallower water to the east while the windsurfers park at the west end of the lot where the water is deeper. Good spot in general.

https://windsportatlanta.com/wiki/Florida_Panhandle_West_Map

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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Just for comparison purposes - here are some driving distances from "Atlanta" This is somewhere in the middle of downtown. I have to add about 15 miles or so to this for all the ones going south. Many times driving to a Florida location it has taken much more than an hour getting through Atlanta traffic - which is only the first 30 miles.

St. Pete 479
Merritt Island 493
Titusville 478
Destin 313
Jacksonville 346
Hilton Head 281
Tybee Island 265
Isle of Palms 317
Jekyll 322
Nags Head NC 607
Indianapolis IN 535

For me at least it it hard average better than 60 miles per hour on any drive over 5 or 6 hours. Getting gas, stopping to eat, restroom, as well as traffic etc always slow you down. I put in Indianapolis because I have driven that at least a hundred times. Google Maps says it is 8 hours 18 minutes. The best I've ever done is 8:45 - maybe once. Most of the time it is 10 hour. I've had times it took 13 hours+.

I could make it Jekyll in about 5.5-6, Destin between 6 and 7. (Though highway through AL has gotten better.) St. Pete was about 10.

I'd suggest visiting all of these places doing an Airbnb before deciding on one. That way you can judge the drive, and if you are lucky find what the wind and water are like.

As for wind data - Iwindsurf have a "Windrose" at the bottom of their forecast page which shows very useful stats for locations they forecast.

https://wx.iwindsurf.com/spot/17950

There is no off season.

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webguy
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL
Randy wrote:

I'd suggest visiting all of these places doing an Airbnb before deciding on one. That way you can judge the drive, and if you are lucky find what the wind and water are like.

Randy wins the genius prize for this thread. This, a thousand times this. Before plunking any money down, visit these places and explore. What you think you like and what you actually will like may not be (probably won't be) the same. You say Tampa is too big but Pass-a-Grille, Madeira, Palm Harbor and Tarpon are all completely different from a "big town" but all part of the same Tampa/St. Pete area. Charleston is both Folly and Sullivan's Island (Isle of Palms), unlike each other and Charleston is unlike any other city in the US (sorry, Savannah, it's true). Find what trip length you'll tolerate. Some guys here have driven to OBX for a windy weekend. Others won't even drive to the opposite side of Lanier. I can Someone could tell you that driving to Cocoa isn't bad, but that drive may drive someone in your family bonkers. After all, how many pine trees can a person look at in one weekend? Biggrin

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Thank you Randy and William, very helpful. I definitely see the point about driving time/distance as well as needing to visit. I will certainly visit before getting serious about putting down money; I guess just trying to narrow down the places to go as there are so many possibilities and only so much time (not yet retired). From all I heard, I am starting to think more east coat rather than Destin (crowds, too hot in summer, not that hot in winter, etc.). Tybee/Jekyll/St. Simons/Hilton Head attractive from distance stand point but won't be as warm in winter. I have also gone to Edisto Beach but before windsurfing; has anyone done windsurfing there? Also, these don't seem to have inland waters as in Titusville, Merritt but I don't know how that impacts windsurfing. Further south in FL would be warmer for winter but distance starts to become a concern. William, I will take you up on a discussion sometime - we can talk a lot, no problem here; the more info and insight, the better.

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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Perhaps some of those who have sailed at Jekyll can provide better insight. The main thing is that the sailing area is in the ocean - so that's kind of a negative for me, though obviously some people love that. It is harder. What I don't know is how deep the water is in front of the beach and it varies with the tide of course. I've been for several days around the first of May every year since 2014 in the spring for a kite buggy event. Seabreezes of pretty consistent there that time of year. I've never seen anyone windsurfing there and only seen a few people kitesurfing - so maybe there is something I don't know. I've never been there any other time of the year so I don't much about that either.

There is a body of water that separates Jekyll from the mainland. It might be ideal for windsurfing but I've never tried it. My wife and I went kayaking there - and saw sharks which of dampened our enthusiasm. I don't know if the sharks any kind of threat though so it would be worth looking into.

Some of the guys here go to Tybee a lot for windsurfing so that's worth looking at as it is just about the closest place.

There is no off season.

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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL
Randy wrote:

Some of the guys here go to Tybee a lot for windsurfing so that's worth looking at as it is just about the closest place.

Sidenote: Talked to Joe O'Leary the other day who lives there now. If anyone wants to go to Tybee, he's happy to play local guide.

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Sharks? I get uneasy even with Dolphins, I can't imagine how I would do with Sharks! Seems like Tybee or Hilton Head might be good options to look at. Were you recently surfing at Hilton Head? How is/was it? Ocean or inlet?

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HamdiD
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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

That sounds good, I might take him up on it if I can get a time scheduled. I am also wondering about Hilton Head now; any experience there?

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Re: Best places to windsurf within 2 to 7 hrs of ATL

Pretty much any location on the Georgia / South Carolina coast will require intermediate+ skills. St. Simon's used to be semi-protected at low-tide, but the outer sandbar appears to be gone. There are no protected waters that I know of, even with inlets you still have deal with tides/currents and copious amounts of marine wild-life. And yes, there are plenty of sharks in the Pamlico Sound and in the bays off the FL gulf coast too, but for some reason I don't get freaked out like I do when sailing in coastal SC and GA.

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