Surf and sip

Wine and waves are best enjoyed back to back.

Wine tasting and surfing may seem like unrelated experiences, but they have more in common than you think. If anyone has the knowledge to speak to both, it’s Erin Swain, recreational surfer and a sommelier who has worked at properties like Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

“It takes time to understand the nuances of the ocean, and when surfing, you’re forced to be in the element,” she says. The same can be said of wine. “It can overwhelm you with its beauty and power. You need to stay present to pay attention to the aromas that are expressive right under your nose.”

And it’s not uncommon to find people who appreciate both activities. Kyle Knox, former pro surfer and founder of J. J. Knox Wine, is another surf-and-sip enthusiast: "There's nothing better than a glass of world-class wine and good eats after a solid surf session,” he says. “I look for those made by winemakers who sustainably farm and believe in minimal manipulation to let the grapes show their natural territory.”

When the weather cools, Swain follows fall storms up the coast. In New Hampshire, she rides the swells at Rye on the Rocks before getting a glass at Bridge Street Bistrot; in Maine, she surfs at Higgins and York beaches, then unwinds at Old Vine's Wine Bar.

Here are five more places that attract surfers with a love for wine.

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  • Honolulu, Hawaii

    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Where to surf: Swain recommends you ride the waves at Populars (known to locals at Pops) or take lessons with Ty Gurney Surf School, both in Waikiki, Honolulu.

    Where to sip: Afterward, head to Amuse Wine Bar, she says, where you can order from a list of 80 wines and enjoy live music every night.
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  • The Outer Banks, North Carolina

    The Outer Banks, North Carolina

    Where to surf: On the east coast, Swain recommends surfers chase swells up and down the barrier islands of North Carolina on beaches like Duck Pier; Kitty Hawk, especially popular post-storm; Nags Head, one of the area’s oldest spots; and the remote Hatteras.

    Where to sip: Trio in Kitty Hawk. The market-meets-bistro is known for its enormous selection of cheeses and wines from around the globe and self-service machines where you can taste 24 different wines. Try Blue Water Grill if you’re near Nags Head, and Aqua Restaurant & Spa if you’re in Duck, Swain notes.
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  • Watch Hill, Rhode Island

    Watch Hill, Rhode Island

    Where to surf: For solo surfing, Swain favors the nearby breaks of Point Judith (where you can catch a ferry to Block Island) and Matunuck.

    Where to sip: Swain recommends tasting wines from near (Long Island) and far (New Zealand) at Matunuck Oyster Bar, which overlooks a pond where the shellfish are raised. Ocean House and its quieter sister property, Weekapaug Inn, also host Sip and SUP (stand up paddleboarding) events, where you can taste rosé after a session in the water.
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  • San Diego, California

    San Diego, California

    Where to surf: Head to the Crystal Pier surf break at Pacific Beach or Windansea Beach in La Jolla, Knox says.

    Where to sip: After surfing the former location, enjoy a glass of a chilled red at JRDN at Tower 23 Hotel, says Knox. “This is geeky wine goodness,” he says. “Have it with the duck confit.” In La Jolla, try a glass of rosé at the wine bar We Olive La Jolla.
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  • Montauk, New York

    Montauk, New York

    Where to surf: In the a.m., you’ll find the sandy lot at Ditch Plains fills early with pickup trucks and surfboards. Other popular surf spots include Big Rock, Turtles, and North Bar, notes Swain.

    Where to sip: “I recommend some of the smaller places like MUSE for a glass of wine, Swallow East  on the docks, and Duryea's Lobster Deck,” Swain says.

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