Outer Banks Water Sports
There is no shortage of options on the Outer Banks for the watersport enthusiast. Whether you have your own equipment or need to rent gear while you’re here, below are some guidelines to help you navigate through all the information. Should you need to rent equipment, there are many companies and outfitters that are eager to help. See our Recreation page for places to buy/rent equipment, or to sign up for lessons or tours.
• No one younger than 14 can operate a PWC in North Carolina waters.
• A person at least 14 years old but less than 16 years old can operate a PWC if: they are riding with a person who is at least 18 who occupies the PWC and has completed the boating safety education course; or the youth has first successfully completed an approved boating safety education course (proof of age and safety course completion must be carried by the youth during operation of the PWC.)
• It is unlawful for the owner of a PWC to knowingly allow a person under the age of 16 to operate a PWC unless they have first completed an approved boating safety education course.
• It is unlawful for a person who has temporary or permanent responsibility for a person under the age of 16 to knowingly allow that person to operate a PWC unless they have first completed an approved boating safety education course.
• No one can operate a PWC on state waters between sunset and sunrise.
• All PWC riders, passengers and those being towed must wear approved personal flotation devices.
• If the PWC is equipped with a lanyard-type engine cut off switch, the lanyard must be worn by the operator at all times.
• A PWC must have a rearview mirror or an observer on board besides the operator to legally tow someone on skis or similar device.
• No person shall operate a personal watercraft on the waters of this State at greater than no-wake speed within 100 feet of an anchored or moored vessel, a dock, pier, swim float, marked swimming area, swimmers, surfers, persons engaged in angling, or any manually operated propelled vessel, unless the personal watercraft is operating in a narrow channel.
• No person shall operate a personal watercraft in a narrow channel at greater than no-wake speed within 50 feet of an anchored or moored vessel, a dock, pier, swim float, marked swimming area, swimmers, surfers, persons engaged in angling, or any manually operated propelled vessel.
• No person shall operate a PWC towing another person on water skis or similar device unless the total number of persons operating, observing, and being towed does not exceed the number of passengers identified by the manufacturer as the maximum safe load for the vessel.
• No PWC on town’s ocean beaches.
• You must go straight in and straight out within 900 feet from the sound shoreline at a speed of no more than 5 mph or not causing a wake.
• PWC can only be operated during the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
• Operation of PWC prohibited on all waters extending 200 yards into the ocean and 400 yards soundside.
• No PWC launching on ocean beaches.
• PWC cannot be operated within 600 feet of the Atlantic Ocean beach within Kitty Hawk town limits.
Kill Devil Hills
• PWC cannot be operated within 300 feet of the sound or ocean shoreline or a fishing pier.
• PWC cannot be operated within 600 feet of the sound or ocean shoreline or a fishing pier.
• You must go straight in and straight out at a speed which will not generate a wake or exceed 5 mph.
• PWC may be launched only at permitted sites within the town. No PWC are allowed at Danube Street or Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area
• No PWC launching or landing from an NPS controlled accesses, land or water areas.
• Operation of PWCs is prohibited within the boundaries of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Paddling canoes and kayaks is permitted in all waters along the Outer Banks. Rentals and are available in Corolla, Duck, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. Guided tours are offered in many areas of the Outer Banks, including Kitty Hawk Woods and Alligator River and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges. If you are renting or have your own craft, see our boat ramps page for a list of places to launch.
The Outer Banks has been dubbed the “Kite Boarding and Wind Surfing Capital of the East Coast.” The steady and consistent winds, temperate weather, shallow sound waters and rolling ocean waves – all provide great opportunities for both novices and extreme sport enthusiasts alike. Check our Beach Accesses section for sound access points that make it convenient to launch if you have your own equipment. If you’re taking lessons or renting, you can find outfitters in Duck, Nags Head, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island. Hatteras Island is ranked as one of the top places in the world for kiteboarding.
When you look to the skies and see people’s legs dangling from a parachute-like kite, that’s Parasailing. The people are lifted into the sky from a boat, and they don’t even have to get wet to enjoy the view from hundreds of feet in the air. Parasailing tours are available in Duck, Nags Head, Roanoke Island and Hatteras Island.
Waverunners / Jet Skis (Personal Watercraft – PWC)
The local waters are perfect for PWC riding, but beware of shallow spots in the sounds. The state, towns and National Park Service each have rules about the operation of personal watercraft — and they are quite restrictive so be aware. Remember, children younger than 13 must where a Coast Guard–approved life vest when boating or riding on a personal watercraft.
Standup paddleboarding (SUP) is a hot sport on the Banks, and rentals are available at surf shops and through watersports outfitters. SUP is much easier in the sound or on a calm day in the ocean, so if you’re new to the sport practice there first. Then, if you’re adventurous, you can take to surfing the ocean waves.
Surfing, Bodyboarding & Skimboarding
Surfing, bodyboarding and skimboarding are allowed everywhere on the Outer Banks. Surf lessons and rentals are available at nearly every surf shop. For the safety of others, your surfboard must be attached to your ankle or wrist with a surfing leash. Surfing is prohibited within 300 feet of a fishing pier.