When most people think of New Hampshire, the first thing that comes to mind is the state’s nutjob-rebel license plate motto, “Live Free or Die.” Either that, or rock. The so-called Granite State’s 14-mile coastline is chock full of paddling and surfing opportunities, not to mention the myriad versions of paddle nirvana waiting to be explored as you move inland to the White Mountains. While the high-country opportunities are seasonal (read: iced over), the coastal zone offers its wares year-round. Sure, winter paddling in New Hampshire is not for the ill-equipped or faint of heart but neither is quarrying granite or bayoneting Redcoats. Here’s a sliver of what New Hampshire offers. — Jimmy Blakeney

Portsmouth is an ideal location to start and end a New Hampshire tour. From this quaint New England town you can head east out the Piscataqua River toward the Atlantic, passing lighthouses and fishing boats as you make your way to the island-studded river mouth. The river marks the boundary between New Hampshire and Maine, so you can paddle in one state on your left, and another when you head south. As you reach the Atlantic you’ll pass Oriorne Point State Park, which serves as an alternate launch point if you’re looking for more ocean time or a downwinder under the right conditions.

Yes, surfing. Some of the best in New England, and not as uncrowded as you might think, even on frigid winter days with mandatory tromps through 4-foot snowdrifts. The surf scene here thrives thanks to relatively easy ocean access, high-quality cobblestone reef breaks and consistent beach breaks. Fall is the season but even in the summertime you can find knee-high waves at The Wall, an iconic go-to beach. Make sure you stop by Cinnamon Rainbows, conveniently positioned on the north end of The Wall. It’s one of the best-run surf shops in the East, with good vibes dished out to all, from groms to local rippers to old-school groovers and, yes, even sweepers. Best of all, SUPers can hit off-the-beaten-track breaks. Many are visible from the road, but you’ll have to do your own search to find them. Prone surfers stay away due to the long paddle and because of the abundance of waves literally feet from where you park. It’s worth taking the time to find these less-traveled zones, both for the adventure, and the fact you won’t have to deal with Granite State stink-eye.

After Hours
Portsmouth is coastal New Hampshire’s cultural epicenter, with thriving arts and music scenes tied to an idyllic downtown setting full of shopping and dining spots. If you’re looking for more of a surfside experience you can always head to the Hampton or Salisbury boardwalks where you’ll find a uniquely New Hampshire take on the typical beachside tourist scene. If it’s seafood you seek, find refuge in the walk-up lobster roll stands lined up and down U.S. Route 1A beachside corridor.


Photo by: Brian Nevins