Key West Surf

I lived in Key West for over 5 years before ever seeing, or even hearing about, a rideable wave in the area. Rumors would circulate of someone hearing second-hand about waves at hard-to-get-to reefs, and I just thought ‘there’s no way’. But in reality, I just wasn’t looking hard enough. So, I opened my eyes a bit, put in a little effort, and boom, finally got to ride a few waves in Key West. For the next decade, I was fixated on trying to figure out when, where, and why the waves may be breaking. And I tried my best to be there anytime they were.

I’ve been told countless times, “There’s no surf in Key West,” and my response is, “Sure, most of the time.” But no matter the conditions, there’s only one word that can describe anyone who actually gets to catch a few waves in Key West… Stoked.

2008 began my attempts to document some of the rideable waves in Key West. I then developed (aka with the hopes of creating an online community of fellow kw surfers who could keep a pulse on the necessary weather conditions, notify each other when waves looked possible, and make plans to get to them (often requiring a boat). The site didn’t exactly do what I hoped it might, but it did show a part of Key West that not many realized even existed.

I know this type of hidden-spot knowledge sharing is typically taboo, but honestly it takes so much time and patience and resources to be at the right spot, at the right time in Key West to reap the benefits, that knowledge sharing is clutch in order for it to happen. And most of the time, if these waves were breaking at any other surf spot, most would take one look at the water and just head home. When it comes down to it, if you get waves in Key West, good on ya (it’s always worth it). Here are a few of the spots around Key West where I’ve been lucky enough to catch some rides…

Dog Beach / Louie's

This little shady sandy pocket beach has been a part of Key West lore for decades. Dog Beach, Key West, aka Louie’s (for the restaurant that overlooks the spot), is one of the more consistent spots to get waves when the weather is just right, pushing a little swell all the way to a Key West shore. You don’t need a boat to access it, but most days of the year it’s dead flat.

Check out my Dog Beach Tee. The first in a series of Key West Surf shirts, which pay respect to some of the spots that provide an unparalleled amount of stoke (on the rare occasion that there are rideable waves there).

South Beach (Key West)

At the end of Duval St., South Beach gives you the best chance to catch waves in Key West (sans boat). It usually looks ‘no bueno’ and the wave window can close on ya pretty quick, but if there’s any whitewater, you can probably grab a big board and get some rides. It’s a fairly small area resulting in mostly short rides, but sometimes you can ride a wave all the way across. It can be super shallow and the bottom is kinda gnarly, but I usually hug the wall where the water can build up and bounce back, giving a nice little push. And hopefully my skills can keep my board from going into that unforgiving structure (not always so lucky on that).

Higgs Beach Pier

Higgs Pier is by far my favorite Key West wave (that doesn’t require a boat) but it basically never works. When I’ve happened upon it just right, it’s been a couple of feet or more of nice clean swell. I have yet to figure out why or when it’s going to work, and it’s usually just flat, but if you see it breaking… go.

White Street Pier

The pier can give a bit of protection as the wind is typically howling out of the East when waves show up here. If the swell direction is just right, the waves will reflect off the concrete pier and it can give you a nice push to the sandy bottom shallows.


A quick boat trip to the northwest of the Key West Bight, Cottrell was the first spot I ever caught a wave in the Keys. Got a hot tip from a boat captain that it looked like there were some breakers at Cottrell Key, a popular spot for snorkeling. So we loaded up the boat with boards and headed out to see what we could find. It ended up being the greatest 1 foot day I have ever experienced. Caught a few barely rideable waves in a place I never thought possible, which was more than enough to plant the seed. Surfing in Key West + beers on the boat ride back = the best day ever.

Sand Key

Winds-a-whippin’ and you’re unprotected so be ready for a bumpy ride to the reef. Once you’ve braved the ride, now it’s time to brave the shallow reef break.

Check out my Sand Key Tee. The second in a series of Key West Surf shirts, which pay respect to some of the spots that provide an unparalleled amount of stoke (on the rare occasion that there are rideable waves there).

Eastern Dry Rocks

If it’s been blowing 25 out of the East or Southeast for a day or two and you catch it on the right tide, there could be something to ride. A little easier ride out than Sand Key. It can be shallow on the takeoff, but an easy enough ride will get you to deeper water.

Woman Key

Woman Key is probably my favorite spot when it’s working or even when it’s not. I’ve had a good amount of luck there with clean swell. And while the boat ride is a little longer than the rest, you can take just about any boat there since there are decently protected routes.


When everyone is going out to Snipes, the only thing you’ll catch is a buzz. But, when high winds out of the north persist and most would rather skip a boat day and stay home, that is when there could be some chop or wind swell hitting the sandy bottom.

Boca Chica