Local Tips / Outdoor Adventure July 17, 2019

A Local’s Guide to Surfing in Halifax

Discover authentic, unique experiences in Halifax with tips from local guides like Nico Manos, professional surfer and owner of East Coast Surf School.

Meet your local guide

Nico Manos, founder of East Coast Surf School

After surfing all over the world Nico chose Lawrencetown Beach to continue sharing his passion for surfing. These days you can find him at Halifax’s best beaches from sun-up to sundown, 7 days a week.

Learn more about this local surfer and find out about his favourite ways to experience the Halifax region.

Name: Nico Manos
Occupation: Owner of East Coast Surf School, surf instructor, coach of the Canadian Junior Surf Team

Where are you originally from?
Nico: Halifax

Where do you live now?
Nico: About half an hour east of Halifax, overlooking Lawrencetown Beach.

What do you do for a living?
Nico: I was a professional surfer for 10 years and then started the East Coast Surf School.

Besides surfing, what is your favourite thing to do on the Eastern Shore?

Nico: Beach days are pretty good, surf or no surf. I have a little boy and a little girl and we spend a whole lot of time at the beach.

Quick questions

Pick a route – Ferry or Bridges?
Nico: Bridges

Pick a meal – Lobster or donair?
Nico: They both have their time and place =)

Pick an attraction – Peggy’s Cove or Halifax Waterfront?
Nico: Waterfront

On surfing in Halifax

What makes Nova Scotia different from other surf destinations?

Nico: Our waves stack up to some of the most well known surf locations in the world. In the summer and fall you could look out and convince yourself you were in southern California.

What differentiates us and makes our scene special is everything that surrounds surfing in Nova Scotia; we’ve got pines instead of palms, headlands instead of high rises and cruisy coastal drives instead of L.A. rush hour.

What is the best time of year to surf in Nova Scotia?

Nico: If you’re learning to surf in Nova Scotia, summer is perfect. The water is warm enough to spend all day in the ocean with a thin wetsuit and the waves are generally small and user friendly.

Fall tends to see a little bit bigger surf and is definitely my favourite time of year here.

Do you need a wetsuit to surf on the Eastern Shore?

Nico: It’s actually warmer than you’d think in the summer months, but we prefer to use wetsuits most of the time. Wetsuits add a little bit of buoyancy, keep the sun burns away, and let you stay in the water for longer. They’re relatively inexpensive to buy, or you can rent them right from the beach for $20 a day.

Discover the beaches of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore

What is the best beach on the Eastern Shore for…

Beginner surfers looking for an easy ride
Nico: Lawrencetown or Martinique Beaches.

Experienced surfers looking for great waves
Nico: Lawrencetown is also great for experienced surfers, it’s the most consistent beach around. There are also a lot of great pointbreaks in the province, too many to name.

A beach day with kids
Nico: Martinique for sure.

Walking your dog
Nico: Lawrencetown Beach and headlands.

Having the beach to yourself
Nico: Pick a beach and show up early, it’s often the nicest weather and you’ll have it to yourself. People usually cruise out to the coast for 10 or 11, it’s pretty quiet if you’re up early.

Learn to surf on the Eastern Shore

What would you say to someone who has never surfed before, but is considering trying it out in Halifax?

Nico: There’s no better place to experience surfing than in Halifax. It’s a beautiful drive out to the beach, the waves are usually nice and friendly and there are available instructors that can go out in the water with you.

It’s not unusual to be a little nervous if you’ve never surfed but there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. We can surf and instruct in waist deep water and we’ll never ask you to go out any further than you are comfortable going.

If surfing is something you’re thinking about trying, you can find more info at www.ecsurfschool.com.

Is it worth it to take a lesson if you’ve never surfed before?

Nico: Absolutely, you’ll be lightyears ahead of someone who rented and didn’t take a lesson. The information in a surf lessons is pretty simple stuff, it’s logical but it’s not always obvious. Equipment, positioning, paddling technique, pop-up, safety are some of the things included – it’s also nice to have someone cheering you on for those first rides!

Is it worth it to take a lesson if you have surfed before?

Nico: For sure, a good instructor will make you a better surfer. Sometimes it’s hard to pick up on your own little mistakes and an instructor may be able to spot them and have a solution. I still get instructors I trust to look at my surfing once in a while.

Can you rent surfboards & wetsuits without taking lessons?

Nico: You can. We have surfboards and wetsuits right at the beach. One of the nice things about having our location at Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park is that myself or staff can walk customers over the sand dunes and point out the best and safest spot to head out.

Whether people are taking a lesson or not we still look after everyone well and make sure they have the info they need and are able to answer any questions they have.

How long does it take for people to learn to surf?

Nico: Most people are up and riding inside of an hour lesson. If you’re just renting and winging it yourself it may take a bit longer, but we find that most people are comfortable popping up and riding the white water within an hour lesson.

Riding open face waves and carving takes more time for sure, a few weeks to a few months before you’re really able to take advantage of how great the surf in Nova Scotia is. Every step of the process is fun though, we get to re-live those when we are teaching.

Nico’s local tips

What is your favourite free thing to do in Halifax?

Nico: Walk the waterfront.

Where is your favourite place to hike in Halifax?

Nico: You can’t beat a beach walk.

Best place to get a coffee in the Halifax region?

Nico: Two If By Sea

Best patio in Halifax?

Nico: Pickford & Black

Best annual event in Halifax?

Nico: Why Can’t We All Just Get A Longboard, a surfing event put on by the Surfing Association of Nova Scotia

Best Nova Scotian day trip destination? (outside the HRM)

Nico: Cape Split

What is the one thing everyone who visits Halifax should experience?

Nico: Our ocean playground!

Originally published July 2019

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