Freighter Wave Surfing Locations on Puget Sound

Yep, some of us have been surfing some pretty nice waves on Puget Sound for over a decade, nearly 3-4 hours from ocean waves!  Read on to find freighter wave surfing locations on Puget Sound and how to find your own breaks.

Of course everyone’s heard of tanker wave surfing in Texas featured on Dana Brown’s Step into Liquid.  Same thing here, but no need to tow-in and ours is a beach break.

Fabled Waves?

Freighter waves are not as well known or a popular activity as many don’t think it could exist and/or that we could get good waves. But here in Seattle, the ocean is 3-5hrs away depending on where you choose to go, so we take what we can get – and surprisingly it’s pretty good.

NW Coastal surf can like any waves be flat, blown out or too big which is always a bummer after a few hour’s drive long drive.  We do on occasion get up to one hour of continuous waist high freighter waves, which is always pretty epic and a shorter commute.

During the peak of the season in summer, often we’re surfing 3x a week in Seattle. When we head for ‘real waves’ on the coast, we’re in surfing shape vs not having surfed for a few weeks.

Read my article in the Inertia on Freighter Waves

Where do Freighter Waves Break?

Finding where waves break in inland waterways depends on finding beaches which resemble surf breaks on the coast – point breaks, beach breaks, etc.  Look for beaches which have sandy beaches which extend out at low tide or that are shallow for long distances.

Use aerial photo sites of local beaches to find possible breaks. Google maps works well for Puget Sound, as does this page.  Check webcams that have beach views to track boats, tides and weather.

Then use Marine Traffic or similar sites to track shipping traffic.  For Seattle, we need a southbound 17-23 knot freighter, container ship, and various other speedy boats to make it happen. Even fast moving recreational boats can put off a sweet wave.


Like any break, keep watching and hitting it until you get it figured out, your persistence will pay off. At my favorite spot, I need a low tide and little wind. Season is late January to September.

How We Found the Waves

Two friends and I ‘discovered’ our local waves around 2002 while out sea kayaking. This was before SUP and the MarineTraffic app.  We would go to the water and look for boats, and over time figured out some ship schedules and where to be and when. And the same for tug surfing.

Tug Surfing

We also surf tug waves from specific tugs that put off big peeling waves. Like some freighter waves, these are on a schedule and have a specific route so we know where to be and when to be there.

Tug wave are big but not powerful, so we need 14′ or longer SUPs, sea kayaks, OC or surf ski’s to catch and keep up with the waves. We get one set and that’s it, so we have to catch it!

Puget Sound breaks for freighter / container / Navy / etc waves…

Seattle area:
– Duwamish Head – Great for ferry waves at lower tides.
– West Point – Lower tides
– Ballard – across from Ray’s on Magnolia side.
– Meadow Point / Golden Gardens – waist high only.
– Point Wells, Edmonds.
– Des Moines Beach Park (north of pier).
– Point Robinson, Vashon.
– Brace Point (small)
– Boeing Pt (small)

Haven’t tried it but I’ve heard these break:
Dash Pt, Saltwater St Park, Rolling Bay; Restoration Pt

Other spots I’ve seen break…
– Marrowstone Island – Marrowstone Head north of lighthouse; a point south of Ft Flagler.
– North Beach and Pt Wilson, Port Townsend.
– Eglon Beach, north of Kingston.
– Eagle Beach, San Juan Island.
– False Bay, San Juan Island – a friend caught a long ride here on a prone paddleboard. Most likely swell.

Those that don’t work:
– Pt No Pt, Three Tree Pt, Carkeek Park, Alki Point.
– Friends in Vancouver BC say they haven’t seen waves there but there’s good wind waves at Crescent Beach.

Freighter and Tug Surfing Classes

Learn to Freighter Surf in Seattle

Learn to Tug Surf

About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.” Rob owns SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races throughout the year.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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