Places such as the outer banks (Duck through Buxton) or NJ are heavier than west coast and Central America IMO. I've traveled extensively and pound for pound @ same size nothing's been heavier than Hatteras.
Id say it would be easier in Costa. The quality of the wave is much nicer and easier to work with. We have to deal with heavy closeouts where you have to race down the line just to make the face. You'll see when you surf there you'll have plenty more time to do what you'd like too on a wave. Its just way more manageable, i think, then fast breaking beach breaks around here.
pound for pound (i.e. equal period ), our waves are more powerful. I grew up surfing LI and have spent a bunch of time in san diego surfing. Our waves have more punch. The cost though, is far less consistency and higher rates of wave decay. But when we have it, its got some juice.
In terms of which coast has the more powerful surf, the West Coast wins hands down.
The best storms the East Coast sees are hurricanes which are relatively short-lived, small storms (a few hundred miles in diameter) with narrow areas of fetch. North Pacific storms are gigantic in comparison (hundreds of miles to over 1,000 miles in diameter) with huge areas of fetch. The larger the fetch, the more energy is transferred into the sea -- creating longer period swell. Hurricane-generated waves do pack a punch, but it's the storm's intensity and proximity to shore that do that, not long-period ground swell.
Some long-distance, mid-period swell >15s makes it to the East Coast, but it's small dribble. Usually a foot or less and un-rideable by itself. The West Coast on the other hand sees many days a year of 3-5' @>19s -- something the East Coast never sees. There's a big difference in the energy of 3'@8s and 3'@19s, and you can definitely feel it when riding or duckdiving.
Also, the large and shallow continental shelf on the East Coast saps energy from incoming waves. In most of the Pacific, deep near-shore waters allow the swells to get much closer to shore before interacting with the bottom and losing energy (although, longer period swells reach much deeper). The East Coast mostly has beach break which doesn't hold up to larger swell very well, so 6-8' closeouts @7-10s are probably more challenging than 6-8' reef or point-break peelers @16-20s, despite the extra energy. But if you're not prepared for that extra energy a 4' West Coast wave can feel like an 8' East Coast mush-burger.
Last edited by viajerodevida; Dec 18, 2012 at 05:05 AM.
The beach has a lot to do with it, too. We can have thumping, dredging barrels at one beach, and a couple towns away will be soft and slopey. And that's on the same day, same swell. So in terms of how challenging a 6' swell can be, I'd say it really depends on what beach you're talking about, not so much "East Coast/West Coast." I've surfed 10' @ 10sec here in New Jersey, a number of times, and it's been as powerful as any west coast wave I've ever seen at the same size.