1) Traffic is nowhere near as bad as in the area of the WMB. Since it sounds like you are coming from the north then I would recommend you follow along the route you are probably using to get to OBX and come back in on 66/264 to avoid the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, on 64 which can be a backup issue. Here is the vadot map virginiadot.org/travel/resources/HR_MMMBT_Al…
We go one step further and avoid I-64 all together and use 460 off of 295. Have never encountered any major issues on this route other than some city level traffic slowdowns. You can avoid even going into the resort area of VB to get to Sandbridge. We use the First Colonial Road ( Oceana Blvd ) Exit off of 64 to get to General Booth Blvd. Cuts out the resort area stop and go.
2) Not sure about leaving beach gear over night, on Sandbridge. have never seen anyone do it, and my guess would be it is not permitted. They do patrol the beach and remove and dispose of stuff in general tho.
3) The beach is pretty consistent along the whole area, further south seems to be a bit gentl;er slope in the water, but we've never encountered anything like a drop off anywhere. Wave action is also pretty consistent and as anywhere else dependent on the weather.
4) We did two years in the OBX on Hatteras Island and really like the Sandbridge area more. Never been in Corolla tho, but Sandbridge has the quiet of the banks with the resort area only 20 - 30 minutes away. Red Mill Commons right up the road a few minutes has about anything you would need for shopping, and the Sandbridge market right in Sandbridge has most basics if you just need something quickly. We've pretty much decided we won't be going back to OBX ;)