The Atlantic’s famed “nor’easters” are the great double-edged sword of a surfer’s life on the Outer Banks. Their constant pounding slowly erodes the beach and breaks down the sandbars, and they can blow for days, making the ocean too rough to surf, swim, or do anything but wait. In the wintertime, they bring cold, damp, chill-you-to-the-bone winds and drive everyone indoors, where some resort to drink, some to smoke, some to TV…the dedicated hit the gym, and the lucky ones hole up with their current squeeze, engaging in indoor recreational activities.
But once the wind stops blowing, and a lighter or westerly wind “cleans up” the ocean surface, that’s when the fun happens. The crazy, confused, stormy soup of whitewater and foam organizes into clear lines of swell, and the the two roads that run the length of the beach surge with vehicles toting boards—boards on racks, boards in the back of pickup trucks, boards hanging out the side windows of compact cars. Most are heading south, to the famed breaks of Hatteras Island, though many of the locals will be hitting their favorite sandbars in town, unmolested by aggro day-trippers from Virginia Beach and Richmond, who descend on more famous breaks in droves and act like they own the place.
On a big day, the hardcore converge wherever the wave is the gnarliest–usually somewhere in the vicinity of Rodanthe, the easternmost point of the state, where the deep water of the Atlantic slams right up against the unprotected barrier islands, creating big, fast, fat-lipped beachbreak barrels that require lightning reflexes and a fair bit of cojones to ride. The most famous spot, and often the best, is S-Turns (local Rodanthe-ites call it “S-curves”), the spot at the northern end of town, now immortalized by a chick-flick that features the famous “Serendipity” beach cottage that marks Rodanthe like a beacon when you are driving south through miles of empty national seashore.
Surfers are notoriously protective of their “spots”, but I give nothing away by talking about S-turns in such detail. It is the most overexposed surf spot on the East Coast. On a good day, the dune will be lined with photographers standing behind four-foot lenses on tripods, firing away on motor-drive. The side of the road will be lined with parked cars, surfers changing in and out of boardshorts and wetsuits, chattering on cell phones and high-fiving about the sick waves they caught. There will be spectators, girlfriends in bikinis, a crew of guys who’ve already surfed drinking beers and howling at the crazy drops and sick barrels being caught offshore.
This past month, we were forced to endure 12 straight days of howling onshore northeast winds before it cleaned up. At one point, winds were sustained at about 40 mph for two days straight, and the ocean threatened to swallow us all in its anger. The fishing piers shook with the force of the incoming swells, and oceanfront houses were battered with storm surge. But finally the storm died and we were rewarded with one day of big, heavy, perfect surf…followed by one or two days of fun, juicy surf. The following shots are from those few days. We are all anxiously waiting the next nor’easter or tropical system to blow through, because since then it’s been pretty flat around here.
For a little bit more information on the project, see the post below entitled “Surf/Life”…