(Excerpted from Legends of the Sandbar. Buy the book here. )
On Saturday the winds blew hard from the south all afternoon. Crazy, gusty, warm wind, smelling of springtime. I spent the day at the Yinger house, playing guitar while Bob grilled, Jeff and Sterling and some guys from out of town played cornhole, and the dogs ran through the marsh. We could feel gusts up to 50 knots blowing through the trees, and burly stormclouds were passing low; but it was a warm, tropical wind and we were all enjoying that mid-April feeling that we’d finally seen the back side of winter.
On the Weather Channel there were reports of major tornado destruction inland. Property damaged, lives lost. Two hours later, another tornado ripped though Currituck. The north wall of the WRV factory was torn off, and dozens of foam blanks were scattered across the highway. There were road closings everywhere, from flooding, downed trees, and scattered surfboard blanks.
We were monitoring both the news and the surf forecasts by TV, phone, and radio. In retrospect it’s easy to say that we knew it was going to be good on Sunday. But you live around here long enough, you learn to live with a lot of dashed hopes. So we all retired with cautiously optimistic dreams of blue skies and fat barrels.
In the morning I got a call from Jeff. “Hey buddy, we're in Avon. It's freakin' beautiful, man. Like I mean, perfect. Get your ass down here.”
While I was getting my gear together, my phone beeped again with a one-word text:
I packed up the Cherokee and headed south.
There was nary a cloud in the sky, and in the ionized air everything seemed to sparkle. An earthy west wind blew the smell of North Carolina spring across the sound, and my entire being was filled with that flip-flop feeling of knowing that you had absolutely no reason to do anything else today but enjoy it all. After all, it was Sunday.
A crowd had descended on the beach to the south side of the pier, including a gaggle of college kids on spring break. They lay in a pack on the sand like seals, sunning themselves in the unseasonable warmth. Girls were wearing bikinis. Summer was coming.
I geared up, suited up, and swam out. Dappled flecks of white glittered on the surface of the water like brush-marks on an early Impressionist painting. I started clicking away the moment I was in. I wasn’t really sure if I was getting anything good, but I didn't really care. I was happy just to be out in the ocean, feeling the sun on my face. It had been a long winter.
The surf was shapely and clean, coming in sets of peaky A-frames. Rights to the right and lefts to the left. Little hollow barrels that occasionally closed out onto sections that the boys were boosting off of all over the place. It was like the flying circus had come to town.
There was a solid crew in the water that day: Billy, Sterling, Matt Pruett, Jeff, C Mac. Devin Chambers was there, and a few local Avon boys who were tolerating our presence because we were with Billy. From all sides guys were getting shacked, hauling down screamers, spraying me in the face, and getting airborne.
Around lunchtime we all took a break, refueled, hung out in the parking lot. The day was heating up; I took off my shirt and sat on the hood of the Cherokee playing guitar, my skin soaking up the Vitamin D like a dry sponge.
Billy and Jeff came back around and said they were moving to another location. I can't tell you where. Even the guys from town were worried we were treading on a local secret spot, but everybody was in a good mood all up and down the island that day, and it was nothing but welcomes and good vibes and hugs from old friends.
By this time folks were getting a little worn out, so a posse of guys in hoodies and flannel began to grow at the edge of the sea-grass. They passed around beers and cheered on the die-hards, who continued to ride the last golden sets of a slowly deteriorating swell. By tomorrow it would be gone.
We stayed until the sun disappeared behind the dunes. After pulling off wetsuits and packing up the trucks, we cleared out of that nameless sandy lane and scattered to our respective hobbit-holes.
On my way home the moon came out, full and clear, making its own white dapples on the ocean. The west wind kept blowing through the night, warm and thick with the smell of earth and pollen and new life coming back. My head was full of salt, my body flooded with that deep sensation of exhaustion and satisfaction that comes from a really good day in the water.
Somewhere up the road a couple dozen foam blanks lay stuck in trees, resting in pieces in the ditch, ruined by the fury of a spring squall. Though they would never be shaped and ridden, they had flown higher and further than anything any of us rode that day.