Surfing Hurricane Irene

Hurricane flags fly in Wrightsville Beach

Hurricane flags fly in Wrightsville Beach

The Jetta was packed last night with two surfboards, my surf gear, and other essentials. I was ready for an early morning trip to Wilmington to surf. The alarm went off  around 5am and after I woke up, headed East.

Hurricane Irene is looming off the East coast and the surf window wasn’t very big. I didn’t think the surf would last much past noon today–and I was right. I arrived at Wrightsville Beach just after 7:30am. I took some pictures and got in the water.

hurricane_irene_01Looking up and down the beach, there were only a few surfers out and lots of onlookers. I paddled out near a small pack of three surfers. The surf was about 5-7 foot (head high) and the wind was coming out of the ENE, creating choppy and mushy surface conditions. None-the-less, there were a few good waves to be found.

My first ride was a straight up wipeout. Thanks for playing. I could hear Hurricane Irene laughing at me…nice try! My second ride was an air drop. I caught the wave, and as I was dropping in, the bottom fell out and it was a free fall to the sandbar. My third wave was magic. I caught a good right that connected with the next section. Time for some more of those.

hurricane_irene_02I surfed for about an hour. The the winds started to pick up and it started to rain. Even though the rain didn’t bother me (I was already in the water), the dark clouds coming in were something to be concerned about. I caught a ride in and started for the car.

I barely made it to the beach before I was getting pelted by rain. I had to wait a few minutes before I could get in the car and start heading to the next location. I took shelter under a nearby beach house until the squall passed. The first session of the day was in the books.

Figure 8 Island

Figure 8 Island bridgeA location change was in order. I started heading towards Figure 8 Island where I caught up with Bonner and Damon. We were amped to finally surf together. We got the boards ready and headed towards the beach.

Conditions were similar to WB, 5-7 foot and choppy, but the sections seemed to connect a little better. Within the hour, 8-9 foot set waves were coming in (1-2 foot over head).

We surfed for over two hours. By the time we got out of the water, I saw a few 10-foot waves go by. One came roaring from the outside and took Bonner in, not by his choice.

By this point, the wind was starting to shut the surf down, and the lines that we found earlier were quickly disappearing. Even getting back in was a challenge. All the waves were starting to suck up off the bottom and I wasn’t willing to pay that price. I found a wave with somewhat of a mellow lip and got in past the impact zone.

We had a great time. Most of our waves were just big drops, but I had a huge score that Damon saw from the beach. I grabbed a right that connected with the next section, put my hands above my head and looked behind me. The wave was towering over me. If the winds were offshore and the curl was barreling, it would have been a full stand-up barrel. But it wasn’t, so I’ll take a rhino-chaser instead.

The rush from these big swells is amazing. And it definitely takes some experience to be in conditions like this. You’re always watching the horizon, on the lookout for rip currents, and of course, being selective about what you take. It’s a lot of paddling and physically demanding.

hurricane_irene_04By lunch time, victory at sea conditions were starting to take over and more rain and heavier winds were coming in. The rain seemed to follow me back to Raleigh. As I’m posting this entry, we’ve had a few lines of rain already come through.

It was an interesting drive back to Raleigh. Lots of traffic heading West on I-40 and blinding rain slowed down travellers on the Interstate.

I’m back home, safe and sound. I had a great day of surfing. Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy:

About Shibby

Jason Hibbets is a senior community architect at Red Hat which means he is a mash-up of a community manager and project manager. At night, he wears his cape and is a captain for the Open Raleigh brigade, as well as a co-chair for NC Open Pass. Jason is the author of a book titled The foundation for an open source city--a resource for cities and citizens interested in improving their government through civic hacking. While writing the book, he discovered his unknown superpower of building communities of passionate people. Jason graduated from North Carolina State University and resides in Raleigh, NC with his wife, two kids, two border collies, chickens, lots of tomato plants, and a lazy raccoon somewhere in an oak tree. In his copious spare time, he enjoys surfing, running, gardening, traveling, watching football, sampling craft beer, and participating in local government--not necessarily in that order, but close to it. You can follow him on Twitter: @jhibbets
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