This year’s Atlantic hurricane season came heralded as a monster. A Godzilla of swell that would make even spoiled Hawaiians dream of sitting coach for hours to tear up thick, salty east coast barrels. But instead of dropping our jobs to surf everyday, we relearned a lesson for the ages – even with Doppler, digital doohickeys, and doctors who presume to know all – nobody can predict this nonsense.
That is of course not to say that the fall was a total tragedy. Our lofty expectations may have not been met and local weather patterns did mar conditions all along the coast, but with all things considered, the east side was still privy to a slew of storms that made for some seriously fun sessions. Florence unleashed pandemonium in Florida, Ernesto bore perfection for Jersey, and Helene sent huge swell to New England. With the insight of local experts we’ll take a gander at which swells, spots, and stories made the grade during Hurricane Season ‘06.
To get the inside scoop at the east coast’s breeding ground for pros, we went to Kevin Welsh of NRG Surf. He was thrilled that the storms predominantly avoided the mainland, making for deepwater, long period swells and couldn’t contain his excitement about the phenomenon of Florence. “I was shooting at the Unsound Pro in Long Island and guys like Kechele and Zimmerman were leaving to go back to Florida, I thought the storm had already passed,” Welsh said. Florence made a u-turn creating an epic backfire swell. A high pressure in Canada pushed old Flo back south and a cold front in Georgia created off shore winds making for prime time conditions. “I saw the buoys popping up, woke up at 4 a.m, and changed my flight to get home.”
I asked Outer Banks local and owner of Rodanthe Surf Shop Randy Hall what his thoughts were about this year’s hurricane season. He paused, and like a good lawyer avoiding the question, replied “what hurricane season?” That seemed to be the general consensus in Hatteras. Shaper Kevin Buzby told me that Ernesto tossed up some fun wave with great conditions, but otherwise winds from the northeast hampered any groundswell that came their way. Wilmington ripper Adam Ayers sang the same song, saying it was a “welcomed wake-up” when he snapped his board early during an Ernesto session.
Like North Carolina, the best waves sent to the Jerz came compliments of Ernesto. The storm zigzagged up the coast jutting just enough inland of Jersey to forge light offshore winds mixed with solid swell. Sam Hammer had an epic early morning session in Mantaloking until the young bucks got up enough sack to join him in the line-up. “It was a perfect morning, as good as it gets.” Head high plus sets tore up the shoreline well into the afternoon. There was so much swell and current that the sandbars up and down the Garden State got dismantled, causing many breaks to shut down for the rest of the season.