June 2, 2008
Spring surfing: Mid-May’s ‘surf alert’
By DANIEL PULLEN
spring has seen its good and bad days when it comes to the surf on
Hatteras Island. And the photos will tell the story. But in light of
the recent “surf alert” that was posted on the Internet for
the Outer Banks a few weeks ago, I’m just going to go ahead and
write what I am thinking.
What I am thinking is that the Internet, cell phones, and surf
forecasting have all ruined surfing. Perhaps “ruined” is a
strong word, but it seems that in some ways these modern conveniences
have taken away some of the “soul” of surfing.
When I was a teen-ager, all that we had to figure out what the surf
would be like was the NOAA weather radio, and later on, the Weather
Channel. If you wanted your friends to go surfing with you, more than
likely you would have to drive to the beach, check the surf, drive
home, call your friends, and then drive back. It sounds like a big
deal, but it really wasn’t. We were on “island time,”
and gas was just $1 a gallon.
Nowadays everyone has a cell phone. Now you can call as soon as you see
that there is surf, and let everyone know where to be. What’s
more, you don’t even have to leave your house to check the surf.
You can look at it in the comfort of your own home via the Internet.
With surf cams on every break in the world, you can see what it is like
in California or Hawaii at any given time. And if that isn’t
enough, you can get on an e-mail list that lets you know if the Outer
Banks is on “surf alert”-- when surf is inevitable.
But, I have to say that, in truth, I am a hypocrite. I use all of
these. I don’t have cable or satellite television, so I am
constantly glued to my computer, “surfing” surfing
websites. Just ask my wife! I almost always have my cell phone on me
when I go to check the surf, and I am guilty as charged for calling my
friends from the beach to tell them what the surf is like.
In a way, we all have succumbed to the ease of technology, and though
it gives me immediate gratification, I still think that in the end,
we’ve lost something. It’s apparent that the technological
age has spoiled us all.
This brings me to the swell that Hatteras saw the week of May 12. Three
days before the swell reached the island, Internet sites had the Outer
Banks on “surf alert.”
“Wednesday is going to be epic,” said the Internet.
This is how it went down:
Monday, May 12, ended up being very good, and not many people were on
the island yet. Hallelujah! Tuesday was a different story altogether.
Since the Outer Banks was on “surf alert,” we had people
from as far away as California come, just to surf. The surf was still
out of control on Tuesday in Buxton, so most people surfed in Frisco.
The Frisco Pier was lined with cameras and videographers, including me,
hoping to catch some good footage.
Wednesday, May 14, came, and the surf was by no means
“epic,” as was predicted, though I heard that Nags Head got
close. It was exciting to watch here in Buxton. I witnessed one of the
best wipe-outs I have seen in recent years. And I saw some very
impressive, mutated waves that weren’t even ridden!
On Thursday, May 15, the southwest wind killed the surf in Buxton, so I
headed to Rodanthe. At the S-curves, it was very evident that we were
in “surf alert.” It was packed. The beach was filled with
surfers, onlookers, photographers, and videographers, as far as the eye
could see. (And, of course, I was one of the many.)
After watching for a few minutes, I decided I would swim out and get
some photos. I ended up swimming in a rip current -- not by choice,
mind you -- for almost an hour and a half, but was rewarded with a few
I could complain about technology ruining surfing. I could complain
about all of the people who were here and how packed the beach was.
Perhaps I have, and I apologize if it sounds like that. I think
anywhere that you go in the world to surf -- there is some localism. I
am just as guilty of it as the next guy. But the “surf
alert,” Internet, and cell phones also brought a lot of people
here whom I had never met before, and it was cool to meet many of them.
I also had the chance to see friends that I hadn’t seen in years.
The influx of surfers also gave some of the local businesses a little
As we are coming into June and July, don’t look for many
“surf alerts” on the Outer Banks. It’s not probable
we will get waves like we did in mid-May, but stranger things have
photographs in Daniel Pullen’s slide show were taken at Cape
Hatteras Lighthouse Beach and S-curves in Rodanthe the week of May 12.)
Click Here To View Slideshow