July 18,  2008


Bertha produced a welcome few days of fun surf
With Slideshow

By DANIEL PULLEN



Students and teachers aren’t the only ones enjoying the lazy days of summer. High pressures and southwest winds along the Outer Banks lull the Atlantic into a laid back stupor in the summer months. The raw swells of the winter and spring months subside into gentle, rolling waves from June through August.

It is a great time to learn how to surf and to enjoy the warm water, ranging from 73 to 80 degrees. Wet suits get shed for trunks and bikinis, and brain freeze is replaced by sunburn. If you’re a surfer, there are three places you’ll be at any given time on any given day in the summer -- checking the Web or watching the weather channel to find out the latest tropical forecast, standing on a dune staring at the ocean and praying for some good sets to roll in, or in the water, even if the waves are, as usual in summer, flat. It is still fun to paddle around and to occasionally catch a good wave.

Since the middle of June, I confess that I was cringing at the thought of writing a summer surf article, because it seemed like the ocean had gone to sleep. Every surfer on the Outer Banks sat anxiously waiting for a weather pattern in the Atlantic that would produce surf. It seemed as if it would never come, but it did.

In the beginning of July, Bertha, the second named tropical system in the Atlantic this year, brought much sought after surf. Though it didn’t produce the swell that we thought it might, the slight chance of decent waves was like throwing crumbs out for the dogs. We all eagerly took up our boards in droves and headed to the beach, hoping to get in on the action.

Surfers are a strange kind of people. We want and need hurricanes because they produce the only swell that we receive in the summer time, but we don’t want them because, of course, once they get close to land, they cause a lot of destruction. I guess you’d say we like our relationship with hurricanes to be balanced with the scales tipped in our direction. We welcome the storms when they produce good surf, but only when their stay is short lived and they dissipate over the ocean far away from land.

Bertha hit it pretty much right on the mark. Just when Bertha was forecast to make its northeast turn in the middle of the Atlantic, it shifted slightly west close to Bermuda, which put the Outer Banks in the swell window. With semi-light winds, it produced a few good days of fun surf. It wasn’t the best surf we’ve had. But it was surf -- a much-welcomed sight after two flat months.

Summer equals crowds everywhere on the islands, and the crowds in the water are made up of surfers starving for good waves. In mid-July, times in the water were tense, but conditions were favorable across the Outer Banks. This spread the pack up and down the coast -- as opposed to the swell in May that was concentrated in Rodanthe.
   
And in the blink of an eye, the storm has come and gone. The pack has retreated home, and already we are glued once again to the tropical forecast – keeping watch on the disturbances in the Atlantic, hoping that the next storm will produce some good waves- and just like Bertha- head back out into the open sea.

The photos that accompany this article were taken on Sunday June 13. The water was packed that day, so thanks to all for not running me over!


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