While most are boarding up their homes and searching for higher ground while hurricane destruction ensues, a small fraction of thrill seekers embrace the rare opportunity to capture some of nature’s bounty. In fact, chasing hurricanes is pure sport for East Coast surfers. And they’ve had plenty of experience perfecting it in recent years thanks to improved forecasting and a steady flow of storms. Sandy, like most of the others, was filled with silver linings.
As Hurricane Sandy traveled north its fierce winds were busy sending powerful surf up and down the coast, starting in Florida, where a group of pro surfers, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, took advantage of the best waves they’d seen in decades at Palm Beach. (See above video.) Videographer Greg Panas, who captured the video images above says, “It was an incredible show. I couldn’t believe this was happening right down from my house.”
Still photographer Jeff Biege concurred. “I don’t ever recall seeing waves this good around here,” he said. “And to have some of the world’s best surfers there too was just incredible.”
Kelly Slater took a detour from his quest for a 12th world title to chase the Hurricane Sandy swell in Florida, where he grew up. Slater and his friends enjoyed some of the best conditions ever at Palm Beach, with wave heights up to 15 feet. Photo: Jeff Biege
Peter Mendia caught what was arguably the best wave of the day in Palm Beach. Maybe the decade. Photo: Jeff Biege
“The scary thing about that wave is it breaks right in front of a jetty,” says Shea Lopez, a former US Open Champion. “Then you get pushed into one of the deepest inlets on the coast. There were big fish and bigger sharks all around us.”
Of course, Floridians had the advantage of escaping the wrath of the storm, but Raven Lundy and his friends in Ocean City, Maryland, had to do some duck and covering before they took to the surf. Their neighborhoods were flooded and the destruction was wide, but as soon as the eye moved north of them, the wind direction switched, and surf conditions in Maryland turned perfect.
Raven Lundy and his friends braved floods and fierce winds on their way out to the surf in Ocean City, Maryland. They were rewarded with some incredible rides. Photo: Nick Denny
Piers up and down the East Coast were hammered by Hurricane Sandy, and the Ocean City Fishing Pier was among the many that were damaged by huge surf. Photographer Nick Denny lost his camera to a wave shortly after taking this shot. Luckily, the SD card survived.
Not to be outdone, up on Martha’s Vineyard, a group of kite surfers were making most of the early storm surge, riding through the driving wind and rain while pulling off some incredible moves, and reaching amazing speeds. How fast? Well, watch the video below to find out.
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