Any time an East Coaster travels to Southern California, the breadbasket of the surf world, there are several things we all do. We marvel at how consistent the surf is. We curse the crowds that swarm even the most mediocre of surf spots. We scarf down insane amounts of Mexican food.
Lastly, we snicker at the getups we see, like little surf bonnets in the water at Old Man’s, 5-mil gloves at Swami’s and surfers getting into full hooded wetsuits under palm trees.
It’s childish, we admit. But if you surfed the East Coast this past weekend with temps in the single digits, all the neoprene accouterments seen south of Big Sur seem a little silly. Surfers, specifically in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, pulled on all that rubber to start 2017 with a fantastic swell.
As winter storms go, this one certainly delivered, despite a pretty minimal amount of hype. The low dumped on the mountains of the West, then blanketed much of the East Coast. The South got a rare snowfall, the surf blew up unexpectedly and The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore did his usual routine of push-ups, snow tossing and over-hyping for the cameras.
The storm went off the coast on Saturday, which resulted in pumping surf and bluebird skies on Sunday.
As for swell, North Carolina’s Outer Banks pulled in its usual juice. The Northeast saw a good amount of swell among a phenomenon known as “sea smoke.” And the mid-Atlantic saw a day of frigid and historic barrels.
It’s one thing to navigate heavy tubes; it’s another thing to do it after shoveling your truck out of the driveway.
“This was a bit different scenario than we are used to for a snowstorm swell. We had the heavy snow Saturday, but not the building onshore winds we usually get. It was only waist to chest high by dark, so I didn’t know what to expect for Sunday,” New Jersey surfer and commercial fisherman Nick Rossi told GrindTV.
Saturday presented that most novel of oceangoing experiences: Because winds weren’t fully northeast, you could actually surf in falling snow. Surfers up and down the coast did the Frosty the Surfman routine for a few.
“We all saw the buoy reading wave height and period rising all night, so when we got up on Sunday, we knew it was going to be all-time — a perfect swell angle for our island,” continued Rossi. “I didn’t even feel the cold because the waves were so fun and we were all so amped. I surfed from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and could have stayed out until dark if the swell didn’t die out.”
Rossi’s buds may have had a few more barrels, but his were extremely impressive on his backhand. Most places in the world, backside or front isn’t much of an issue, but wearing a 5-mil in steep beachbreak with hard offshore winds makes it extremely challenging. It was a day of frozen heroics all around.
And while we can make little jabs at Southern California, our swell was gone by Monday.