Hurricane Bill has us frothing…even from out here in Southern California! What started out as a little blob of tropical activity way out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has morphed into a serious category 4 hurricane with the best projected path forecasters and East Coast 'cane chasers have seen in years. While we know anything can still happen—it is a force of nature after all—all signs are pointing toward the best hurricane swell the East Coast has seen in many moons.—JC
What Hurricane Bill is supposed to look like Saturday…not bad eh? Photo courtesy Magic Seaweed.
In anticipation of Bill, we talked to our bros across the pond at Magic Seaweed and some of the most in-the-know East Coasters from three different regions. Get ready for Big Willy! And to all you East Coast photographers, send your shots to firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll post the good ones highlighting your work and respective Web sites!
2008 Hurricane surf gallery above.
Hurricane Bill update courtesy of Ed Temperley from the best surf forecasting site in the business—Magic Seaweed.
TransWorld SURF: Does Hurricane Bill look like any other hurricanes from the recent past?
Magic Seaweed: Yes and no. Hurricane Edouard in 1996 followed a similar track and was of a similar intensity but was slightly further offshore. Prior to that there wasn't really a similar one for 50 years. Almost every year there are between one and five Category 4/5 storms, however they mainly plunge into the land or sit miles offshore. This one is predicted to sit within a "golden swell belt", not too close to impact directly on the coast but not too far away for the swell to decay. That is unless you live in Maine—they might get a 100mph taste of Bill.
How big of surf can East Coasters expect from Bill?
Honestly, we believe based upon the current conditions that it will be double overhead on the exposed spots. A rare size for Floridians and Outer Banks residents and a hard call to make—but all the signs are there. Traditional forecasts have difficulty picking up the intensity of hurricane swells so Ben, our forecaster, constructed a special hurricane report for each Eastern Seaboard region on the site. They can be found in the normal menu system and they are more than doubling the predicted size.
Detailed swell charts for Central Florida, the Outer Banks, New Jersey, New England, and Nova Scotia can be found at Hurricane-Surf-Report.
What are the chances Bill could totally fizzle out?
Very unlikely, it's blowing hard at 135mph+ and forecast to increase over the next 24 hours. The way Bill could spoil the party is change course and smash into the coast and turn perfect offshore rollers into mush. Hurricanes are far from predictable and minor changes in wind shear and the surrounding air pressure can have a big difference on direction. Fingers crossed Bill plays the game and delivers what we all hope.
Will there be any foul weather accompanying Bill?
Hopefully not. We're not guaranteeing bright sunshine and hula girls but local winds seem to be light or offshore with reasonable sunshine along the majority of the Eastern Seaboard. This is due to high pressure dominating over the mainland USA.
If you could make a quick strike over to the East Coast where would you go?
I personally would head for the Outer Banks—as much as they will curse us for saying that. Those shifting sandbanks will groom and sort this swell—throwing some heaving barrels—or at least that is what the current prognosis is predicting.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks figures to be one of the top spots on the East Coast during Hurricane Bill. Photo: Stafford/SPL
Floridian pro surfer Alek Parker On Hurricane Bill
TransWorld SURF: Being a certified Hurricane Hunter, how's this Hurricane Bill looking to you?
Alek Parker: The projected path is s good as anything I've ever seen—if you were to plan a perfect path that'd be it. It looks like there will be significant swell for the entire East Coast, the wind will be the main factor, you gotta know where to go if and when it switches directions.
Without giving away too much, what's your plan of attack for this swell?
Me and a bunch of guys are on the Spectacular Adventures East Coast tour so we're kinda dictated by that. Friday we're supposed to be in Charleston but we canceled the tour stop Saturday so we can surf Hatteras with Benny B, Shea Lopez, Zander Morton, and CJ Hobgood. I'm itching to go up North but can't due to the tour.
What boards do you bring on a trip that focuses around hurricane surf?
It depends where you go but never leave home without a TL2 Tuflite or something you know for sure won't break. Besides that, a standard shortboard and, for me, I've been working with Timmy Patterson on designing a shorter board to ride in bigger surf. It's a little thicker in the chest area with the wide point pushed up a bit and the tail pulled in.
All signs are pointing toward Hurricane Bill being much cleaner than this Outer Banks bomb. Photo: Stafford/SPL
North Carolina's Ben Bourgeois
TransWorld SURF: How's Bill looking to you Benny B?
Ben Bourgeois: It's looking pretty good. I like the ones that end up hitting Florida for a couple spots then send straight south swell up the coast. But Bill can be good for Jersey and everything up there on Saturday. I think the Outer Banks will be good though too, Saturday's supposed to be SW winds (offshore) and hopefully Sunday morning, too. I try not to get too fired up on hurricanes though.
What's your plan of attack? Where are you going to rip?
If I didn't have this tour we're doing and stops we had to be at, I'd probably go up north somewhere. But I can't really jam up there, so we'll just stick to the Banks on this one. There will be a good session or two in there I'm sure.
What kind of boards do you ride on a swell like this?
I've already called WRV and Jesse Fernandez is making me a few boards that'll be done for the swell. If I were to go up north I'd probably bring a step-up or two. Other than that, you're just getting barreled on the Banks so normal shortboards are all you really need. I usually ride a 5'10" or 5'11" so I got Jesse to make me a little 6'1" step-up just in case.
If current models/projections hold up, New Jersey will be all time Saturday. Photo: Stafford/SPL
New Jersey Schralper Sam Hammer
TransWorld SURF: How's Bill looking to you, Sam?
Sam Hammer: It's definitely the best hurricane swell we've had in a bit. But stuff could still go wrong—it's a hurricane so it does what it wants. We haven't had a significant swell in like six months. People compare different things but I always look to see how many memorable days you had—and we haven't had that many lately. I'm looking at the buoy reports right now and Sunday is showing the biggest buoy reading I can remember if it holds true. Calling for something like 10 feet at 15 seconds—that's big. It's hard not to go nuts over this but it's still a hurricane so anything can happen.
It sounds like a lot of guys are going to the Outer Banks, what's your plan?
I'm going to be in New Jersey on Friday and Saturday and probably go somewhere north from there. It's always fun to surf your own beachbreaks, but they might not always be the right call. There's always somewhere that is going to be bigger and have a better wind. We actually have a lot of options within a few hours here, which is pretty nice.
What are you bringing to battle Bill with?
This time I'm bringing everything from shortboards to maybe a 6'10". We have some access to skis so you don't really need anything too much bigger than that. A long time ago we got Hurricane Gurt and I was at Ruggles in Rhode Island on a 7'0" and was way undergunned. It actually could be similar to that.
You saw it right; 20 feet at 15 seconds predicted for Nova Scotia! For this chart and one for your area go to magicseaweed.com/hurricane
To all you East Coast photographers, send your shots to email@example.com, we'll post the good ones highlighting your work and respective Web sites!