Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hatteras III

Stayed an extra day since Kim's friend Todd and his family visited on Friday-Saturday. Todd is a surfer friend who lived in Carlsbad for 10 years, and Costa Rica for the last 7 where he worked as a flower grower, and surfed some of the best point breaks anywhere. I'd call him, the Duffy of my surfer friends.

We hung out at the contest Saturday morning and watched the finals in howling onshore winds. Those guys all made the best of it, and made it look good, even the longboarders were having few problems. We didn't even go out that day. It was howling side/off shore and too small at our part of the island, and still hard onshore chop on the contest side. So, only one day out of the 8 days I was there was unridable (for me) Last year, I was 7 for 7. That's pretty amazing, to get that much ridable surf there. Or maybe it's not.

It was cool seeing Hatteras Island so unchanged again, and seeing all the campgrounds I used to visit still all there. I started going to Hatteras in 1980 to learn how to surf. I knew squat about wind directions, forecasts, tides, and island aspects. But I was a skater, and I figured if I could ever get up on a wave, I'd know how to turn and ride it. Well, that part was basically true. Riding and turning, is the easy part, but unfortunately, it's only about 1% of the game. All those other parts, not to mention paddling, are far more important, and can contribute to you never even getting into the position to actually ride or make a turn on an open face.

Over the past several years, I've learned a lot about how to get yourself in the right spot at the right time, meaning the right part of the beach, as well as the right part of the wave. The swell, the winds, and certainly the tides, are usually going to change a couple times in a day. It pays to check the surf every couple hours from anywhere you happen to be, and know how what you see there will translate to other spots. I'm not really a good surfer, and I can't ride in many conditions. I also have weak paddling arms and know that I only have an hour or two a day in me to work with. So, I need to maximize my chances at waves by going out when the conditions suit me best. Now, I've finally got a simple formula for getting some surf nearly every day in Hatteras:
  • find out when low tide is
  • get the wind forecast for that time of day
  • figure out which direction the swell is coming from
  • know which part of the island will be closest to offshore winds (having a big 4WD truck really helps with this part, since you can get to one more aspect by truck that you can't reach by paved roads). If this part of the island will be receiving swell, then:
  • plan your entire family and group's activities that day around you getting to that part of the beach just after low tide
  • enjoy the ephemeral bliss, 5 seconds at a time
Or, just forget all that wind and tide crap and take up kitesurfing instead.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hatteras II

Back at the contest for the morning, and Jake got 3rd in his first heat and progressed to the final tomorrow. There was definitely some swell in the water today, looking a little like a groundswell, and even at high tide the contest surfers were getting some nice waves.

I went out at the old Coast Guard Station after Jake's heat and had the session of the week (of ever maybe??). It was low tide by then, still clean, and starting to get a little more hollow on the sandbars, much more so than these pics. I actually got barreled for the first time ever. Dropped in, pulled back up the face, stayed crouched, watched the curtain come over and in front of me, and then, popped out. Dammnnnn!! Even managed a clean exit out of the small tube onto some green face before the other end closed out and I kicked on out through the back. I was freakin' stunned. Stunned. In all these years of trying to surf, I'd only come close to this a few times in the past few seasons. And I never had illusions that I'd make it out of the first tube I ever got into.
Got close to getting there a few more times in the next hour and a half. They were all quick take-offs, and I got pitched on many of them, but caught a lot of good waves and seemed to have progressed a level. Many were close-outs, but they were all great practice on steep take-offs, which I certainly need. I was catching a lot more waves than usual, since there was virtually no paddling necessary. I was sitting right off the 3rd groin, and there was a strong rip right next to the groin that made the paddle back out a snap. But, even cooler, was that you could walk most of the way out to the lineup since they were breaking on a wide sandbar. And since the waves were kinda steep, the take-offs didn't require a lot of paddle speed. Just get in the right spot, and you were good.

Quigfoot dropped by with his rig on his way to Arizona to ride bikes with a couple friends. He rented a Fox 9-footer and caught a few good rides.

The surf forecast for tomorrow does not look good. Head-high, and strong, on-shore winds. The final day of the contest, and maybe our final day here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


What must this island have been like in 1866?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hatteras Island

Kim and Oliver dropped me off at the beach as soon as we crossed the Wright Brothers Bridge and went in search of breakfast. The surf was small and glassy, with no wind and an incoming tide, I knew this was as good as it would get today, as the wind would surely pick up in the afternoon and chop up what little swell there is. There were about 5-8 guys in the lineup. The water was warm, and everyone out was just trunkin’ it. I watched several small schools of silversides jumping out of the water, I suppose chased by something larger. I caught a few short easy waves and saw a 12” dorsal a few yards outside me. Then, more dorsal, curving up and down, looking for a breakfast of their own. It felt so good to be back in the warm water, and catching the surf nice and mellow was a perfect start.

Kim popped her head over the dunes about 20 minutes later after a frustrating and unsuccessful search for breakfast. We rolled on down to Hatteras proper, with me a little mellower after the quick surf, but Kim still with her city game face on. As soon as we hit the National Seashore, our moods picked up, our shoulders relaxed, as we enter a different time and place.

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is still different, even after decades of development in Nags Head to the north. Hatteras Island has a “country” feel to it, much like the “town and country” of Hawaii for surfers, with the developed Honolulu and the rural North Shore. Hatteras is still fairly rural, and only a few decades away from being pretty feral and roadless. Nags Head is definitely considered town.

I went out for another surf after dinner off the beach at the house, hoping to catch an evening glass-off. It was high tide and moving out towards low, and it was a bit breezy. But I went out anyway, knowing that every minute I sat out there, the tide was getting lower, the wind calmer, and the surf glassier. The big group of New York neighbors were watching me from their upper deck, and enjoying lots of Bud Light.

Paddling a fiberglass surfboard hurts my breastbones and pelvis bones, just like a bike saddle hurts the sit bones if you don’t ride often enough. I was already sore from the short morning session, and knew that this would make tomorrow even sorer. But, what the hell, I’m here, and all I had to do was walk to waves, marginal though they were, they were waves. I spent a long time not paddling after anything, just sitting there watching, no doubt making the NYers wonder what the hell I’m doing out there in the near darkness. Finally, a few come my way and I get a couple small short rides. For some reason, I remembered hearing how much sharks prefer the dawn and dusk times as I look up and down the beach see no other surfers out. I recall the sizes of a few sand(?) sharks I’ve seen caught on the beach here, and start to sketch my head out a little. Somehow I get past that, rode a couple more and headed in.

Headed up to the Buxton area this afternoon to see if the surf is any better up around the big curve in the island. I also wanted to check out the contest, the Eastern Surfing Association is having their 40th annual Championships here all week. The surf down at our place in Frisco is small and very glassy with a light offshore breeze, but there’s just not enough juice in the swell to make it break well enough. I check the Frisco Pier on the way, and it’s not much better than at our house. Sometimes it is, since the pier catches a lot of sand and offers a break when nothing else is breaking.

I paddle out at the 3rd groin in Buxton and spook a small school of fish as soon as I hit the water. The water here is much clearer and warmer than yesterday up north, and I can easily see the bottom at about 6-8 feet deep. It keeps making me think I can touch the bottom since it looks so close. With the contest 2 groins away, I expected this spot to be crowded, especially after seeing the SOBE and Monster sponsor trucks parked nearby. But, there’s only one other guy out in the lineup; long blond dreadlocks, long gray-blond beard. I paddle out past him, and sit closer to the takeoff zone near the groin and immediately realized my breach of etiquette. So, I just sat there a while, and let him grab a couple waves before I tried for any. After he had a half-dozen or so nice, long rides, I still hadn't caught anything. He asks me if I’m from Delaware too. I replied, “no, Pennsylvania”, and he inquired if I was always from PA. I gave him the quick rundown, Baltimore-Florida-and Virginia for the last ever. He had all he needed to know about my surf prowess, and my next few wave attempts confirmed that as well. He told me that he worked in a shop in Virginia Beach 14 days a month making high-end longboards and retro fish. He said he lived here the other 16 or 17 days a month. He was pretty specific about the 16 or 17 days. Finally, I started catching a few waves, and they were pretty good, with some clean, open face time, and almost some pocket time. Dreadlock guy rode a long one to the beach, dropped his board off, and grabbed a spear gun, snorkel, and mask, and spent an hour or so swimming up and down the groin looking for some fresh catch for dinner. I was the only one out until one of the “Delaware guys” paddled out and caught a few out near me. Later, another two paddled out, and I took that as a sign that I helped make the surf at least not look totally crappy. That doesn't happen too much to me.

Man, did it ever feel great to be surfing small, quality surf right there. I didn't really want to get out of the water but I wanted to save my arms, and check out the contest. The contest surfers really rip, and made the surf look spectacular, doing anything they wanted on their long rides. They were getting clean lefts off the 1st groin, and riding them a long way milking points from the judges. The judges sit 3 stories up, in an elaborate scaffolding structure, which is causing controversy with the National Park Service. The NPS doesn't allow any advertising, and the large sponsor banners and tents, and the judges platform doesn't exactly conform to most of the Park's management plan. After 39 years here at the lighthouse, there was a serious threat by the NPS to not allow the contest back here with banners. Of course, the contest can't really function without the sponsors and banners, so a 1-year agreement was settled, with the NPS staff on-hand inspecting all aspects of the operation and assessing the contests' impact on any non-surfing visitors to the Park.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saturday looks promising

Here's the surf forecast for S-Turns from for the next few days. Atlantic surf is magnitudes more fickle than Appalachian snows, and I know that 3 days out, the most important of these variables, the wind is likely to change. But, Saturday sure looks good right now.

The surf is best when swell direction and wind direction oppose each other. A 3.5 ft wave height doesn't sound like much, but that is the height at the offshore buoy, and that long time period is an indicator of the consistency of the swell. Hopefully, Saturday will be a good first day of 7 more to come.

I doubt posting this will jinx me, since usually, just showing up jinxes the waves for me. Can't tell you how many times I've heard, " shoulda been here yesterday...." At least this time I have 8 days to get lucky, like last year, where we had ridable waves every day.

Anyone want to join us??

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

new trail

Went for a hike/run last night to scout out a new trail I heard about from an enduro source. I found it the hard way, from within the woods rather from the road. Now we have yet another new option in the Big Flat area.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Finished up the Michaux Endurance Series yesterday, and had another good day on the bike. All day of course. Some of the best trails in the Forest are in this race, including one which I never ride, Rocky Ridge. I don't know why I never ride it, it is freakin' awesome! Or, as Rich and Jes said, it's "just wrong". Those 8 finishing miles were the fun of the day for me. Of course it didn't hurt running into Buddy up there, and Travis and Bender standing in the woods with a beer in one hand and.... That is the kind of trail made for my steed and me. If it were tilted downhill, like Stooges, it woulda been hell, especially 5 hours in. But it wasn't, and it was sweet.

I was certainly fully cooked at the finish, glad to have it in the books, and glad to have another race season behind me. Yes, that's probably it for me in 2007. Sounds really odd to think that my next race is 7 months away. I've put in three 50-milers, two 100-Ks, one 100-miler, and, at the other end of the spectrum, four roundy-rounds.

Happy to have another safe season done. As I say, all this shit is fun and all, but it's only truly cool if I can still ride with Oliver the next day.

Seeing Travis and Bender, and Lee, Keefer, Kent, Jay, and Colgan at the aid stations also made me think that next year I need to put in my work time, and not be a 3-for again. Next year, look for me holding the beer somewhere in a happy place.

Benefit race for a downed friend

Long-time racer Joey Riddle had a nasty crash a couple weeks ago at the WVMBA Championships and messed up a lot of important bones. There's a benefit race and some raffles to help raise money for his new bills, which are certainly more than his Vicious SS required. I can't make the race, but I'm buying a bunch of raffle tickets. here's the link to the race. And here's the Riddle's blog

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jason's story

Here's a great post about the recent Shenandoah 100, and includes a nice bit of history of the race and of Gripped Films and creators Jason Berry and Ken Bell. They've made 4 great films that I know of, and I've owned them all, and lost (or loaned out permanently?) most of them. Jason has obviously stepped up his efforts to be more than a wannabe in this race. Nice result there Jason!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Shenandoah Mountain 100

My favorite day of every year starts with this view.

Another fun 100 miles in the bank. I had a good day, and got stronger (and stiffer) as the race went on. Was not 100% at the start, as I had some weird headaches and chills the day and night before the race. Had been spraying zinc for a few days as well just hoping/helping/wondering. I started fairly slow, and then had a minor mechanical going down Narrow Back as my handlebars slipped down a little cuz I didn't tighten my faceplate bolts tight enough. I fixed it quickly, but still watched about 50 folks roll on by.

Spent the rest of the day moving back on up through the pack, riding with friends, and mashing up the fireroads. Got to meet a few new friends on the course and at the party, including this guy. The party was good, possibly the strongest stage of the trifecta for me this year, and I think I reached my goal of a beer for every hour on the course for the first time. It's great to have long-term goals that take years to reach, but it feels better when you meet them, and this year, my drinking performance caught up to my biking performance. Certainly not enough to contend for the Rock Star award, but I was keeping those contenders within sight all night.

Thank you Chris Scott, Chris' family, Scud, SMBC, SBC, MORE, and everyone who makes this event the highlight of every cycling calendar. And special treats out to the fixy fools Tomi, Andy, Dominick, and Erin. Floyd said you all are "just stupid".