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