Smiles and barrels or death, isolation and destruction?
Words by Morgan Williamson Significant weather events are one of those things as a surfer you can’t help but froth on. Watching the sweet cotton candy twirl offshore in a magnificent pirouette of anticipation brings a smile to the face. But if you live in an area prone to hurricanes making their way to shore, […]
Words by Morgan Williamson
Significant weather events are one of those things as a surfer you can’t help but froth on. Watching the sweet cotton candy twirl offshore in a magnificent pirouette of anticipation brings a smile to the face. But if you live in an area prone to hurricanes making their way to shore, things are a little different. “If one thing’s changed since Hurricane Irene hit, it’s that instead of being excited, I’m now like, please don’t come near me,” says Brett Barley, who knows hurricane devastation too well. And it’s understandable; collectively Ms Irene caused $15.6 billion in damage and was the seventh most destructive hurricane in US history. Katrina being the first, followed by Hurricane Sandy. Irene resulted in 56 recorded deaths. “We kind of got hit by Irene but it really wasn’t bad for us” says New Jersey local Sam Hammer. “There were trees down but nothing too crazy. Sandy was really the only time where we were like oh, shit, what happened?” Which resulted in $76 billion worth of damage and in New Jersey alone 346 thousand houses were damaged or destroyed.
“I was surfing with Mike Gleason and Pat Schmidt up in Long Beach, New York,” Sam remembers of Sandy. “Just seeing the ocean transform as that storm came up was pretty remarkable. It was like in Hawaii when a swell’s coming up and each wave’s backed by so much more water. It went from the most fun, perfect Long Beach I’ve ever seen into shit that just got real.”
Sam Hammer knifes into the more pleasurable results of a hurricane. Photo: Ryan Mack
The east coast of the United States is prone to hurricane devastation. “Irene in 2011 was pretty awful,” says Brett. “At that point I didn’t realise how bad it was when a storm comes into town. We were without a highway for two months. The island and town flooded. For weeks into months people were struggling.”
“It’s scary when it’s going to hit your house,”continues Mr Barley, who lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “Especially for us, since there’s only one road on and off the island. I’m always worried about the highway surviving. When I was 13 we had Hurricane Isabel. We lost power and the next morning my dad and I got in the truck to check out what was going on. There was no access to the southern portion of the island. They were without a road on or off the island for two months. That was my first real storm experience.”
“During Sandy the sketchiest thing was trying to maintain contact with my family,” says Sam. “My parents have a home four houses from the ocean. We lost all communication and the last thing I heard from my mom until the morning was that there was water in the house. She turned out to be alright, but the uncertainty really weighs on you. That whole storm was mind boggling. It beat the hell out of us! It was a learning experience. You start to think differently when storms are coming.”
Just a snippet of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath.
“They shut the area down pretty quickly,” Mr Hammer continues. “There was some looting going on and every once in a while you’d hear a door kicked in. It was nighttime and pitch black, you didn’t know where it was all coming from. People were coming in by boat on the bay front and looting. It was eye opening. It took three months for there to be power on the island where my family’s from. When a bad one hits you come to an understanding that storms aren’t just for our (surfer’s) pleasure.”
“The coolest thing I’ve taken from seeing the destruction that happens here during storms, is that the whole island gets together and helps out whoever needs it,” Brett says. “That’s why I love living where I live. It’s a small place, everyone knows each other. After they hit everything goes on hold. There were three towns that got turned upside down during Irene, everybody goes out and helps if they can.”
It’s a much different story on the west coast of the United States. Hurricanes are all joy and swell. That’s of course after Mex takes a solid beating. Last summer Hurricane Marie left Oaxaca in shambles. 10,000 families were effected via mudslides and flooding. A few days later Newport Point did its best Pipeline impersonation. It always seems the poorer parts of the world are plagued by natural disaster. Our lovely earth’s a ticking time bomb…
Hassling, Head-Dips, and Broken Apple Watches
The 2023 CT is underway. Here's what happened on Day One of the Billabong Pro…
Stephanie Gilmore And Filipe Toledo Are The 2022 Stab Surfers Of The Year
Caity and Hughie take Best Juniors, “NOZ VID” wins best film, and Ho and Pringle…
Red Bulls, Crypto Bears, Former’s Six-Figure Fish, Tyler’s Multi-Millions And More
A brief catalog of the latest surf industry news and whispers.
“Definitely The First Time I’ve Gone Surfing Via Plane”
Parker Coffin, Harrison Roach, and friends tear through NZ on Roark's most well-rounded surf trip…
Pipe Preview: This Year Feels Different
With John and Gabs healthy — and the arrival of the femme next-gen — here’s…
WSL Tells Competitors: ‘You Better Like Them Apples’
Will mandating competitors to wear Apple Watches make the 2023 tour more or less engaging?
Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners
Day 9: "You can't do better than his year last year." - John John Florence
Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth
A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.
Kael Walsh Now Owns A Bitcoin, And Watched One Crypto Video
He’s officially your Stab Edit Of The Year champion.
Carissa Moore And Finn McGill Are Your 2023 Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Champions
They both pocket $50k and tickets to this year’s Vans Pipe Masters.
The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 5
Mason Ho helps us ring in our final week on the North Shore.
Goofyfoot Brazilian World Champion Stars In Stab’s Biggest Board-Testing Franchise
Can you guess who?
Surf Community Rallies To Raise Funds For Eddie Winner And On-Duty Hawaiian Lifeguard Luke Shepardson
Because it's the right thing to do, of course.
Interview: Caity Simmers On Machete Wars, Rihanna, Personal Project Problems, And The Rise Of Female Surf Content.
A toast to ‘Toasted.’
Stab Surfer of the Year: Creed McTaggart, Albee Layer, Laura Enever, Dane Guduaskas, and Selema Masekela
Day 8: "65 years young and charging just as hard as ever at Pipe, Backdoor,…
“I’m Not A Big Wave Guy”
How Kai Paula accidentally made his mark at Jaws three weeks after surfing it for…