Stab Magazine | Smiles and barrels or death, isolation and destruction?
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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, […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.”

hammer nj

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.”

sandy after

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…

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