As the hurricane season kicks in on June 1, one group, at least, is looking forward to it: surfers. Born adrenaline junkies, the most die-hard surfers see the giant waves generated by the tropical storms not as threats, but as opportunities for the perfect ride.
To mark the arrival of the storm season, here are seven awesome videos of surfers taking on hurricanes, from Bill to Igor to Emily.
Earl struck late in the 2010 hurricane season and reached as far north as Canada. But the surfing in this video comes from Florida’s Sebastian Inlet State Park, a well-known surf haven. Warm water, clear skies and big waves made for some crowded riding, but that didn’t stop anyone from hanging ten. Filmed over two days, this video features a lot of wipeouts, from the epic to the clumsy. But it’s also got a few jaw-dropping moments -- don’t miss my personal favorite at 2:20.
The most intense Atlantic tropical storm of 2010, Igor originated in West Africa and crossed the ocean, skirting around Bermuda and devastating Newfoundland. Although it did some $200 million of damage in Canada alone -- just a few weeks after Earl struck -- Igor did provide some great waves in Rhode Island, where this video was filmed.
Here, Igor’s waves crash into the North Carolina coast. Filmed at the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle the weekend before the first video, this one has some great shots (filmed from the pier) that show the size of the waves and the skill of the riders. It’s also got a lot more riders than its Rhode Island counterpart, most likely thanks to the warmer waters down South.
Bill dates back to the summer of 2009, when it whipped up winds of 135 mph and did $46 million of damage. The strong rip currents brought out extra life guards, but didn’t deter surfers. Filmed in Kitty Hawk, this video features some tricks worthy of the Wright Brothers’ legacy of pioneering flight. As the video goes on, more and more surfers show up, possible proof that the thrill of riding hurricane-level waves is getting contagious.
Here’s another take on Bill, this time filmed at Inlet State Park, one day earlier. You can see the difference in the weather, as the surfers here shed the wet suits for board shorts and bikini tops. It’s remarkably crowded for a hurricane surf session; some of the most impressive moves are the experienced riders’ maneuvers to avoid knocking the newbies senseless.
Emily caused flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but only achieved tropical storm status and never headed north toward the United States. This video has a different look from the others -- the camera is strapped onto a board and gives the point of view of the surfer (or his toes). Produced by Pure Ocean TV.com and filmed over two days as Emily broke apart, it’s calmer than the rest of the videos here, and emphasizes the quiet, aesthetic beauty of the sport, rather than its more explosive side.
Filmed on Folly Beach in South Carolina, this video doesn’t feature any amazing moves on the Category 3 hurricane’s waves, though some of the wipeouts are pretty good. But as Irene heads north, there will be many more opportunities to catch the perfect wave, and maybe even make a video that will top one of these.
If you’re thinking about trying to ride a hurricane’s waves, make sure you’re also feeling very careful. These aren’t normal conditions and the risk of injury is very real. But if you’re bored of riding with sharks, or you think that West Coast surfing is better, it might be time to yell “cowabunga!” on an Atlantic hurricane.
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