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Redefining what it means to be a good surfer

Hurricane Hunting

Right now I am on a plane, heading back to CA after chasing Hurricane Teddy to the East Coast.  It was an amazing mission and here is the recap.

First, some background. I grew up in Boston and spent my early years as a surfer chasing waves in the Northeast, and eventually into Canada. Oddly enough, Boston isn’t the worst place in the world to be a surfer. It’s centrally located in New England and within 1hr+ striking distance for waves across four different states. Truly not that bad for surfing, so long as you don’t mind spending a ton of time in the car.  For example, it’s not out of the question to drive an hour south to surf Rhode Island in the morning, then book it two hours North to New Hampshire for the evening session, then an hour back home to Boston.. and then do it all over again the next day as if four hours in the car and two surf sessions is totally chill :).

Anyways, I don’t mean to spoil the secret, but East Coast surfing is all about Hurricane season. It’s flat all summer and when August hits, the hype begins and this year was no different. Early on, Surfline was forecasting a ‘record breaking hurricane season’. With this in mind, I try to head back east for some time each Fall to chase these storms, score the old familiar spots I love, and to seek out the nooks and crannies I know exist but have not yet found.

It’s never easy to make these trips happen, to drop everything I’m doing, book a last minute flight, and go chase a very short window for waves on the other side of the country. It’s the same thing each year, should I go? Should I not go? Will it be ‘worth it’? Is this the storm worth chasing or should I wait for the next one?

It was early in the week when I first saw Hurricane Teddy coming to life and shortly thereafter that all of the east coast instagram accounts I follow to keep my pulse on the Atlantic started to hype it up. It’s funny how that works.

I was wavering, but by Friday morning, I was convinced this storm was worth chasing and had to make a decision quickly in order to get East in time for the swell.  So, I checked my JetBlue Travel Bank Account which I was planning to use to pay for my trip… and saw my funds had… expired.  SHOOT! I was under the impression that my ‘bank funds/credit’ expiration date was extended because of COVID so when I logged in and saw them expired, I was shocked, and bummed.  This almost cancelled the trip.  Fortunately, JetBlue is kind of awesome and when I called customer service, explained the situation, they told me they would reinstate my credit with the caveat that it had to be used within 14 days.

I thought to myself..

  • What is stopping me/holding me back from going?

  • If someone offered to fly me back to chase it, would I go?

I sat long and hard with it and ultimately realized that this is what I love, this is why I work so hard, so that I can take advantage of these opportunities.  Still, the voice in my head was saying no.  I sat with it longer, and realized that the voice telling me no was my old friend named Fear.  Once I made that distinction, I was able to see right through Fear and booked my flight.  Game on!

I booked the ticket that night, spent Saturday working, cleaning the house, and packing. I then drove down to Venice Saturday night and slept in my van before my 6am flight on Sunday.  On the flight, and thanks to JetBlue’s free in-flight Wifi, I was checking reports, cams, and texting with homies on the ground who were already on it. I coordinated with my old friend Doug to pick me up at the airport and head straight to the beach.

Doug and Boris scooped me up, even brought me lunch, and we booked it South from Logan Airport to Rhode Island where we scored some amazing head high waves.  Doug opted to ride a different board, so when I saw him leaving his 7’8 Trimcraft Haley Pin in the truck, I was all over it and ended up riding this board for the first two full days of the swell. The waves were sizable, and really good, yet not super easy to get into so a little extra foam made all the difference.

After day one, things were off to a good start and I was stoked. It was pretty cool to wake up in California, fly 6hrs, drive two, and be shredding perfect hurricane surf by the afternoon.  

Truth be told, I do have a job and couldn’t leave it all behind. So yes, I actually worked all day on Monday, one of the best days of the swell and didn’t even see the ocean. I missed a great day of waves, but I got a lot done and was able to rearrange my calendar to go full send on Tuesday and Wednesday, the last two days of the four day swell event.

I woke up Tuesday morning at about 430am and headed toward Rhode Island again.  As the sun came up, I checked the cam on my phone and it was a bit smaller than expected so I flat out pulled a u-turn and headed back to Boston to go grab Doug’s 7’8” Haley Pin again.  I had such a blast on this board Sunday night that I thought it was the ticket for Tuesday as well.  So, I met Doug, stole his board, and was back on the road toward Rhode Island.

The surf was large, growing, and a little extra foam was once again welcomed.  I was on a mission to get barrelled and just hunted left tubes all morning.  After my second session, I saw one of my closest friends, Johna, on the beach.  It was great to catch up with Johna and she was kind enough to grab my camera and snaps a few pics for a bit. My arms were like noodles, but I was stoked to hunt some tubes for the camera.

Me X Haley Pin. Thanks for the pic, Special J 🙂

By the afternoon I was spent and decided it was time to head home to Boston.  En route, Doug let me know he was headed to a spot right in the city, so I decided to meet him there.  The surf was large, and we paddled out for sunset and got a few more good ones.

Now it was time to get ready for Wednesday, the peak of the swell.

Where was I to go? The pressure was on as it was the last day of the swell.  There is a perfect cobblestone left in New Hampshire I knew would be pumping but crowded. Or, an elusive left in Maine that I surfed really good about ten years ago that was a bit of a wildcard.

I was up at 4am and in New Hampshire by sunrise looking at that perfect left, and the right across the bay. There were a ton of heads on it, but that was to be expected and didn’t bother me.

The window for the elusive left was dwindling so it was now or never.  I opted to go on a wild goose chase.  This spot is fickle, needs a huge swell, and a really low tide. I wasn’t sure if it would be working, but was willing to take the risk.  While I got some decent ones, I prob should have just stayed in New Hampshire.  Oh well.

I did get a few good ones, though.  And as the tide came up, the wave shut down and I was outta there.  My plan was to head back to New Hampshire, but once again, mysto Maine was calling.  I decided to meet up with my buddy Nolan who works at Grain Surfboards for another goose chase a few hours North of where I already was.  We drove through some dirt roads and found some really fun waves.  It wasn’t world class, but it was great to check out this zone pretty deep in Maine and to catch up with Nolan.

By about 3pm, we got out and decided to head south to find an evening sesh.  I was en route to that spot in New Hampshire that I knew would still be firing and would offer the left tube I had been hoping for.  En route, I pulled over to grab an iced coffee from Dunkin.. and when I got back in the car, it wouldn’t start.

And that was it.  My car was completely dead in the heart of Maine, and the chase was over. 

Not quite how I imagined things to end, but that’s how it goes.

Looking back, this trip was a risk. Taking risks can be scary, but are usually worth it.

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