The United States’ Carolina coastline is home to some of the best surfing in America, and right now Hurricane Florence is heading straight for the area, bringing with it category 4 winds of up to 140 miles per hour and dangerous storm surge potential. While many who live in hurricane-prone areas dread the summer months, surfers tend to jump for joy whenever they hear a tropical system has developed. Here’s why.
Hurricanes are caused by low-pressure fronts. These fronts help to produce long ranks of wave after wave, with plenty of space between sets. For surfers, that means consistent action. The other side-effect of hurricanes has to do with the wind. The longer a wind travels, the better the waves will be whenever they finally reach a shoreline. Given that Atlantic storms start off the coast of Africa, that leaves a lot of room for winds to develop some insanely clean waves!
It’s important to clarify a few things for safety’s sake here. First, if an area is under a hurricane warning and landfall is imminent, DON’T GO SURFING! Chances are you’ll have several days leading up to the storm where wave quality will increase, so catch some sets then. When it’s time to hunker down, play it smart. Secondly, if you’re not a seasoned surfer, take care when attempting to ride hurricane-driven waves. It’s not uncommon for a “hurricane wave” to be three or four times the size of what you normally see. Believe us, if you’re used to riding three or four footers, a 12-foot giant will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not prepared.
Waves that size can break bones and knock you unconscious. If you happen to make it through a wipeout, there’s a chance of losing your board and then you could be facing something just as deadly as the wave itself: rip current. People drown every year because they get swept out to sea by strong rip currents. If you find yourself in one, swim parallel to the shore and make your way toward the beach at a very slight angle until the current subsides. Swimming directly against the current will only tire you out and leave you in a very dire situation.
Hurricanes can create excellent surfing conditions, but be smart and be safe. Heed warnings issued by the National Weather Service and don’t attempt riding waves if you don’t know the water or if you’re not experienced with bigger wave riding.