While most people fear and distance themselves from hurricanes, there is one contingent of the community that enjoys a certain aspect of them. Surfers flocked to Wrightsville Beach when Hurricane Arthur approached in hopes of catching some big waves produced by the storm.
Arthur was at its most intense at Wrightsville Beach during the late afternoon and evening hours on Thursday, July 3, leaving many surfers to have to wait until the following morning to try their luck. There were mixed emotions in the surfing community about the quality of waves that this storm produced, but many were thankful to have the opportunity for waves during the usually flat summer season.
“Whenever a hurricane comes through, surfers drop what they’re doing, grab their boards and head to the beach,” said surfer London Paulson of Wilmington. “You want to take advantage of the time you have. A good swell is rare in the summer.”
Paulson hit the waves at the south end of Wrightsville Beach around 6 a.m. on Friday morning. Waves were forming very nicely for the first few hours of his session, but by 9 a.m., they were starting to deteriorate, Paulson said.
The quick weakening of the waves early Friday was attributed to a northwest wind that blew over Thursday night, eventually coming out of the west later Friday morning, said surfer Charles Thomas of Wilson, N.C. The close proximity of the hurricane to shore also shortened the window of time for good waves.
“If the storm had been 300 miles offshore, you would have gotten a day’s worth of waves,” Thomas said. “But I think everyone was happy to get some waves because it has been so flat for most of June. You take what you can get.”
Some surfers braved the ocean during the storm Thursday. Surfer Ward Bridger of Wilmington went out around noon the day the storm hit. The waves were breaking close to shore and were barreling. There weren’t many people around, and lifeguards followed him and his group closely, Bridger said.
Bridger went out again the following morning at Masonboro Island, but said that it was very crowded and the waves were disappointing. The best waves came around midnight to 3 a.m. because the storm hit in the evening, he said.
“This hurricane wasn’t quite as good as others because the swell was really short,” said Bridger. “Either you surfed when it was dangerous during the storm or you surfed small waves the morning after.”
Surfer Teddy Hardeen of Wilmington missed out on surfing because of power outages. “I heard later that people had gone out when the wind went offshore right after dark on Thursday for good waves,” Hardeen said. “I lost cable and Internet during the storm, so I didn’t see everyone posting about it.”
Hardeen attempted to surf early Friday morning, but determined that the waves were too small. He said the buildup to hurricanes is usually better and that this one was disappointing with the lack of waves it produced.
“Of course you have to respect hurricanes, but at the same time, they can be very fun for surfers,” Paulson said. “But it is important for surfers to know the boundaries.”