With possible snow forecast for last weekend, Wrightsville Beach’s South End Surf Shop was preparing to reprise the unique event it threw during the town’s last snowstorm four years ago. But when the snow didn’t fall, some local residents found that conditions were right to make it.
Thus, the surf shop hosted its second ever snowboarding event Jan. 8, the Rail Jam, where local snowboard enthusiasts brought out their gear and got in a few runs before the coastal conditions melted the snow.
About 10 snowboarders brought their boots, jackets and boards to South End Surf Shop for runs over both the ramp and the rail on snow artificially made by friends of shop owner Jeff DeGroote.
“It’s unique to have snowboarding here at the beach,” DeGroote said. “It was a fun novelty that brought out a lot of people from the neighborhood.”
DeGroote said that going into the weekend, they were ready to hold the Rail Jam should it snow. When Saturday’s precipitation turned out to mostly be rain and sleet, DeGroote called on friends John Buechele and Tom Moorefield, who own a snowmaking machine.
But making snow is a science that requires specific conditions, DeGroote said, and while Saturday was cold, the humidity in the air ruined efforts to artificially make snow, as the air temperature reached as high as 41 degrees.
Conditions changed on Sunday, when temperatures peaked at 30 degrees during the day with low humidity, and the snow that Buechele and Moorefield made stuck to the ground outside the surf shop.
The snow lasted only a few hours, but through word of mouth and social media, crowds came out to see the snow day on Wrightsville Beach.
Cameron Chaney, a snowboarder who once lived in Colorado, said a friend told him about what was happening at South End Surf Shop. Chaney grabbed his snowboarding boots and went to the shop, where he borrowed a board for the run.
“It worked out pretty nice. I didn’t know that many people were interested in snowboarding here,” Chaney said. “The environment there was great. The surf and snowboarding lifestyle is kind of similar and this was a nice event to bring them together.”
With no plunging slopes, snowboarders received some propulsion help from a bungee cord.
“It was like a big rubber band,” DeGroote said.
Each rider got about three rides before the thin layer of snow disappeared, DeGroote said, but it was enough for those anxious for a taste of the mountains.
“We didn’t want to disappoint the kids that were expecting snow,” DeGroote said. “Any chance you can get the community together for something like this, it’s a win.”