re-sized Damien Hobgood - Teahupoo

Irene makes a handful of people happy and the Typhoon affects others

Whilst Hurricane Irene spreads doom and despondency up and down the east coast of America and into Canada, there have been a few people out there watching her arrival with glee and expectation.

Salisbury Beach, for example, in Massachusetts has attracted a few dedicated surfers. Mike Paugh, friend Erik Zak and others in the surf community in Salisbury, Seabrook and points north and south are watching the arrival of this storm keenly. “Monday’s tide will be big, but it will slowly die through the day,” Paugh said. “Tuesday will be small, fun surf. Tuesday might be the best day.”

Paugh has surfed all around the world, but takes advantage of every storm, hurricane and tropical that ravages the East Coast. “Nobody wants a direct hit,” he says, but a big storm is when things get interesting for the experienced surfer and with Irene fitting the bill “you could see hundreds of people out there,” Paugh noted. “It will be a frenzy.”

Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts is an exposed beach break that has reasonably consistent surf and can work at any time of the year. Although the storm’s epicenter passed nearly overhead, it was a shade to the west which meant only a small window for decent waves. “This storm is a lot like (Hurricane) Bob (1991)” Paugh explained. “The swells are going to be huge, but they’re going to drop quick. Bob had six hours of overhead surf, then it was gone.”

The ideal storm for someone in Massachusetts is one that veers east after the Carolinas, causing  large, sustained surf over a period of several days.

But up and down the East Coast experienced surfers were waiting for the waves. Jacksonville Beach in Florida had some good strong conditions with intense waves

However, following in a hurricane’s footsteps can be treacherous even for experienced surfers. Maths teacher 55-year-old Fredrick Fernandez was knocked off his surfboard Saturday morning at Smryna Beach, Florida and was killed. If you’re going to do it you must be extra extra careful.

In the meantime, and as you all know, there’s a typhoon over on the other side of the world, rampaging its way through the Philippines, Taiwan, and now heading for China –  Typhoon Nanmadol. And you might also remember that the Billabong Pro is over on that side of the world surfing Teahupoo off Tahiti – or meant to be be. First the waves were too insignificant and now… well now, they’re positively dangerous.  “We’ve certainly never seen Teahupoo in these conditions and it’s not possible to paddle in today so we’ve called competition off,” Pritamo Ahrendt, ASP head judge, said. “With the conditions as they are this morning, I would be surprised if the tow-in session came off as a resounding success. It’s pretty heavy. Good luck to everyone taking a crack at it today, and we’ll be back tomorrow morning to check conditions.” You have to see it to believe it!

A swell to end all swells and one of the heaviest sessions ever documented during a competition. Way to go Billabong! Cory Lopez put it perfectly on Twitter:  “Last week we were puppets. this week we r gladiators. thnx #billabongpro and Tahiti for makin surfers look good.”

feature photo © ASP/ Kirstin and © ASP/ Robertson

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