As teen-dom found me, I’d found my happy place. I was set for life, wanting nothing more than the safe theme park thrills The Jetty provided. But in the lineup, between the heckles, I’d heard talk of somewhere beyond – barren, unruly, possibly deadly? It’s nickname, after all, was “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Such is life; just when you think you’ve figured her out she issues a new challenge.
My only experience with Cape Hatteras was a long ago family trip, where the highlight was Derrick bringing along a skimboard that he thought was a boogieboard. One floats, one doesn’t. He paddled a few strokes from shore and promptly sank.
Now that I knew what Hatteras was about, I begged my dad to take me. He agreed but told me to pick a day with clean, worthwhile surf. I could do that. Surfers are inherently skilled at reading the weather.
I religiously pored over The Virginian-Pilot weather section day after day. After two weeks of relentless crap winds, Mom Nature offered a reprieve. “Dad, it’s time.”
We grabbed my friend Chris and headed south. The camera was loaded with film and the conditioned air pregnant with expectation. Visions of sugar plum peelers danced through our heads. After ninety minutes that felt like nine thousand, we pulled up to the beach, sprinted over the dunes, and…ohhhhhhhh, fuuuuuudge!
Not only was it as flat as Nebraska, an onshore breeze punched me in the face for good measure. I’d checked and rechecked the paper. It clearly said northeast winds, but these were blowing FROM the northeast.
Thus came valuable lessons about getting skunked and about the weather. The morons don’t tell you which way the wind is blowing; they tell you where it’s coming from. I was a wee lad, but I knew this made no sense. “It was the paper’s fault, Dad. They’ve got it all backwards.”
We made a day of it, sliding at the waterpark and running all over Jockey’s Ridge. Finally we got back in the car and made the drive of shame back to VB.
The next day at The Jetty, I found real shame. Another surfer was raving about scoring head-high waves in Hatteras, lying through his teeth. I don’t usually speak up, but I had to butt in. “I was down there yesterday, and it was flat!”
“Yeah, I know it flat was in Nags Head,” he said with a knowing look of derision. “Around the corner in Frisco it was offshore and firing.” I had lots more to learn.