Making it Out in Hatteras
In Hatteras the ocean can be quite difficult simply to make it out to the surf zone for riding waves. The general mantra seems to be that if you can make it out on a given "big" day, you proved yourself. In recent years (2005 and 2006) we experienced some big days in Hatteras with mast high set waves, and tough conditions simply to make it out. Ripping current, fluky inside wind, and continuous walls of white water often prevent many from finding the clear line to the outside, or even attempting the feat. Once out though, wave riding seems rather "conservative." No one goes for the big critical hit on a 12 ft barrel or floats a 10+ foot wave aerial ahead of a 8 ft wall of whitewater... or at least I have not seen it yet in person/video/photography. Perhaps its timidity in dealing with big Hatteras bombers, or the fear of a long swim in a pounding impact zone, or perhaps the need to navigate back out after washing in. Gear destruction is also an issue, but likely the least of the concerns?!
In Hatteras there are no channels and reef combos to restrict the swell impact to a predictable area. Here, its all over the place. Though, there is a nice area I call "The Lounge" which lies in between the outer main break, and the inside shore pound. Its an area of deep water between the sand bar and the beach, where dissipated whitewater rolls though, and the current is usually pretty strong; however, it provides nice breathing room for relaxing after being tumbled by a big wave, and/or setting up for a water start to attempt the trek back out though the main sand bar wave pound.
All in all, when it is big here, much is "judged" simply by whether you can even make it out.
On the plus side, at least sand is fairly easy on the body/skin as compared to reef or rocks! We also have miles of soft sandy beach to wash up on after getting worked!
Classic Big Day Vid - Ocracoke Airport Beach, Oct 2005