OBX Winter Windsurfing

click to enlargeMichael from The Peconic Puffin inquired about winter sailing on the OBX in a post comment thread, and I thought this would make a fine new post. Winter does get cold here especially from Jan though mid-March. Over the years, there have not been too many windsurfing days during this time period; though usually if we decide to hit the water, it will be ahead of a strong cold front producing unseasonably warm weather. Sometimes we will see 70+ degree air and 25+ knot SW winds. Water temps primarily remain warmer in the ocean as compared to the sounds. The southern facing ocean beaches will find the warmest water since the Gulf Stream flows just offshore (see SSTH Imaging). The water down there rarely drops below 55 degrees, and often hovers in the mid 60s depending upon the offshore current. NE winds seem to bring the warm surface water from the Gulf Stream in while SW winds blow it out to sea. Therefore, we may see 70+ degree air, but water in the low to mid 50s, or on the flip side, 40 degree air, and water in the mid 60s. Its an interesting and dynamic climate on the OBX, especially in Hatteras.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger PeconicPuffin said...

That the ocean is warmer than the sound is a jaw-dropper for me. Big lesson learned! The same satellite source confirms that this holds true (right now, at least) for the bays vs the ocean up here on Long Island, too. A great resource, those satellite images...thanks!


At 5:21 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Yea, I check that ocean surface temp website often to see if the water is worth getting into, especially down in Hatteras. In fact today, it looks like the water temps are pushing 70 degrees down there?! I wonder if there was any surf...I would have paddled out in that water!

Though of note regarding sound vs ocean temps on the OBX, in the spring/early summer, the ocean can take a while to warm up. Often the sounds will warm much faster than the ocean due to the shallow conditions and radiant warming from the infamous weeds in the water. Therefore on a warm air temp day in May, only trunks are required in the sound, but in the ocean, a full suit is still needed.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Jeff, aka Peconic Jeff said...

What temperature thresholds do you guys use in the winter?

My buddies and I stayed in Avon on the OBX around mid-to-late March. The weather that week cooler-than-usual and was quite unsettled (good for winds tho!), and we had to deal with air and water temps in the 40's. The sound and ocean were pretty comparable at that point. Luckily our Bare dry suits (aka my sweat bag) and hot tub soakings at the rental house made dealing with the cold more than bearable.

Meanwhile, today I was happy to sail on Mecox Bay (on Long Island) with mid-upr 40's water and low 50's air. 50's also make packing up afterward easier on your fingers.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Well I follow the golden rule of:
air + water temps must be greater than or equal to 100. This formula works for days when the water is cold and the air is warm, or the water is warm and the air is cold.

In my beginning windsurfing days (circa 1987-1992), I used to sail in anything (once had ice falling from a windbreaker covering my wetsuit sailing at Codorus State Park in PA), but now I am a little bit picky regarding how much rubber I need to wear.

I believe though that most of the local Hatteras crew, mainly follow the 100 rule. If there is cold water and cold air, yet winds are blowing 25 knots, my phone does not ring.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger PeconicPuffin said...

I keep to the 100 rule when sailing in deep (ie overhead) water. But if it's blowing 18 or more, my limit is more like 89 for shallow spots where I can jibe in waist deep water. If my face doesn't go under, I'm happy.

But then again, I only get to sail on weekends. Desperation is a mitigating factor.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I think too that the 100 rule works well for the OBX, but the further north you go, the lower the number. As noted, NY is probably 89.

Today's OBX water temp model shows ocean water temps in the mid 60s for Frisco, and near 80 degree a few miles offshore in the Gulf Stream. Where as, in New York, the temperature legend is scaled down where orange/red references water temps in the mid-60s.

Actually, long term forecast is looking good here for warm windy weather; though I am heading out of town again! I missed it over Thanksgiving, and now will likely miss it again over Christmas!

Ahh, the holidays!

At 2:36 PM, Blogger PeconicPuffin said...

Updating on my posts re Rule of 100 and getting it down to 89: I'm making a winter projecting of discovering just how cold I can go and not be miserable...recently got the combination down to 67:
I continue to opt for shallow and colder vs warmer and deeper. I may upgrade my neoprene to a full drysuit sometime soon, but I'm making it with a 5/3 semidry so far.


At 2:38 PM, Blogger PeconicPuffin said...

The URL above came out wrong...it should be

Michael (sitting around disappointed that the predicted 19 knots hasn't come...who cares if it's 25 out...I'm on a crusade!)


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