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

Hatteras Lighthouse vs. Ocracoke

The previous two posts showcase the prime locales for Hatteras wavesailing in NE wind. There is debate as to which place is better and both sides note the plus and minuses of each spot.

I would say that the following likely applies:
If conditions warrant “survival sailing” at Lighthouse Beach, then the southern facing beaches such as Ocracoke would likely be best. There are times when Lighthouse Beach is completely blown out and it is simply a washing machine as far as the eye can see. The fun factor in these conditions is quite low since it feels more like survival out on the water if you even make it out past the surf zone. Keith with a top hit on one of the best chest high waves at Ocracoke on Tuesday - photo: Jim MyersOcracoke is fantastic when there is sizable swell wrapping from the north, or a strong southern ground swell. However, waist to chest high surf stemming from a northern wind swell questions the worthiness of the drive even if conditions are side-off to offshore and "clean." The tidal effect either makes or breaks the lineup, and the wave is generally pretty weak. The outside swell lines are hard to find, and the micro chop/bump makes it difficult while bouncing all over the place.

Tuesday, Lighthouse Beach - Jay foreground, Tommy background in the lineupOn the other hand, if Lighthouse Beach is not a washing machine, there is usually sizable outside swell which provides easy pickings for an outside turn back to the wave break. Lines do form and DTL riding can be done with an opened sail at the top turn. Fast moving current can be an issue, but launching near the groin generally lessens the current and can make it easier to get out. The Lighthouse also provides fun ramps for jumps and other aerial acrobatics. Though, it can get crowded with surfers and kiteboarders all jockeying for a narrow area of waves downwind of the groin.

Quality vs. quantity this past week was dependent upon whether you prefer bigger surf or cleaner wave zone lines. Given the two days and the options between Lighthouse Beach and Ocracoke, its a tough call, but I would have to pick Hatteras Lighthouse Beach. "Grass is always greener..."

See what we missed on Tuesday at Lighthouse Beach!
Glad to see that the kite crew scored big time in the surf, and not in the ferry traffic!

(All kiteboarding photos by Lane DuPont)

Tuesday, Lighthouse Beach - Jay eying a nice section!

Tuesday, Lighthouse Beach - Tommy with arm raised...well overhead high surf!

Caleb on a nice line Monday at the Lighthouse. Missed it on Tuesday!
Photographer: Bill B