Today, the Hatteras Express had no time for tea, she had her pedal to the metal, she was on New York Time. Anyone that has windsurfed the Atlantic Ocean off any Cape Hatteras beach in a strong sideshore wind knows to whom I refer. Indeed, even the hardy bunch that fish our beaches are familiar with the express (It don’t matter how much weight you throw, it ain’t gonna end up where ya want it). For the sake of everyone else’s catalogue of local vernacular, the “Hatteras Express” refers to the ridiculous amount of littoral (side shore) current that can build up during a good blow. If you put in at ramp 34, you’ll be in Buxton before you know it. It’s really our only free system of public transportation here on the island. No car? Doctors appointment at 2?! No problem, just jump in the ocean! There’s no traffic, no stoplights, and only a few obstructions to hit (the Avon Pier and the Buxton Jetties will turn you into chum pretty quickly). And as I stated before, today was no exception. All aboard the Hatteras Express!
Stuart and I climbed over the dunes this morning to find a head+ swell running virtually sideways down the beach, waist to chest high shorepound and an unknown (but obviously large) amount of littoral current. Yikes. The only thing that made it look possible was the amount of sand blowing down the beach and pelting us in the shins, a visual clue as to the wind strength (howling). So, without much discussion or consideration for our own safety, we decided to rig and test out the waters. The potential for gargantuan port jumps was calling me, making me lose sight of rational thought. The frigid (32-34 F) air temps must have also been blocking some mental capacity. Had I stopped and looked closer at the conditions, I probably wouldn’t have even rigged, but hey, it’s always worth a try, right?
So by the time we rigged up and put our suits, boots, mittens, hoods etc on, the sand that had been blowing down the beach (and clogging my booms, mast halves, extension, fin box, etc) halted it’s assault completely. There was still texture on the water, but not nearly as much wind as when we had first arrived… But, we were already rigged, so off we went! I made it about 10 feet into the water (knee deep) and my feet got swept out from underneath me and a chest high barreling nugget of shorebreak exploded right on my kit. One minute and 50 yards later I crawled back up onto dry ground, heaving for air like a sucker punched victim of a school yard brawl. Somehow, all of my gear was still intact, so what did I do? Try again, of course! Round 2 ended just as quickly and just as brutally as Round 1 did. By this point, I was 100 yards down the beach, so I started the walk back upwind.
While dragging my gear up the beach, I watched Stuart carefully place his kit into the water, jump on, and sail right out. Hair dry. Hell, he was dry from his knees up. I looked down, and realized I had sand, gravel, shells, and other debris caked everywhere, including in my hair and ears. And I was wearing a very tight hood. Insult to injury, eh? Well, no one said windsurfing was easy (if it was, they’d call it kiteboarding), and having humble pie thrown in your face is an oft occurrence. I’ve learned to take it well.
A third attempt produced the same results as my prior 2, so I decided to call it, tail between my knees. I drove down and picked up Stuart from his final resting place (200 yards down the beach), and we decided to head for the relatively safe, calm waters of the sound for the rest of the morning. Low and behold, when there isn’t 10 knots (no exaggeration) of current ripping you straight downwind, a 5.0 does work in 25 mph of breeze! I was so happy to be actually windsurfing, rather than struggling to keep my head afloat in current while trying to keep my rig from being destroyed, that everything seemed perfect. I ended up having an incredibly successful (for me) freestyle sesh, sliding through a handful of perfect spocks, fumbling a dozen that were almost perfect, almost bagging my first 540, and a few (terrible) grubby attempts! Loving it, I couldn’t stop, even though my fingers were literally frozen and I could barely hold onto the boom. Windsurfing is simply too much fun (even when the water is 41 degrees and the air 33)!