Although Hatteras does have it’s seasonal tendencies, the first rule is to bring everything, because anything and everything could and will probably happen…. Even with the dreaded forecast of “light and variable,” you can be surprised with an hour or two of 15+ knot winds. And unfortunately, the opposite can happen as well- epic forecasts of gale force winds do sometimes leave you hanging… But hey, that’s why you should bring that surfboard, too!
In any case, there are some general seasonal trends that you can look for and loosely expect while here:
Major fronts push through, generally through the middle of May. These fronts usually provide a day or two of hectic southwest winds, followed by a quick switch through west to northwest and eventually northeast. The westerly switch is normally over the course of a few hours, and the following Northerlies can last for a few days depending on the position, speed, and size of the front. Temperatures can range from mid 70s during the South winds, to low 40s during the NW. Northeast winds tend to have moderate temperatures in the mid 50s.
Late Spring/Early Summer-
Keep an eye out for the Bermuda High! When you see a big high pressure settle in over Bermuda, and a southwest forecast in Hatteras, drop everything and GET HERE! This setup often provides days on end of daily southwest winds, light in the morning and slowly building as the day progresses until mid 20s to low 30 knots by late afternoon!! The winds generally build from the north through to the south, so Nags Head and Rodanthe tend to be windy long before Avon, and finally Frisco and Hatteras villages filling in just before sunset. Expect extroardinarily steady winds and warm temperatures, usually trunks only weather!! Sometimes this pattern will set in for weeks on end, depending mostly on the stability of that Bermuda High…
Late Summer/Early Fall-
Unfortunately, August is usually pretty bad for wind. The beautiful, hot beach weather doesn’t do too well for wind generation, and only a few fronts will occassionaly push through. We can usually bet on one good 2 to 4 day batch of NE wind in August when that first fall front pushes through, but when there’s no front, there’s no wind…. The saving grace of this time of year is the potential for hurricane swell and light winds… a combination that will get any surfer salivating! By mid September, the fronts usually start pushing through again with reasonable consistency.
October and November generally consist of warm water and cool north winds. Days straight of Gale Force northeast winds often hit the island during this time of year, setting up some incredible stretches of windsurfing! Look for a few days of big swells on the ocean and strong winds, followed by light winds for a few days and leftover swell to surf. It’s rare to have a day go by during the fall with nothing to do, especially if you surf as well as windsurf. Temperatures start cooling off, so pack those wetsuits (and booties and hoods)!!
Break out the thick wetsuits, boots, mittens and hoods… Winter can be very cold, but it is also very windy! Expect lots of West to Northwest winds, sometimes for days on end. The leadup warm southerly days always look inviting on the forecast, but unfortunately they only rarely come to fruition. The crowds are thin this time of year, so bring a buddy or seek out a local to sail with!
Again, these are only general seasonal guidelines, and quite often we can be surprised with very different conditions then we expect. So rule number one still stands- BRING EVERYTHING (including wetsuits, surfboards, and big and small sails, because you just never know)!!