Surfing Hurricane Swells

Hurricane season on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts goes from roughly June 1 to November 30.

If you’re an East Coast or a Gulf Coast surfer, hurricane season is often sweet relief from the hot, muggy, flatness of summer.

But surfing hurricanes can often be hit or miss. Whether or not you’re going to score some good waves depends on a lot of factors. The fast, variable nature of many hurricanes makes predicting good waves even more difficult.

What is a Hurricane Swell?

A hurricane swell is essentially a strong windswell.

Windswells are defined by their wave period, which is typically short and lacking power.

A hurricane swell has a relatively short period, but packs a lot more power and often occurs closer to shore.

The result is much larger, more powerful surf than a typical windswell.

What this means is that there’s going to be a lot of large, powerful waves in close succession.

If conditions align, this can make for some great surf. On the other hand, it can make for some massive damage and destruction along the coast caused by high winds and high surf.

How to Surf a Hurricane Swell

Surfing a hurricane swell comes down to preparation, knowledge, and some luck.

You’ll need to know where the storm is headed and how fast it’s moving to know when and where to be for the best waves. Sometimes you’ll find the best surf ahead of a storm, other times afterwards.

Sometimes a hurricane will be too strong, fast, and dangerous to make a go-out worth it at all.

If you know someone with some local knowledge of hurricane surf in the area, that’s a plus.

To score during a hurricane swell:

  • Figure out where you need to be. Consider areas with some wind shelter or some sea-bottom/man-made structures that can help the surf.
  • Be in shape for the strong, powerful conditions.
  • Choose a board that’s appropriate for the conditions.
  • Don’t push your limits and bug-out if the storm proves to be too strong.
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