Another Winter Surfing Piece by Lutha Leahy-Miller

Early winter, December windiness, January frosts. NY winter surfing – waiting for calm winds and pumping waves, but also, brightest winter sun. Arctic blast go outs may be fun for some, but for most long-time winter surfers fun is dependent upon winter-friendly conditions.

Calm wind / blazing cloudless sunny winter days with chest to head high surf aren’t all that uncommon in winter however. Two, three, sometimes four, five, or six times a month in January, February, and/or March the waves can be bombing and perfect. Flawless offshore conditions, wintry ground-swells and sun blazing down under a borderless Northeastern Winter sky. Sun that beats down nicely on your hooded 5mm or 6mm winter suit to the point where you feel warmth and comfort inside your black as night neoprene cocoon despite the frigid 36 degree NY ocean temps.

Usually, I take a sort of sabbatical in either late November and/or early December due to the droning days of endless blustery winds. But then, just after that yearly month of windiness, most often in December and this year a month later in January, we normally start to see less wind, more sun, and the beginning march of winter ground-swells churning up from the South from December through March…

It is much harder to surf and maneuver in all the winter rubber, and my winter boards are slightly thicker and longer than my summer boards, but many of my best rides of the year end up being in the dead of old man winter’s frosty eye.

Last year my best shack was in mid January at mysto spot X…

Big cliffs, earthen spiked peaks jutting skyward, dirt from up top fluttering down every once in a while in balled little clumps, a few gulls, a seal poking his head out of his blue-leaden crisp icy ocean, my feet in their rubber clad boots finding their own way over a cobble ridden path on the way down to the break. Ice surfer’s wunderland / no man’s land / winter emptiness / no crowds / unsullied animal experience…

On this frigid mid-January day the wind is NW at 15-25 kts and the wind chill was 26 below zero. Solid sheet glass mini ice-ponds in the Montauk parking lot where water-filled potholes used to be… On such Arctic winter’s days the azure sky rings clear and bright.

I stood on the beach for a few minutes scoping it out before I went in. This day I decided on riding my 6’2” x 18 5/8” x 2 ¼” kustom CI Tangent. I had had it made specifically for winter waves like this. The little bit of extra meat just to compensate for winter paddling in my 5mm Patagonia R4.

There was no one out in the green algaed winter water save a slippery grey spotted seal. The biggest sets were topping out at a good 3-4 feet overhead, and the wave was coming in hard and square out, off, and in front of the point. You had to drop nearly straight down sideways though the frozen almond green barrel right upon takeoff. Kind of gnar but compared to Hawaii it was nothing. (Except for the duckdives…) So you had to take off dropping straight down sideways into and through the barrel to make the section, and then on your side opposite the wave mid-drop there was the rock; a huge boulder inside of you. But then the one main side benefit of a 5mm suit, (beside insulation and warmth) is padding, body armor. If you get bounced of the rocks or your board in a 5mm it hurts a hell of a lot less than in a pair of boardies…

Anyway, a short while later I’m out alone in the lineup. Most of the waves are around head high but some overhead sets are coming in every few minutes and then every 10 minutes or so a nice big one rolls through topping out in the 8-10 ft range. Solid top to bottom open almond wintergreen barrels. Betwixt cobbles and boulders you had to lace your way, through the tube section upon take off, and then all the way to the inside. Not bad and only one seal around for company.

After a while paddling and negotiating the winter sea currents, I finally stroked my way into a solid one. I saw it start to rise up out at sea, then a swung around, began digging in as best I could against the resistance of the neoprene 5mil, and after some serious effort, began to free fall straight down sideways into the barrel, just barely hanging on with my one inside fin and the very end of my round-pin. The icy glass wall rose up on my right side field of vision in a weightless dropping free fall. Heaven and bliss time suspended. My wave of the year right there. Barreled off my nut in 36-degree water and donning more rubber than the Michelin Man. I got shacked and rode that wave all the way to the inside and then caught a few more. After about two hours and 15 plus waves or so, plus that one ride of the year, it was over.

Tired and happy, I caught one last wave to shore and began the walk alone back up and away from the state reserve. Back to the world of tar and parking lots and motorways and commercialism and bullshit rhetoric and honking horns and ego trippers and conceited bankers and real estate salesman and sleezy politicians and post 80’s dweebs with obnoxious hair helmets and bad ties and faux locals who only dwell here on weekends or summers, and so on and so on.

As I was leaving one of the old rust patched diesel Montauk fishing boats clunked by and at least, I felt, there was still some realness left in the world. At least there are still some uncrowded days and some real people and a day free of salesmanship. Inner peace starts with reality and unfabricated experience. No BS = happiness, wintry bliss and no one around, save a seal…


About mainbeach

The natural resource for surfing, stand up paddling, kayaks, lessons, tours, surf camp, beach wear and all things outdoors in The Hamptons, Eastern Long Island, Montauk and beyond.
This entry was posted in Beach, Hamptons, Hamptons Surfing, Montauk Surfing, Outdoor Adventure, Surf Boards, Surf Lessons, Surf Report, surf shops, Surfing, Uncategorized, Winter Surfing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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