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By Brian Hornung
I’m no Parrothead, but that quote by Jimmy Buffet pretty much sums up our last couple of years here in Florida, and the conundrum of being a surfer and a coastal homeowner in general.
As a surfer on the east coast, and particularly northeast Florida, Hurricane Season is our one brief period of validation; our one season to say “We get good waves too!” (at least those of us wanting REAL surf). Not that it always works out that way, and it’s often the equivalent of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football as it gets yanked away, but it’s the glimmer of hope that gets us excited. No surfer ever wants to get hit by a hurricane, but having a large storm take a leisurely stroll up the coast 500 miles offshore is what we all hope for.
I confess, I’m a weather nerd. Ever since I was a kid learning to surf in South Florida, I’d be glued to the Weather Channel for the latest marine forecast update in our waveless summers, and at 10 minutes before the hour, something exciting from John Hope, the grandpa of tropical weather forecasters. Now in the age of the internet, I probably have more links to weather maps than the Weather Channel itself.
While I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast, I can remember the names of hurricanes that gave us swell over 20 years ago and the surf sessions that followed. Gabrielle; Grace; Felix The Great; Bob; Bill; Bertha ’96 (Still the best surf I’ve seen in St. Augustine); Fran (tubes galore); Eduoard; Katia; Sandy; Bonnie ’98 (I was leaving for a surf trip in Mexico the day the surf became perfect here… and why I’ll NEVER plan a trip in late August-September ever again).
Those are just some names off the top of my head (if I could remember dates like that, my life would’ve been a lot easier). Although, ‘95 and ‘96 were so active and GOOD that it’s hard to keep track.
In my 26 years of living in St. Augustine (with most of those within a short bike ride, or less) from the water, it seemed that we were always lucky in the hurricane dept. Every time it seemed that we were destined for impact and destruction, nature had other plans and the storm would make a hard north turn, often to the dismay of the Carolinas. I was convinced that’s why this was the oldest existing city in the country. In almost 25 years, I evacuated once, for Hurricane Floyd: a monster of a storm that thankfully made that turn once again (and the largest surf I’ve ever seen here, for those who made it back to the island as soon as the bridges opened up). Rumors has it that some guys used the pier to facilitate their way to the lineup (not that I would know anything about that). Naturally, it became easy to let our guard down…then a character named Matthew paid us a visit in 2016 and changed everything.
Now, as a homeowner who spent almost a year rebuilding his house after Matthew, only to have to deal the BS of Irma, I see Hurricane Season as a PAIN IN THE A$$, after spending one and a half years rebuilding my house – by myself – during what would have been my free time!
Is this the new norm, or is it a deviation from our past history? My brain (and wallet) wants nothing to do with hurricanes ever again, but somewhere inside there’s a little voice naively saying “it won’t happen again…we need some surf”.
OK, time to check the latest GFS forecast models, I see a “blob” coming off of Africa…