You might think of surfing as a summer sport. But you would be wrong.
Fact is, here in the Northeast, surfing conditions in the summer are often pretty weak. But come fall and winter – when most people have long abandoned the ocean – the surfing conditions can be as incredible as many famous surfing meccas around the globe. And the only people surfing are a small community of hardcore, well-prepared surfers.
The above film – “Born in New England,” created by the Surf Right Project – is a great profile of the lengths some surfers will go to surf the Northeast’s best conditions. It reminded me of an article I wrote last year for Cape Cod Magazine on renowned surfboard shaper Shawn Vecchione. Vec has lived in Hawaii and has surfed all over the globe. But, he swears by the surfing conditions off Cape Cod in the middle of winter, when the waves are going off and there’s nobody else out there. I’ll run the Vecchione profile on this site at a later date. But, for now, here’s the section on him discussing winter surfing:
Cape Cod and New England have a unique surf culture that is easily missed by those who see surfing solely as a summer sport. Summer might have warm temperatures, but around here, it offers little surf. That changes once the mercury starts to dip.
Vecchione says the Cape’s surf season doesn’t truly start until hurricane season (June through October), when offshore storms kick up big, beautiful waves. When snowstorms and nor’easters start blowing through, the Cape surfing season is in full swing.
“That’s when we get real waves. I mean real waves, as in double-overhead big barrels. And nobody is around,” says Vecchione. “Our surf culture is different here. There’s not a lot of people who care about the Top 40 surfers. They care about the lifestyle, and the lifestyle is going out during the winter, having the proper gear, finding those remote spots and knowing what wind works when a certain storm goes by. To be a New England surfer, you need to be able to drop everything, and you have to know where to go at that moment because our waves don’t last for days.”
Vecchione, who, this winter was surfing barrels on a day when temps were in the single digits, fires up his wood stove before he heads out in winter. He dons equipment such as a wetsuit, hood and gloves, spends the day catching amazing waves without any crowds, and returns to sit by the warm fire. He says most surfers who only surf in the summer have no idea the caliber of waves the Cape can offer. If you are prepared for the cold, the Cape’s waves can rival places like Hawaii, Indonesia or Costa Rica—but without the expensive airfare.
“It’s not for everybody,” he says, “but you get incredibly rewarded for paying your dues and surfing the cold.”