One less surf break thanks to Irene

Photo from Steve Helber, AP

Hurricane Irene was far from harmless. It took a number of lives and collectively cost us well over a billion dollars to prepare for her commute up the east coast.

Armageddon may not have spun from her windy tendrils (which seems to be the only way people in New York City can justify an evacuation) but she did manage to obliterate one of the most popular surf breaks in the southeast, S Turns in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Named for its location along a few mile stretch of gentle turns on Pea Island’s Highway 12, the only stretch of pavement holding together the fragile barrier island chain. S Turns was probably the most consistent—and localized—break to be found along the state’s wiry coastline. The break is exactly where the new inlet has formed in the left of the above photo. (You may recognize the house in the foreground on the right, which was moved just after it was used in this movie. Good thing, too.)

S Turns was a thick, sandy beach break on the northern tip of the village of Rodanthe, a rental house-strewn tourist town. It was often firing when other area breaks were plowing mushy knee-highs into shore, which helps explain why it was often busy enough to warrant its own zip code. Nevertheless, local pros, or just plain locals, often dominated its barrel-friendly swells.

Now, a 900-foot gap has been torn open where previously a hundred cars could be found on a good summer weekend. The ocean is flowing freely into the Pamlico Sound and Highway 12 looks like the bottom of a bag of chips.

It’s unlikely rebuilding efforts will include the break’s revitalization. Actually, it probably shouldn’t. After all, the Outer Banks was just doing its job in making sure Irene bounced along the state’s eastern ledge, not into its mainland.

Maybe S Turns will come back, but it’s unlikely. The Outer Banks profile is defined by the impact of these storms. It’s possible another break will rise up as result of the tide of Irene. If not, we still have the memories. Check out some YouTubes of S Turns.