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.

Go East, young man

Moore's Wall at Sunset

A couple of pitches, maybe?

As of today, this blog originates from the east coast. Suburban North Carolina, specifically.

One can argue, and easily win, that the western United States offers a great deal more for the adventure recreationalist. Still, the east coast has a tremendous amount of opportunity for those who love the outdoors. And it’s not hard to find, either.

While I admit that my relocation here more than a decade ago was not driven by the array of natural options I now realize are less than half-a-page-of-an-Atlas away from my cul-de-sac. However, I do remember being pretty pumped to find out I had miles of wooded single-track less than 10 minutes in every direction. (Even though one of the best options is now a snarl of traffic lights, interchanges and of course, a mall. Don’t worry, I’ll  spare you the “outdoor guy hates commercialism rant” for now. It’s tired.)

I even sold my surfboard before moving here, not realizing at all that I would be two hours from a decent beach break and only three to one of the most stunning barrier island chains in the country. What a fool.

Today, I can say I’ve been to every corner of the state in pursuit of my passions and still have countless backcounty acres to explore. Tomorrow, I’m heading east to catch whats remaining from a decent waist-high swell. Next weekend, I’m climbing Moore’s Wall. And, we’re also discussing a two day run up to Snowshoe, WV because, well, this year, the east coast ski and board areas are experiencing some of the best conditions in decades. Some even better than what’s going on out west.

Like I said, from Florida’s Sebastion Inlet to Acadia National Park, those of us not as close to Yosemite, Steamer’s Lane and Red Rock sure do have plenty of ways to get the hell outside.