While many are hoping Hurricane Dorian will lose strength as it approaches the East Coast, those waiting for Long Beach to make its biggest splash on the surfing scene in nearly a decade are hoping the storm makes more waves.
They’re the organizers and participants involved in two major surfing events scheduled to take place over the next couple of weeks in Long Beach that are expected to cause more surfers and fans of the sport to descend on the city than has been the case in nearly a decade.
These Dorian watchers say they aren’t fans of the devastation it can cause, but they are stoked about the massive swells the storm can generate for the World Surf League’s (WSL) New York Longboard Classic being held Sept. 6 through Sept. 12 and the Unsound Surf Pro short board contest being held Sept. 12 through Sept. 15. Two such surfing events haven’t been held around the same time in Long Beach since the WSL’s last competition in New York held in 2011.
The exact dates and times for both contests depend on when there are the best waves.
“Hurricanes are a blessing and a curse for surfers,” said Chloe Calmon, a 24-year-old Brazilian from Rio de Janeiro who will be competing in the Longboard Classic.
The contest is expected to attract some of the world’s best surfers, who will be on their way to the Taiwan Open World Longboard Championships, where 24 men and the same number of women will compete for a $60,000 prize purse in their respective divisions. “You feel guilty wanting a storm to come because you understand it might be really hurting people whose homes are being destroyed while at the same time you’re looking at the forecast to see if the waves will be big and perfect.”
Craig Mangio of Massapequa, a surfer known as “CJ” who is already a champion at 14, is expected to be the youngest competitor in the Unsound Surf event, held by the Unsound Surf store in Long Beach. He agrees that when a surfer’s eye is on a storm they see things differently from most people. In the Unsound Surf contest, pro and amateur surfers mostly from areas stretching from North Carolina to Maine as well as others from California, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico will vie for a prize of about $5,000.
“For most people, when you see a storm you think bad weather and flooding and other bad things, and no one wants that, but for a surfer it means waves and energy in the water,” Mangio said. “Although the storm can bring a lot of destruction it can also bring a lot of good waves on the east coast.”
Mikey DeTemple, 35, of Brooklyn, is set to compete in the Longboard Classic. He says surfers become “amateur meteorologists” when it comes to contemplating the wave possibilities in New York.
“Everyone that surfs in New York is an amateur meteorologist,” DeTemple said. “When hurricanes like this one pop up, everyone is watching it and thinking the same thing. Stay away from New York but give us good surf.” He adds, “These storms that run up the coast can be devastating if they hit land, and rarely offer up good surf for longboards. The dream is to always have these things spinning out at sea, far enough to give us that beautiful groomed long period groundswell that September in New York is known for.”
A professional meteorologist, Nelson Vaz, who works out of the National Weather Service’s Upton office, said hurricanes are simply the perfect storm for surfers.
“Surfers like hurricanes because basically they’re a wind machine — wind is needed to create waves,” Vaz said. “When a hurricane is generating waves and it’s far away, as time passes the waves weaken and dissipate” but the swells and energy come when it makes it to the coast. “Every 15 or 20 seconds there’ll be a nice wave coming in, you can get on it and ride on it — it’s not like a Nor’easter that’s chaotic and you can’t surf in it.”
But Vaz warns that whenever a lot of water comes toward the coast it also increases rip current activity that can present danger to even the most experienced surfers.
Another competitor in the Longboard Classic, Kristen Brady, 30, a nurse who lives in Montauk, says she wants good waves but she wants everyone to be safe in the wake of Dorian just as much.
“I hope everyone stays safe the next few days and with any luck we’ll get some waves for the contest as it moves offshore,” Brady says.