Eastbound Double Down

Johnny Meehan — Rye Rocks kingpin, now in his sixties, and still the epitome of hardcore. Photo: Brian Nevins

In a welcome respite from La Niña’s stranglehold over the East Coast’s seasonal sitch (warmer temps, weaker swells, smaller surf), a classic winter pattern has set up shop to deliver two big storms blurring into one major swell event for the next few days. The first storm formed on Thursday then lifted north, tracking off into Canada yesterday and bringing subzero wind chills to New England and Eastern Canada.

Photo: Brian Nevins

But as chilling (or romantic) as this story sounds already, it’s going to get even more dramatic once the second storm moves across the Southeast U.S. before hooking a left and heading up through the Northeast tomorrow. And that will be the day for key spots along the East Coast — cold, blustery, offshore winds, and the biggest south swell we’ve seen this winter. But before we get ahead of ourselves, here’s a temperature gauge, so to speak, on the froth and the frost circulating around New England this weekend:

Photo: Brian Nevins

“New Hampshire came out swinging this morning,” reports Brian Nevins, a former Surfer Magazine staff shooter and hands down the most prolific and dynamic surf photographer in New England history. “Crazy cold, but always pretty when these mornings happen. Think we bottomed out at 4 degrees F air temperature just before sunrise.”

Forecasts: Wrightsville | Outer Banks | VB | Jersey | New York | Rhode Island | Maine

Photo: Brayden Rudert

Before signing off to paddle out for a few hypodermic head-dips himself, Nevins magnanimously endorses another local lensman, up-and-coming Portsmouth, NH, based photographer/videographer Brayden Rudert, who frequently shoots coastal action from Rhode Island to Maine. “Nothing beats a swell at home,” Brayden explains, “even when it’s below zero with the windchill. When solid, consistent swell lines up like this, New England has a lot of great spots to check. Just have to deal with the tides and less-than-ideal weather conditions.”

“The surf was already pretty lined up at first light,” he continues. “The tide just needed some time to fill in. The sandbars were shifty and the current was tough, so it wasn’t particularly easy being in the right spot, nor was there any one defined peak. But it was a welcome sight after such a bad flat spell. I prefer to swim over shooting from land, but sometimes the conditions are just way too unruly to feasibly shoot from the water. I actually tried swimming this day, as well, but a frozen lens port made most of those shots unusable.”

Photo: Ralph Fatello

One man who knows all too well the advantages and drawbacks of this area is legendary lensman Ralph Fatello, who’s been documenting New England surf culture via his “Surf Free or Die” franchise since way back in the VHS/DVD days of the 20th century. “Today was pretty damn good,” Ralph finishes. “It was 4 degrees. But honestly, it felt like 3 degrees.”

The takeaway? No matter how cold you think it is wherever you happen to be surfing the next few days — it could always be colder. Just ask anyone who calls New Hampshire home.

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