When a hurricane or tropical storm rides up the eastern coast, the mundane Ocean city-ites prepare themselves for the worst- stock up on water and supplies, board up the house etc. Jason Chancler, Thomas Vieth, and the rest of the surf maniacs have a completely different mindset. They strap up their board shorts and wet suits; they grab their surfboards, lock the leash to their ankles, and race for the ocean. When they hit the beach, sand between their toes, nothing else matters. “It’s just you and the ocean, it’s calming,” Anthony Warfield, a OC local and friend of mine told me. Yet, personally I just can’t see the calming factor in being drug under water by thousands of pounds of salty ocean. Maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.
Hurricane Earl was recorded as a category 3/4 Hurricane sustaining winds up to 140 mph as it ravished waters up the eastern seaboard. Ocean City itself was not too pleased with Earl’s timing, since he (Hurricane Earl) conflicted with Labor Day weekend, causing many of the city’s expected 250,000 guests to vacation elsewhere. Luckily for us non-surfers, Earl kept his distance as it paralleled 200 miles off the Ocean City coast 10 AM Friday. Still, the waves were monstrous- over ten feet. All beaches were closed to the public, yet having lived in the area all summer, I picked up on a few hints about surf spots that were unguarded and only certain locals knew about.
Upon reaching one of the “secret spots” I witnessed an exhibition of the area’s best surfers controlling the waters. They were dropping into 12 foot waves with ease, or so it seemed until a colossal wall of water swallowed one surfer for what seemed like eternity. Finally, he washed up onto the beach with his surf board snapped cleanly in two pieces.
Every ounce of my heart told me I should be surfing this swell, yet everything between my ears was telling me to not even consider it. The summer, and my surf buddies had grown on me though, and their influence would not let me sit on the beach, take pictures ,and be a journalist while Earl was kicking up the strongest waves of the year.
I headed for the ocean, swirling white foam and powerful rip currents making me doubt my every step into the cool dark waters. I charged, and ducked the first wave. Within ten seconds of my entering the ocean I was on the verge of drowning, had lost both of my flippers, and was struggling with every ounce of energy I had left to escape the sea’s grasp. Finally, I made it out. I sat on the beach in astonishment, slightly concussed and with a chest full of ocean.
McDaniel students, if you do nothing else this fall, next time a hurricane kicks up some massive waves, be safe, but get to the beach. Watch these surfers rip swells. Watch Anthony, Jason, Thomas, and the rest of the surf crew do what they do as they take down the power of the hurricane. It’s truly awesome.