I’ve about had it with hurricane season. Even though it regularly brings us some of the most beautiful waves of the year, the stress, man — is it really worth it? A few storms this year, like Gaston and Karl, delivered nothing but fun for the East Coast. And Hurricane Nicole was the belle of the ball for everyone, lighting up reefs across the Caribbean, beachbreaks in the Carolinas, and pointbreaks in New England. But there were far scarier moments. Hurricane Hermine hammered the Florida Panhandle, knocking out power for a week at the height of summer but also boogieing up the Eastern Seaboard and sending everyone into a frenzied froth of mid-period swell, perfect winds, and flawless weather. Just when we thought that would represent the only yin and yang of the season, Hurricane Matthew threw us a curveball, ducking and jiving through the Caribbean — avoiding Jamaica but decimating Haiti — before terrifying everyone on the Atlantic side of Florida and shocking North Carolina with the worst floods in recorded history.
My story is one lived from afar, but it still feels representative: in the space of a week, I watched as one half of my Florida family scrambled to secure their homes before evacuating Brevard County, another half hunkered down in Volusia County and hoped for the best while preparing for the worst, and my old stomping grounds in St. Johns County were inundated by floodwaters that no one anticipated. Spots I grew up lusting over — Jacksonville Beach Pier, Flagler Beach’s charming stretch of A1A, FA’s in St. Augustine — were chewed up and spit out in piles of mangled asphalt and concrete. Friends were forced out of their freshly condemned homes in Davis Shores. A new inlet formed underneath the pilings of a house near Marineland where I wanted to hold my wedding.
It all brought back memories of 2012, when ESM delivered relief supplies to New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The widespread destruction we witnessed there rivaled what I saw in and around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, another death blow of a storm that decimated the city where I was born. The feeling I had as I watched Hurricane Matthew make its coast-scraping crawl north was all too familiar: despair at the unpredictable nature of these hurricanes. Frustration at the logistical clusterfuck sure to affect anyone impacted by the storm. And raw, seething anger at those even remotely excited about riding waves. As a surf magazine editor, maybe that’s a ridiculous position to take. But it’s moments like these — Katrina, Sandy, Matthew — that redefine our country’s relationship with hurricanes. With coastal policy. With disaster preparedness. And with the very nature of what it means to hold so much of our life hostage to what the ocean delivers, good and bad.