Drink The Kool-Aid

January 7, 2014 • Swell Gallery

An Ode To The East Coast’s Cult Of Cold-Water Surfers

By Allison Arteaga

First of all, we must acknowledge something right off the bat, something that we all once knew but forgot somewhere along the road: to the casual observer, surfing in a snowstorm is very clearly an insane thing to do. With arctic temperatures biting through snow jackets, hats, boots, and wool socks, who could possibly imagine choosing to plunge into a dark and frigid ocean over seeking out warmth and comfort? What sort of dire madness is that? Perhaps masochism? It defies basic survival instincts. But yet there is an entire cult built around this particular brand of insanity. And here on the East Coast, their following is strong.

There’s only one way to understand this phenomenon. You’ve got to drink the Kool-Aid. So just take a sip. The first duck-dive in frosty water will hurt a bit. But after that? Bliss. Uncrowded lineups with firing waves. It’s a feast. As many barrels as you can handle. And sure, you may be slowly freezing, but you’re also kind of busy gorging yourself on fun. And by the time you make it back to shore, you’re hooked. Now you’re one of them: the crazy ones. The cult of cold-water surfers. But it’s okay. You know that your insanity is in pursuit of a righteous cause. Because what the unenlightened masses don’t realize is just how much stoke they’re missing out on. On the East Coast during wintertime, where there’s a will, there’s a wave. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what neoprene is for.

If the Hercules winter storm and accompanying swell, shown here in Maryland, have taught us anything, it's that the cult of cold-water surfing is alive and well here on the East Coast. Photo: Gunner Hughes

Maryland. Photo: Gunner Hughes

If the Hercules winter storm and accompanying swell, shown here in Maryland, have taught us anything, it’s that the cult of cold-water surfing is alive and well here on the East Coast.

We must acknowledge something right off the bat; something that we all once knew but forgot along the way: to the casual observer, surfing in a snowstorm is very clearly an insane thing to do.” Who dares to even cross this New Jersey street? Photo: J. Hall

New Jersey. Photo: J. Hall

We must acknowledge something right off the bat; something that we all once knew but forgot along the way: to the casual observer, surfing in a snowstorm is very clearly an insane thing to do.” Who dares to even cross this New Jersey street?

“With arctic temperatures biting through snow jackets, hats, boots, and wool socks, who could possibly imagine choosing to plunge into a dark and frigid ocean over seeking out warmth and comfort?” Jeremy Johnston, fully immersed in New Smyrna Beach. Photo: Marty Ficalora

Jeremy Johnston. Photo: Marty Ficalora

“With arctic temperatures biting through snow jackets, hats, boots, and wool socks, who could possibly imagine choosing to plunge into a dark and frigid ocean over seeking out warmth and comfort?” Jeremy Johnston, fully immersed in New Smyrna Beach.

“What sort of dire madness is this cold-water surfing, then? Perhaps masochism? It defies basic survival instincts.” Joe Parrino, thwarting Darwin in New York. Photo: James Parascandola

Joe Parrino. Photo: James Parascandola

“What sort of dire madness is this cold-water surfing, then? Perhaps masochism? It defies basic survival instincts.” Joe Parrino, thwarting Darwin in New York.

“Still, there is an entire cult built around this one particular brand of insanity. And here on the East Coast, their following is strong.” Yet another anonymous practitioner in New Jersey. Photo: Matt Clark

New Jersey. Photo: Matt Clark

“Still, there is an entire cult built around this one particular brand of insanity. And here on the East Coast, their following is strong.” Yet another anonymous practitioner in New Jersey.

“There’s only one way to understand this phenomenon. You’ve got to drink the Kool-Aid.” Rhode Island's Jimi Grimley would be happy to offer you some. Photo: Joe McGovern

Jimi Grimley. Photo: Joe McGovern

“There’s only one way to understand this phenomenon. You’ve got to drink the Kool-Aid.” Rhode Island’s Jimi Grimley would be happy to offer you some.

“Just take a sip. The first duck-dive in frosty water will hurt a bit. But after that? Bliss. Uncrowded lineups with firing waves.” These New Jersey surfers know what awaits. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

New Jersey. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

“Just take a sip. The first duck-dive in frosty water will hurt a bit. But after that? Bliss. Uncrowded lineups with firing waves.” These New Jersey surfers know what awaits.

“It’s a feast. As many great rides as you can handle. And sure, you may be slowly freezing, but you’re also kind of busy gorging yourself on fun.” This happy camper is just about full at Sebastian Inlet. Photo: Tom Dugan

Florida. Photo: Tom Dugan

“It’s a feast. As many great rides as you can handle. And sure, you may be slowly freezing, but you’re also kind of busy gorging yourself on fun.” This happy camper is just about full at Sebastian Inlet.

“By the time you make it back to shore, you’re hooked. Now you’re one of them: the crazy ones. The cult of cold-water surfers.” South Carolina's Cam Richards wears his membership with pride. Photo: Meghan Whitney

Cam Richards. Photo: Meghan Whitney

“By the time you make it back to shore, you’re hooked. Now you’re one of them: the crazy ones. The cult of cold-water surfers.” South Carolina’s Cam Richards wears his membership with pride.

“It's okay. Don't be ashamed. Your newfound insanity is in pursuit of a righteous cause.” Tom Petriken follows the light in New Jersey. Photo: Donald Cooper

Tom Petriken. Photo: Donald Cooper

“It’s okay. Don’t be ashamed. Your newfound insanity is in pursuit of a righteous cause.” Tom Petriken follows the light in New Jersey.

“Because what the unenlightened masses don’t realize is just how much stoke they’re missing out on.” Zach Dusseau is not about to be left out in Massachussetts. Photo: Jonathan Nimerfroh

Zach Dusseau. Photo: Jonathan Nimerfroh

“Because what the unenlightened masses don’t realize is just how much stoke they’re missing out on.” Zach Dusseau is not about to be left out in Massachussetts.

On the East Coast during wintertime, where there’s a will, there’s a wave.” Tommy Ihnken puts the two together in New Jersey. Photo: Carter McCoy

Tommy Ihnken. Photo: Carter McCoy

On the East Coast during wintertime, where there’s a will, there’s a wave.” Tommy Ihnken puts the two together in New Jersey.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is what neoprene is for.” Blake Jones puts his to good use at Sebastian Inlet. Photo: Mez

Blake Jones. Photo: Mez

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is what neoprene is for.” Blake Jones puts his to good use at Sebastian Inlet.

Insanity, as it turns out, depends on your perspective. And from this beach in the Canadian Maritimes, things are looking pretty darn good. Photo: Trevor Nicodemo

Canadian Maritimes. Photo: Trevor Nicodemo

Insanity, as it turns out, depends on your perspective. And from this beach in the Canadian Maritimes, things are looking pretty darn good.

So come forth with pride and inherit your promised land, cult of winter surfers. We have a feeling the East Coast will bring you many more blessings over the coming months. Photo: Clark

Photo: Clark

So come forth with pride and inherit your promised land, cult of winter surfers. We have a feeling the East Coast will bring you many more blessings over the coming months.