We know, we know — technically, fall isn’t over yet. But let’s be honest with ourselves: it’s December. It’s cold. Most of the trees have shed most of their leaves. Water temps are about to make that precipitous drop. Snowbirds (and real birds) have started flying south. Snow is finally falling. The boots and the gloves aren’t collecting dust anymore. And, as usually happens this time of year, bleak stretches of flatness have been punctuated by surprisingly fun dawn patrols, unexpected afternoon glass-offs, and stunning 5:00 PM sunsets. From the far reaches of the Caribbean to South Florida’s beaches to every slice of sandbar in the Mid-Atlantic to funky rocky reefs in the Maritimes to off-the-grid coves in the Great Lakes to Ala-freakin’-Bama’s Gulf Coast shoreline, it seems like everyone has scored at least once since we posted our last Election Week swell gallery. And hey, even though the official start of winter is just two weeks away, there is still hope for Fall’s Last Call: another cold front will push through Wednesday night, promising a near-duplicate of last Thursday, December 1st’s medium-sized but mighty fun juice. Maybe it will even fire out of nowhere, as North Carolina did back on November 19th. But either way, let’s be honest. Fall is all but over. Once it looks and feels like winter and the water drops below 50º, it’s winter, no matter what the calendar says.
North Carolina. Photo: Dakota Hammer
“I only shot for about ten minutes this day,” Hammer says. “Until I snapped this picture of a perfect set coming through and I immediately decided it was time to paddle back out for more.”
Phil Watters, Sebastian Inlet, FL. Photo: Mez
“It was a junky, overcast afternoon last Thursday filled with groms going apeshit every which way between kinda-sorta First Peak and Larry’s Lefts,” Mez says. “It’s a hundred-yard stretch of sandbar that Phil has been intimate with on every level since he was a wee wonder dominating Kiddie Bowl by himself. A couple of decades later and he’s now one of the elders setting the perfect example of how you use a rail with power, style, and perfect form, passing that knowledge down to Gen-Next as Hartley, Speir, Rhino, Kech, Slater, et. al. passed it on him. May the circle never be broken.”
Jose Perez, Maine. Photo: Brent Shavnore
For all you fools who think it’s too cold to surf this time of year, we offer Mr. Perez going berserk in Maine, where the water doesn’t even top 60º (in the summer).
Nova Scotia. Photo: Geoff Richards
Want to find a more open playing field? It’s out there — you just have to know where to look.
New Jersey. Photo: Dave Nilsen
“I was standing on the beach thinking about whether or not I wanted to paddle out,” Nilsen says. “I saw this wave, though, and was in my wetsuit within five minutes.”
Angel Compres Ramos, Dominican Republic. Photo: Daniel Stockdale
“After weeks of torrential rain, the sun came out in the Dominican Republic, and so did a nice swell,” Stockdale says. “Here’s Angel, who always surfs with power.”
Fisher Heverly, North Carolina. Photo: Jordan Nason
“We decided on a last-minute strike mission to the Outer Banks on this Friday afternoon back in November,” Nason says. “So Fisher, Joe Cheshire, and myself packed up and headed out from Wilmington around 7:00 PM. We hoped to wake up in Nags Head to a growing swell and clean offshore winds, but with the forecast only calling for three- to four-foot surf, we were betting on a hunch. You never know on the East Coast. We headed south towards Hatteras Island with high hopes before dawn on Saturday, only to be greeted by some of the most ideal barrels I have seen all year. We went sprinting to the car after seeing a six- to eight-footer fold over and spit in the glowing golden hour sun.”
Tommy Printiss, Florida Panhandle. Photo: Alex Dantin
“Tommy is one ofour hardest ripping groms,” Dantin says. “He’s been building surfboards at Waterboyz since before he could drive. I’m pretty sure he skipped class at Pensacola State College to come with us this day — and put off glassing two boards for our friend leaving for Puerto Rico the following day. But Tommy is so full of energy (all the Dr. Pepper and Sour Patch Kids) that even after two separate two-hour sessions, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour car ride back home, he was still able to get both boards finished and his homework turned in, all before morning.”
Loukas Betha, Great Lakes. Photo: Rick Pollak
“Driving all night in the hopes of finding that perfect wave is a universal feeling — even on the Great Lakes,” Pollak says. “Here’s Loukas about to get paid in morning gold somewhere on Lake Michigan.”
Lance-O, South Florida. Photo: Randy Seuss
When we reached out to Kulcha Shok Muzik’s Lance-O for a caption, he responded with a single line: “I call this one The Caveman at home in the green room.”
North Carolina. Photo: Shaun Devine
“That was a memorable day for sure,” Devine says. “The forecasts were calling for fun waves, but the swell ended up filling in a bit bigger. This particular stretch of beach really turned on and absolutely fired all morning with some of the best lefts I’ve seen this fall season.”
James Contreras, New Jersey. Photo: Don Cooper
“Not many can walk the plank, let alone do it backwards,” Cooper says. Of James Contreras, he adds, “The magician is the master.”
New York. Photo: Evan Conway
“When people think of surfing in New York, they tend to envision gritty urban beaches alongside one of the biggest cities in world,” Conway says. “While that is somewhat true, it only accounts for 20% of Long Island, which has more pristine beaches than you might imagine. But one reason you don’t see too much about the other 80% is because most of the island suffers from a constant erosion cycle — one day the waves might be good at one particular sandbar, and the next day you might have to surf a completely different spot altogether. This tends to make things much sweeter when you find that perfect setup and score an empty lineup like the one pictured here. But it’s no easy task searching 80 miles of coastline 24/7.”
Gabe Morvil, North Carolina. Photo: Mickey McCarthy
“Gabe was riding a borrowed board this session, as he broke his favorite board in the 5th Street shorepound earlier in the day,” McCarthy says. “But this board was a little longer, and Gabe was digging the extra speed he was getting from it.”
Mikey Evans, New Hampshire. Photo: Ralph Fatello
“November certainly had it’s moments, especially on Election Day and the day after,” Fatello says. “December couldn’t have started out any better, either. The 1st saw a swell that went from a cagey head cold in the AM to a pulsing, punching beast burger by noon. Mikey is a remarkable surfer best known for his longboarding, but he’s just as good as anyone on a shortboard. So don’t sell him short when he’s riding one — pun intended. Plus, the kid shapes all of his own boards. There’s only
a handful around these parts who can make that claim.”
Georgia. Photo: Ian Wilson
Would you believe us if we told you this photo was taken in the Peach State of all places on December 1st? South Florida native Wilson, who’s attending college in Savannah, had this to say: “I’m used to surfing fickle breaks and have grown to appreciate the wait needed to catch a wave at a spot that rarely awakens. This can be quite difficult, but sometimes luck strikes. Last week, I went straight from an all-nighter spent working on finals to the Georgia coast with sunrise in mind. Didn’t even check the forecast and was happier then ever to come across head-high a-frames crashing up and down the beach.”
Maine. Photo: Tyler Inman/Skylab
Admit it: this looks fun, right? Not huge, not epic, but insanely fun — like classic cover-of-an-old-Surfer fun. “The season is upon us,” Inman smiles. “But this is just an above-average day in Maine when the swell is right.”
Tom Petriken, New Jersey. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz
Flashes of light open up fissures into heaven last Thursday in the Garden State.
Dana Quinn, North Carolina. Photo: Brady Green
Our sources in North Carolina tell us the shrimping has been off the charts over the last few weeks, with trawlers hauling in huge catches just offshore. That’s made for epic backdrops in nearly every Tar Heel photo we’ve seen this month. Add the birds in with Dana slotted on this grinding left, however, and you’ve got something special.
Maryland. Photo: Tyler Layton
“Perfect empties were a familiar sight this day — the waves were long and there were only a handful of guys out,” Layton says. “I photographed my brother Tim on some beautiful waves in the morning, and I was pretty pumped to give up my longboard and get some memorable shots.”
Andrew Slaughter, South Florida. Photo: Janet Rozo
“After endless days of gusty onshore winds in November, it seemed like we were finally going to get a break,” Rozo says of this day three weeks back. “I wasn’t disappointed when I saw Andrew in barrel after barrel of pure perfection that morning.”
New Jersey. Photo: Adam Tormollan
The light! That backdrop! The curve of that incoming lip! This photo is the stuff that East Coast dreams are made of. Hallowed ground in New Jersey, looking just as magic as always.
New York. Photo: Joe O’Connor
See what we mean about that wintry look? This shot screams February as much as it does November.
John Joyce, North Carolina. Photo: Bob Hovey/DVO
“John has been killing it lately on his 5’0″ Catch Surf stump,” says Hovey, who owns and operates Duck Village Outfitters on the Outer Banks. “When he was 14, I offered him a job because I was stoked on his enthusiasm. He worked at DVO for a couple of summers, and now that he’s 21 he’s developed mad tube-riding skills. A lot of people refer to John as a boogieboarder or skimboarder — all I know is I have never seen him ride a traditional surfboard.”
Brent Meinhold, South Florida. Photo: Mark Hill
All the aforementioned winter talk falls on mostly deaf ears in South Florida. “Here, the leaves don’t turn and the trees aren’t skeletons against the sky,” Hill says. “But the sun is lower, softening the glow to highlight the clear green water of fall. Here’s Brent taking a slice of the morning light with one more hit before work. Twist an’ repeat.”
New Jersey. Photo: Joe Schondel
Schondel on December 1st in his neck of the woods: “The weather and temperature were perfect and the waves were clean and pumping.” We second that emotion.
Mike Gleason, New Jersey. Photo: Carter McCoy
“After 50 mph winds and big NE swells, it was nice to go right all day on December 1st,” McCoy says. “And even better to get a little shade!”
Dean Petty, Nova Scotia. Photo: Jason Keddy
Out of bed and into some sideways silly slippers, here’s Dean Petty taking advantage of another high-line speed run on a beautiful Maritimes morning.
Nathan Lowdermilk, North Carolina. Photo: Katy Harms
Contrary to popular belief, it actually hasn’t gotten that cold on the Outer Banks yet: “With south swells and warm water,” Lowdermilk says, “December got off to a good start for us last Thursday.”
New Jersey. Photo: Dan Przygocki
Finally, some eternal words of wisdom from Mr. Przygocki: “Always finish your coffee and commit to the sunrise session — you don’t know if the waves will stay long enough for sunset.” Repeat that mantra if and when the ocean turns on again in the final days of fall.
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Tags: december, east coast, fall, november, surf, swell gallery, winter