The Outer Banks ranks high on most surf lists; Surfer even named Kill Devil Hills number six on its list of “Top Ten Surf Towns.”
It offers world-class surf conditions; ideal conditions for beefy, fast waves, and shifting sandbars that create the strong potential for heaving, chocolate colored “barrels” (i.e. the hollow area inside the wave that is created when a select few waves crash) if you are lucky enough to be in the right spot under the right conditions. A short continental shelf, winds out of every direction, and 200 miles of curving coastline hanging into the Atlantic Ocean come together to create quality waves in a variety conditions, and on the days when the stars align, the OBX has waves that match most spots around the world.
Two professional surfers developed and honed their skills along the OBX coast, and along the way they earned their “stripes” among a grizzled but caring local surf culture. Noah Snyder and Jessie Hines grew up on the Outer Banks and learned their way among the waves at all of the local spots. Both have achieved great success in the professional surfing world; Jessie was even featured on the cover of Surfer last fall displaying his proficiency in the coveted barrels.
A great demonstration of the Outer Banks’ incredible surf and surf culture can be found in Noah’s Arc, a professionally developed surf film that documents Noah’s development as a professional surfer. Another great exhibit of Outer Banks surf is a narrated slideshow created by Surfline and narrated by Noah and Jessie. The slideshow offers great insights on the local surf and culture from Noah and Jessie, and the end of the slideshow gives a great description of the elements that come together on the Outer Banks to offer such impressive surf.
John Coen, an ESPN Surf columnist, has spent the last week on the Outer Banks chasing waves, taking in the unique OBX culture, and reporting his experiences. Coen’s expose on the Outer Banks’ surf and culture spans four articles, including an in-depth interview with Noah Snyder.
Coen’s first article touches on some of the basic elements of youthful surf trips to the Outer Banks; great waves, communing with nature, and nights spent braving the elements in rickety tents in one of the local campgrounds. Coen moves on to focus on one of the Outer Banks’ most basic and enduring features; wind. Some level of wind is pretty much a constant everywhere, but the wind seems more pervasive and more forceful on the Outer Banks.
Fortunately, wind is one of the critical elements of great surf. Wind has the potential to wreak havoc on waves, but if it is blowing mildly off shore (westerly winds on the Outer Banks), the wind can create smooth glassy waves that offer the potential to carry for great distances. Coen goes on to explain that the Northeast winds ruined the potential for surf on his first day of the trip, but all was not lost because it was a classic fall day on the Outer Banks with sunny, 80 degree weather.
Coen’s second piece focuses on the art of photography. The Outer Banks has a tremendous amount of pristine natural environments, including multiple nature preserves, and a National Seashore. In addition, there is opportunity for photographs of sunrise and sunsets over large bodies of water that can create dazzling natural effects.
Coen focuses on the art of surf photography, and highlights two local talents; Mickey “2M” McCarthy and Matt Lusk. Coen interviews Mickey, who has been a part of the Outer Banks’ surf culture for 29 years. Mickey goes on to say, “What attracted me as a surfer and photographer to the Outer Banks some 29 years ago, was the power and consistency of the surf — the natural beauty, the no man’s land of Pea Island, the wildlife and the sunsets.”
An interview with Noah Snyder encompasses Coen’s third article. The interview starts by discussing some of the great OBX swell from October, and Coen then steers the discussion towards the local culture; construction, tourism, changes Noah has seen over the years, before circling back to surfing and touching on Noah’s surf film, Noah’s Arc, and Noah’s desire to remain part of the Outer Banks.
Coen wraps up his four-part coverage of the Outer Banks surf and culture with a piece that finishes where he started; wind. The wind was less than ideal for Coen’s surf trip to the Outer Banks, but as Coen points out, “There was something to ride all week here, and true to the legend, this place really does pick up swell from every direction (thanks to its positioning and that narrow continental shelf).”