AS the Northern Atlantic heats-up it’s time to plan your summer. Josh Hunter from Transworldsurf gives us the lowdown on North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a summer destination of choice. So what are you waiting for?
The outer islands of North Carolina’s coast descend south from the Virginia border to Cedar Island. Isolated and vulnerable, the slender, skeletal string of islands juts into the Atlantic at Cape Hatteras, where the powerful, cold waters of the Labrador Current and the warm trough of the Gulf Stream converge.
Known previously as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” a moniker earned from pirates — most reputably Blackbeard — who used the shallow sandbars and intricate inlets to prey on unsuspecting vessels. Many seasons and storms have passed since Blackbeard fought his last battle at Ocracoke Inlet, but the Outer Banks’ history still stirs through the sea oats in the salty breeze.
The obvious time to visit the Outer Banks is hurricane season, spanning June 1 to November 30. Within that window, your best bet for solid swell is Fall. North swells, south swells, and east swells are common this time of year, and the hordes of tourists die down after Labor Day. Light westerly winds are also common and if there’s swell to match, gaping, sand-spitting barrels roll for miles along barren sandbars.
But, ask the locals and they’ll tell you spring has its fair share of shacks as well. “May is by far one of my favorite months on the Banks,” says Jeff Myers. “The weather and water temps are warming, plus the sandbars seem to stay good all month long.” Local hero Noah Snyder agrees: “During the spring low pressure systems meander off the coast,” Snyder says. “Plenty of east swells come in with a touch of north-east, as well as some south and south-east swells.”
If you’re a fan of big, round barrels and you don’t mind picking sand out of your teeth, the banks are a no-brainer destination. “It’s always really fun and punchy,” says Myers, “and there’s so much deserted coastline you’re pretty much guaranteed a solo surf with you and a few friends.”
Pack a fullsuit even in August. Offshore winds can cause upwelling off the coast, and the water temps can drop drastically over the course of an afternoon. It’s not uncommon to be in trunks in the morning and a 3/2 in the evening. If you’re bold enough to try a winter trip, bring as much rubber as you can find. It’s cold—really cold.
The closest major airport is in Norfolk, Virgina. Once you hit the ground and rent a car — preferably something with four-wheel drive — just hop onto US-64 and follow the signs. In about an hour and a half you’ll be smelling the salty air of Dare County, North Carolina. You can also fly into Raleigh, North Carolina and drive in on the 264, but that drive can take up to three and a half hours. Once on the islands several toll ferries will carry you from island to island.
Despite the area’s isolated location, it too has fallen prey to urban sprawl, branded, big-name hotels have popped up all over the place. But you can also find some great mom-and-pop type hotels in the region. Try the Cavalier Motel or the Sea Ranch, both in Kill Devil Hills and feel good about supporting the local economy. You’ll see what southern hospitality means first hand.
In Maine you eat lobster, in Maryland you eat crab cakes, but in North Cackalacky we eat barbecue, damn it! Head down south to Bubba’s and you’ll find the tastiest barbecue swine east of the Mississippi, and even a proud Texan would have a heard time telling you they’ve tasted better ‘cue!
If swine ain’t you’re thing, then hit up Tortugas´ Lie Bar And Grill in Nags Head - its got great Caribbean-inspired cuisine located right across the street from a fun sandbar. “It’s great food at a great price,” says local legend Noah Snyder, who recommends the jerk chicken. For a brew, try The Outer Banks Brew Station in Kill Devil Hills. “These guys actually sponsor me,” says Myers. “They’re very surf friendly, and the beer alone is worth a visit-or five!”
Josh Hunter, Transworldsurf
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