The Outer Banks are the official stomping grounds of Brett Barley, so when the day of days arrived on his doorstep, he knew the drill.
The best sessions are not a measure of quantity, that's not what surfing is. It's not a race and counting won't do you any favours. Big days come down to a series of calculated decisions and movements, eventually pushing you over the ledge on those one or two that you'll look back on for years to come. In sync with the ocean where she'll allow, and a straight up battle where necessary.
So tell us a little bit about the session.
Well we'd surfed that sandbar once before, Matt Lusk and Jesse Hines found it during the Jonas swell. We knew it held the most potential to handle a bigger size swell, and the Mars swell was our next opportunity to score it. I had the jetski ready this time. Because it breaks so far out, paddling out and surfing wouldn't be very productive plus you could never line up water photos.
Joey Crum pulled into the biggest barrel I think anyone's ever packed along the North Carolina coast.
It took me a while to get everyone out the back, because the current was so bad. I also had to keep towing everyone a half mile up the beach. But then my friend Matt Munden got the first barrel of the day, then Jesse got a really crazy one. A little later Fisher Heverly got a nuts one we thought closed out, but somehow he made it and Joey Crum pulled into the biggest barrel I think anyone's ever packed along the North Carolina coast. Dana Quinn was the next guy to get a heavy one, that was a crazy spitter.
I had been driving the ski all morning, and when it was my turn to surf the waves got bad with lower tide. But we stayed out and finally in the afternoon it turned back on and I managed a few. It was an insane day of surf. We didn't rack up a ton of waves because we were paddling in, super far out with no objects for usable lineups, but the ones we got were so worth it.
If you see that Florida is big, likely here is 20-30ft faces, just a giant mess of an ocean breaking to the horizon.
How often do you see waves this size on your stretch of the East Coast?
I've seen plenty of 10-12ft days with some 15ft faces, but never an entire day of proper 12-15ft top-to-bottom barrels. I've never seen that many perfect top-to-bottom waves in the 12-15ft range in one day. It was crazy. I wish we could have capitalised more on how good it was, but like I said, with the amount of current there was, and not being able to lineup where the waves were focusing, paddling into sets was really hard to be in the right spot.
We get surf that size plenty here at my house. The day before was actually bigger, and a day during the Jonas swell was bigger too. There's actually plenty of days that are too big, and nowhere is surfable. It's having swell that size that coincides with offshore winds that's hard to come by. It used to not be so uncommon to have 10-12ft clean days in the fall and winter, but it's seemed to have changed over the years. But still, if you see that Florida is big, likely here is 20-30ft faces, just a giant mess of an ocean breaking to the horizon, so nowhere to surf.
There's no reef, no channel, and with a few knots of current, there's no rhythm to what the sets are gonna do here at that size.
People might laugh at that statement, but you gotta remember, we stick out in the Atlantic Ocean more than the rest of the coast and take the brunt of those nor'easters. When it's that big, it breaks so far out and all over the place, it's not surfable, so there's never documentation of people on waves that size, but they are out there. Except back in 2007, Will Skudin and Joey Crum towed out there one day with myself and Morgan Oconnell, but there aren't many shots because it was over 1 mile out in the ocean.
Watching a few bombs out of context it’s easy to imagine yourself snagging a few without all the water moving about and the wash-throughs. How hard was it in reality?
It was really difficult, but more because of the timing of the tides than anything. High tide was right after dawn, so we didn't get the ski in the water 'til around high, and I didn't get everyone ferried out and up the beach until an hour after high. The swell was 12ft@15sec so we normally can't handle that type of swell period, and once the tide went out some it got really ripped out and shut down for a bit.
It may make it harder cause you can't stay loose and warm as long, but it's easy to just power through it when you keep staring at pumping waves.
There were still insane ones, but the rips were relentless so we couldn't line up on a good one for a while. There's no reef, no channel, and with a few knots of current, there's no rhythm to what the sets are gonna do here at that size. You just gotta try your hardest and hope you're in the spot when one comes. It was anything but easy. I only caught two other waves than what's in the edit, and I was way up the beach out of Jeffrey's site when I did. By the way, Jeffrey killed it that day filming, running hundreds of yards up the beach to try and keep up with us. But for a whole day of surfing, 10 hours on the water, that many made waves isn't a lot, so that shows how difficult it was.
You obviously travel a fair bit and I know you spent a stint on the North Shore this winter,does the cold bother you?
Shoot no. When the waves are good, the cold doesn't matter. It may make it harder cause you can't stay loose and warm as long, but it's easy to just power through it when you keep staring at pumping waves. As soon as you hit a lull, or the swell backs off, and you lose your enthusiasm, that's when it gets hard and you get cold. But otherwise I love it, it keeps the crowds down.
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