April 29th, 2005

Garden’s up, surf’s up (yes, there is surfing in New England)

Recently most of us here have been feeling as though it’s been raining for weeks, even though it actually has only been two days. But it was one of those relentless, driving, icy rains (is that an oxymoron?) that penetrates deep inside and chills to the bone in a way that snow doesn’t seem to do. This one was a particular affront, too, seeing that it’s almost May. For a while there, my burner was cranking it out almost as powerfully (and expensively!) as in the dead of winter.

And yet–yesterday, late in the afternoon, the sun came out and so did we. I went outside to see what’s going on in the garden. This is the wonderful time of garden hope, everything coming up in neat little packets, hardly any bugs or weeds to speak of (except for a clump of dandelions that emerged and bloomed virtually overnight, and which I subjected to vicious treatment). Everything is green and lush and promising. I sprayed the still-tightly-closed tulip buds with Deer Off (hot chili peppers and other sundry caustic items), hoping to save them from being eaten as soon as they bloom, as in certain other years. I noticed that all the little violet clumps seem to be sprouting white violets this year–some sort of throwback or mutation?

Only the broom (of the delicate lilac/rasberry-colored flowers) seems to have failed to survive the winter, in contrast to the terrible previous year, when we had no snow cover at all and a full third of my garden bit the dust. This year, lack of snow cover was most definitely not an issue; we had continual deep snow from weeks before Christmas until early April.

All the neighbors came out, too, people I’ve barely seen since last fall. Now the children are playing ball, the dogs racing around in delighted circles, and my new next-door-neighbors have finally emerged from their winter hiding to prove to me that they actually live here (I was beginning to have my doubts). Kids who were mere infants in the fall are now toddling around on fat little legs, getting in the way of the ballgame.

It’s time for a dump run, time to take my raked leaves and twigs and debris and put them in the large pile at the dump, to be made into compost that is then sold to make revenue (I live in a very environmentally correct town). On the way to the dump, I drive along a road which parallels the ocean. This is one of the perks of living here; the ocean is never very far away. There’s a point I always pass that features a rocky cove. Usually it’s fairly calm, but today it’s stirred up as much as I’ve ever seen it. Apprarently the storm that has finally passed through is still having its way with the ocean.

There are huge crashing waves near the rocks; that’s to be expected when the sea is churning like this. Way out, near a distant lighthouse and some islands, is a long white line that I can’t recall having seen before. It’s a huge area of breaking wave, most likely indicating where the ocean is more shallow, near some small islands. Then I see another line, and another.

I notice some small dark forms among the closer waves. They look like dolphins or sea lions. Harbor seals actually do live near here, and I’ve sighted them, but never in this area. But then I notice the surfboards; harbor seals do not carry surfboards, to the best of my knowledge. So these are surfers, about twenty-five of them, clad in wet suits and waiting for the next big one to ride in. It’s so cold out that I’m wearing my winter jacket; it can’t be above fifty, maybe even in the forties. I cannot even imagine how cold it feels out there, even with the wet suits.

I wouldn’t have thought there were that many surfers living within a hundred miles of me. And yet here they are; the call went out, and they answered it. How do they find out that the surf’s up?

Well, when in doubt, go online, I always say. When I got home, I had no sooner typed “new england surfers” into Google than I discovered this site, called “New England surfer,” and guaranteed to meet all the needs of said rara avis. Although, as it turns out, not so rara an avis, after all. Here is where they go for the forecasts that tell them when the surfing will be good. It also contains a surprisingly active discussion board, lists of best surfing areas, and all sorts of technical discussion of the finer points of surfboards and other equipment.

So, there are indeed New England surfers. Quite a few of them, it seems–a hardy and unique crowd. This spring surfing in weather that’s above freezing is apparently a rare treat, because most of these guys (and they are mostly men, by the way) find that the best New England surfing comes–you guessed it–in winter! That’s when the noreasters that tend to bring the big waves to these parts hit. This spring storm is unusual and wonderful, and that’s why the unaccustomed (and, to me, unprecedented) crowd.

For anyone who cares to explore this world, I offer the following: an article entitled “Crazy New England Surfers,” another one called “The Endless Winter” (the title a nice little riff on the popular surfing documentary “The Endless Summer”), and this, the piece de resistance, a video of a New Englander surfing in a snowstorm.

I’ll take gardening, myself.

13 Responses to “Garden’s up, surf’s up (yes, there is surfing in New England)”

  1. spf shirts Says:

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  2. San Diego lodging Says:

    Good comments. But, I do not agree with most of them. People sure have a lot of time on their hands.

  3. TmjUtah Says:

    We have broken our seven year drought in Utah.

    My strawberries are in full bloom, and the only plant not going full bore to blossom and leaf is my catawba tree, which always keeps us thinking the damn thing is dead until early June every year.

    All those connected folks in Utah, Salt Lake, and Weber counties who finnagled code variances over the last five years or so to build their dream homes on land that was rightfully defined as “critical slope” hillsides are finding out what the spring thaw and rain means.

    The Wasatch mountains are youngun’s as mountains go – the topsoil clings to upthrust rock clines that are often steeper than twenty percent. Once the soil is saturated it just starts downhill and no amount of rock retaining walls or high-end architecture will make any difference where it stops.

    I surveyed a few subdivisions back in the nineties that are currently heading for the bottom of the slope they were built on. Sad stuff.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    I guess where there’s surf, there’s surfers!

  5. BeckyJ Says:

    There are Irish surfers as well, quite a few of them; my brother, the former SoCal surfer is among them. There is a site for the west coast of Ireland that is hosted by a surf shop in Lahinch (better known for golf courses).

  6. Brian H Says:

    Surfer motto: “You can only drown once (or twice)”? My theory: they are or have become ADHS victims, only able to feel alive when tempting a big comber to forcefully merge them with the seabed.

  7. Paul Says:

    I love spring and detest the pollen that comes with it ! :)

  8. Paul Says:

    Nature dictates and we mortals adapt. The seasons give us variety and make each day bearable. Spring is very special except for the pollen! Charleston, South Carolina (my city) is beautifull year round, but in Spring it is ethereal!

  9. meander Says:

    My tulips said goodbye a couple of weeks ago as the tattered but still vibrantly red petals gave it up and fluttered to the ground. We’ve passed through a glorious dogwood spring as mother nature was kind here in east TN and we had no cruel freezing of the flower buds. Now I’m prowling about awaiting the swollen peonies to fully open and show off their sumptuousness. Also all the hostas are unfurling and showing me who got bigger and more lush. Hmmm, maybe I’m most excited about the hosta although in another month I’ll take them for granted and I’ll be doing my dance of joy among the circus of daylillies. I love the life in the garden.

  10. Pancho Says:

    You paint a nice textual picture!

    We have had flowers blooming in W. Texas for almost a month now and the trees are in full leaf.

    You do, however, make me pine for my days near the ocean in Hawaii…surfing and paddling outrigger canoes. We have great beaches in W. Texas but lack any water.

  11. THIRDWAVEDAVE Says:

    I miss gardening….

  12. Alan Kellogg Says:

    They are a most singular breed indeed. :)

  13. Dan Says:

    Surfing in NE is fantastic in the latter summer, early fall. Hurricane Kyle is proof of that! More posts on this would be much appreciated!

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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