SURFS UP: Pete Pan, co-owner of Narragansett Surf and Skate, says business doubles when a hurricane is near.
PBN PHOTO/JOE MCGOVERN
By Harold Ambler
Hurricane season often causes concern for many local businesses, but for Rhode Island’s surfers and surf shops, it can be the most wonderful time of the year.
The season has gotten off to a slower-than-usual start. “We do look forward to this time of year, because it produces some of the largest surf and strongest swells,” said Cheyne Cousens, manager at Island Surf & Sports in Middletown. “Usually by late August, we’ve seen at least something ride-able and with some decent size. Typically in the summer the surf is small, so everybody’s looking forward to whatever we can get.”
And so far this year, in terms of hurricane waves, surfers are getting a whole lot of nothing.
Contrast that with Hurricane Bill, in August 2009, which delivered several days of excellent swells under beautiful, blue skies. For a surf shop, those days are money in the bank.
“It’s wild, it’s crazy” on those days, said Tom Hogan, owner of Warm Winds Surf Shop in Narragansett. “On a day with hurricane waves it’s just people in and out. If it happens during October, people need gloves. Surfboards are getting broken. People forget where they have left things.”
The fall hurricane season provides an important shoulder for the state’s surf shops, whose steadiest season is the summer tourist season.
“The strongest season is the tourist season like everyone else on the coast,” said Bob Fox, owner of Matunuck Surf Shop in South Kingstown. “It’s a six-to-eight-week season, with schools getting out earlier and earlier.”
Fox spoke to the ambivalence surf-industry professionals often feel about hurricane season, in terms of the risks that the storms carry. “Everybody hopes for hurricanes,” he said, “but then we go get something like Sandy and we wish we never saw it. We like the storms that go 300-400 miles southeast of us. Hurricane Bill was a perfect example: beautiful, sunny days, five days of beautiful waves, and no damage to anyone.”