Surfing Out Hurricane Sandy

There's actually a place to go surfing in Boston, and it might be busy while Sandy is in town.

There’s a pretty good rule of thumb for hurricanes that, while most of us will hunker down in our homes to wait the storm out alongside stockpiles of D batteries and canned foods, there will always be a few crazy people outside doing crazy things. Pretty often, those crazy people are surfers. Shots of them riding huge swells on the Florida coast are as much a staple of hurricane coverage as TV reporters standing in the rain. You would think that wouldn’t happen here in Boston, but, then again, you wouldn’t think that anyone surfs in Boston. Turns out, people do, and there’s a spot that’s just a 20-minute ride from the State House. A few years ago, writer Gregory Mone profiled for us the super secret, apparently super awesome surfing hotspot right near downtown, called the Break. He wrote:

Look closely and you can spot the hints. A busted-up surfboard nailed to the deck of a two-family home. The occasional car cruising slowly as the driver, dressed in a wetsuit, a board riding shotgun beside him, scans the water.

A kid pedaling his bike with a shortboard under his arm and a towel over his shoulder. There’s even a surf shop in the adjacent neighborhood, though its presence has confused several locals, according to co-owner Mark Wysocki. “People come in and ask, ‘Why do you sell surfboards?’”

He sells surfboards because nearby lies a section of shore where the sea sometimes does show off its power. Hawaiian-bred surfer Larry Hanson was cycling through the area in 2001 when he noticed the Break for the first time. “I kind of got lost, and I looked out at the water and saw this knee-high, perfect peeler and said, ‘Whoa! What is that?’”

There aren’t supposed to be rideable waves near Boston, not within just 10 miles of downtown, anyway. Of course, the vast majority of the time the surf here is nonexistent, or too sloppy to enjoy. Hanson happened to show up at one of those rare moments when wind, weather, and tide all cooperate and grant local surfers a chance to do their best impressions of Californians. Within these slivers of time, swells generated hundreds or even thousands of miles away complete a complex journey that has brought them across the open ocean, around the Harbor Islands, and over the shoals that generally guard Boston’s shores.

The best time to catch a wave, apparently, is during a hurricane. The big swells don’t always make it to the Break, but when they do, it is good:

Steve Crombie, 26, who grew up nearby, recalls riding hurricane-generated swells in the early 1990s, when he was barely tall enough to be allowed on a roller coaster. “There weren’t so many guys around then,” he says. “There were days with awesome, awesome barrels.” Legend has it that another rider paddled out into massive swells during the 1991 nor’easter that Sebastian Junger chronicled in The Perfect Storm. The waves that day were enormous enough to deposit sand and rocks nearly a block inland from the beach, which made it a fine day for a surf.

The one catch is that I can’t tell you where the Break actually is. Honestly, I have no clue, and Mone, in respect for the “surfer’s code,” declined to reveal it in his story. It’s kept secret to prevent overcrowding. But, in truth, on days like today, it’s probably best that people can’t find the spot. After all, this is Boston. We wouldn’t want to look as crazy as those people in Florida.