HI Surf Advisory


Gulf Swing -- 8/12/96

On the road again. This time, I found myself in the Florida Panhandle. Is there any surf here, or what? Brought my bodyboard just in case.

Late in the afternoon, I drove over two long bridges to get to the Gulf Islands. As I passed the toll booth, I saw an enticing sign--Dangerous Surf Today. Hmmmm.

The whole place looked like it was sprinkled over with sand. Found out later that last year a couple of hurricanes did a number on these islands, demolishing the Pensacola Pier in the process.

The weather has not been kind to this area (remember Andrew at Homestead), but it seemed that everyone was rebuilding. Living near the ocean has an attraction that no disaster can stifle.

The first thing I noticed was the quality of the sand. It was bone-white and as fine as sugar--so different from the big seashell grains back in the Hawaiian Islands.

Beyond the beach--surf! It isn't very big--maybe thigh-high--but it was rideable. Out there!

Didn't know what to expect as far a water temps, so I brought a short-john just in case. Come to find out the mean water temp around here in August is 83 degrees! Bathwater.

Surf is weak, but rideable. I must've had a couple dozen rides that were exactly the same: takeoff then kick, kick, kick to stay on; rollo on a curling section; spin in the whitewater. Typical contest style, but the wave did not allow me to do much else.

I give credit to anyone who learns in these conditions. It's like getting good in skiing, when you can only ride the green runs.

Might check out the Altlantic side this weekend. It's a long haul, but I don't know if I'll ever get another chance to come out here. How far do I drive to surf? Maybe eight hours one way, surf permitting.

Aloha from the Panhandle,

Postscript: August 14, 1996. Checked out the pier late this afternoon. Ripples. I can't remember the last time I didn't paddle out because the waves were too small. BTW, the "Dangerous Surf Today" sign was turned off.

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