Crowds gathered over the weekend at Manatee County Public beach
to watch surfers ride the huge storm surf. SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD
The waves broke long and smooth off the Island’s west shore Sunday and Monday, drawing surfers from around the state.
Every beach access street was full of their trucks, cars and SUVs.
Eight or nine surfers topped each wave crest. Rides were good and rides were long.
"This is good surf," said Will Bouzianne, as he stood on the shoreline assessing the waves with his brother Cory and Justin Moore – all Island boys born and bred.
At each street end, you’d see a clump of surfers staring out at the waves. Some had their arms crossed; some had their hands on their hips. All were staring intently at the waves.
"They’re assessing the direction and size of the waves," said Jim Hathaway, of Holmes Beach.
"You always want to check out the conditions."
The surf was up most of the day, and it was up again at dawn. So were the surfers.
"With the Internet and all the surfer Web sites and cell phones," Hathaway said, "everyone knows where the surf’s going to be."
Hathaway grew up in the Jacksonville Beach area and took to surfing 48 years ago when he was 9 as a result of seeing the movie, Gidget.
"So you know the surf is better on the East Coast, but when we get it on the West Coast, we get good surf. The secret is out."
Jason Suzor, of Holmes Beach, caught some good rides.
"It’s good, but the wind’s weird," he said. "It’s breaking up the sets a little."
David Moffitt and Dean Hewitt, veterans of 35 years of surfing, had driven over from Orlando on Sunday to meet up with their friend Pat Francis, who lives in Flamingo Cay. They were planning to spend the night, if the waves were good.
"It’s the mantra of surfers; you have to be flexible," Moffitt said. "If the waves are good, we’ll stay."
Moffitt advised that he was going to be changing into his swimsuit and advised that it might be time for reporters to put the camera away.
"Oh no," Francis said. "This will be good. A moon in The Sun."
Good for business
The surf traffic plus the Labor Day weekend traffic was a boon to local businesses.
"Yesterday and today it was amazing" at the West Coast Surf Shop, said Ronee Brady.
"I sold over two cases of wax, and there’s 100 in a case," she said, adding that with four staffers and her husband, they still needed more help. People bought big-ticket items too, mainly higher-end boogie boards and surfboards.
Surfers from Florida’s east coast watched Hurricane Gustav for days before heading to the Island on Labor Day weekend.
Many stayed overnight, but not all in motel rooms. Nick from Daytona Beach said four friends of his rented a motel room but he and two other friends slept in the car, everyone taking turns using the shower.
Leo from Boca Raton, a serious surfer with a shaved head and tattoos, said he was watching the Weather Channel in between surfing to see when the next hurricane was due to pass by Miami. He figured he would leave the Island Tuesday to get there in time.
Sunday’s monster surf was "fun" to him, but too much for some locals, who were happier on Monday when the 25-knot wind had died down to a breeze and the rip current had faded to a gentle flow.
Persistent overhead waves continued to bring surfers out in droves on Monday, but there were plenty of waves for everyone, with no one having to jockey for a good position – they were all good positions.
"Living the dream," said Dale, from Bradenton, to no one in particular.