How to Survive a Flat Spell

Ben Bourgeois' secrets to staying sane between swells

When all else fails, it might be time to jump ship. Ben Bourgeois, escaping an East Coast lull in the Caribbean. Photo: Burkard

Being a surfer on the Eastern Seaboard doesn’t come without sacrifice. For every day of perfection on the Outer Banks, there are weeks of flat spells to accompany them. So how do you go about keeping your sanity when face-to-face with lake-like conditions? According to North Carolina’s own Ben Bourgeois, it aint always easy, but there are a few ways to keep it together.

Be Vigilant: When you don’t have consistency working in your favor, you’ll need every tool at your disposal to keep you privy to any bump in the lineup. Above all, this means knowing exactly what the weather and forecast are looking like on a daily basis. “I would watch the Weather Channel religiously and pray for the wind to blow onshore when I was younger,” says Ben. “That’s really the only way we get surf: wind swell. I’ve sat through my share of two-week-plus flat spells growing up. It was torture! I definitely spent a lot of time looking at the maps hoping for any little bit of color to show up on the charts.”

Stay Motivated: Meager forecasts can be tough to endure, but just because you can’t get in the lineup doesn’t mean you have to mope around the house feeling sorry for yourself. Isn’t that new skate park open? Have you seen that West African Wedge clip? The point is to do whatever you can to stay fired up. “We skate a lot on flat spells and watch a lot of surf movies,” adds Ben. “But when I was a grom we got into wakeboarding and wake surfing when it was flat.”

Get in the Water: An open-ocean swim will not only keep you in shape, but being submerged in the sea for an hour or so can help take the edge off. If you’re not much of a swimmer, you can follow Ben’s lead and take up another aquatic hobby. “For me, I don’t care if it’s flat anymore. I learned how to kitesurf with my normal surfboard and no straps. It’s so much fun and a lot like surfing when done right. Usually the wind blows hard south every day in the summer and it’s perfect for kiting. A 1-foot wave with a kite can be super fun because you’ll have all the speed you can handle going into it.”

Fly the Coop: If the forecast has you wondering if your leash could double as a noose, fear not, because salvation may be closer than you think. It’s not always cheap, but from the East and West Coasts of the US, overhead sets are often just a short plane ride away. “From the East Coast, it’s really easy to hit up Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and also Central America. So you always have to keep an eye on what’s going on down there. It’s nice to get away from the cold winter or a summertime flat spell.”

How do you stay stoked during a flat spell? Leave your answer in the comment section below.

Click here for more tips from the How-To Blog.