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Carolina In My Mind

A proper summer sendoff on the OBX from Hurricane Jose

Today marks the official kickoff to fall and pumpkin-spice-flavored everything, but surfers in North Carolina are still enjoying a last dash of summer flavor as Hurricane Jose served up a bounty of waves along the Outer Banks on Wednesday, providing one of the region’s most memorable afternoons of the season.

“Jose took the ideal track for us, where it stayed offshore and sent some good waves without the bad weather and the destruction to property,” says OBX-based photographer Matt Lusk. “We've taken some hits over the last couple of years, weather-wise, but this swell was great because it stayed out to sea a little ways. Once it passed and the wind went offshore, it was a pretty magical day – bluebird sky, light offshore winds all day. Grinding, sloping lefts all day long, and really long, fast, hollow waves. If guys were willing to go for it, and if they held on, they were making some crazy ones.”

Maybe the best ride of the afternoon was from Wilmington’s Mason Barnes, who took off late on a micro board and flew out a ways after the spit. Lusk was further down the sandbar and was just out of focus to find the shot, but, even from his vantage in the water, he knew that Mason — his frame a featureless outline underneath the tunnel — had grabbed one of the best waves of the day. “It was one of the best waves I’ve ever seen on the Outer Banks, to be honest,” Lusk told us. “One single frame from that wave really doesn’t even do it justice.”

Luckily, the photographic evidence was backed by a convincing video angle from the beach, the full sequence of him knifing in and white-knuckling for the daylight, filmed by Christian Lyles.

“It’s been so nice being home on the East Coast,” Barnes told us. “A trip that was supposed to be only one week long has turned into six. This day was the best and heaviest Outer Banks I have ever surfed. I was stoked to be a part of the session. So thankful to score all the waves that we have been getting, but at the same time, I want to send the best to everyone in the Caribbean affected by these storms.”

But for every keg like Barnes’, Lusk says, there were many more wash-through fizzlers; sets without corners that quickly passed by. It was a mixed bag. Either you got a handful of great rides, or you didn’t get any. According to Lusk, you just had to go for it and cross your fingers. And rarely could there be better conditions in which to chuck yourself over the ledge than a few days ago, when offshore winds prevailed all day, with none of the sideshore headaches common in the coastal Carolinian afternoons. Plus, the water temperature was bearable enough to don your springsuit and paddle into what could’ve been the ride of your season.

“Generally, when we have those screaming lefts like that, it's a cold, freezing-ass NE, with everyone wearing 5/4/3s,” Lusk says. “Just freezing. But the water was around 75 degrees, and everyone was pumped, for the most part. Simply a warm, beautiful day.”