Side off on the South Shore


A tale of brief ecstasy, and humiliation.


Tuesday. NW 17-25 at Heck and a sweet 2.6 ft SSE swell on the south shore. 9 second period. Bugger the North Shore. This is the perfect setup to go for side-off. Any larger of a swell and it’s going to be consistently overhead. It's just perfect waist to chest with very occasional shoulder/head.  Very few days like this in Lawngisland, and have already passed up on a couple, and not much time left before Memorial day shuts us down from choice spots.


To Gilgo . . .Heck was 17-25 when I left . . .blew by Tappan beach – must have been blowing 5.3 to 5.5 this morning at 9:45 when I drove by.


Bazillions of whitecaps from the northwest on the Great South Bay bay.

Nobody but a few windblown surfers at Gilgo when I arrived. Mustang arrives after a while and it’s good to see a familiar face. I’d have surfed, but the wind was far too tempting. This must be the day. On the windward  side of the dunes, in the parking lot,  the 6.1 felt like way too much. Going with the big board, I chose to rerig.  The 5.5 seemed like the call.


The south shore of the barrier island takes a bend back toward the northeast before Tobay, and then makes an even bigger dogleg back northeast before Gilgo, this makes a NW wind even more offshore than it is to the west. (note to self: consider Tobay in future, though I like Gilgo with it’s 60’s timewarp vibe Harleys, surfers, and bikiniites, much more.)


With the wind veryy side-off it was really flukey, squirrelly, shifty and gusty on the inside. The flukey gusty "inside" comprised the entire impact zone.  That’s not good.  If it had been consistently head high say, I’d have been annihilated trying to get out.


There was a significant eastward rip running.


But the relatively mellow conditions, were a good testing ground.


Hatteras (Ego Beach) side-off two years ago was filled in to the beach, no such problems, a lot easier to get going and get out. This looked easy when the gusts frilled the water but it wasn't. It was extremely deceptive. A 6.2 might have been a better call too.


1st discovery: a sailboard in the side-off beachstart mode wants to work its way broadsides to the incoming waves, which is exactly what you don’t want it to do. Unless you like to eat epoxy and pluck fiberglass strands from your teeth, beacause the thing is going to set itself up right between you and the wave in the worst possible way.


It would have been better to waterstart, but there wasn't enough wind on the inside to do that.


Trying to line up the board in flukey, squirrelly, shifty and gusty side-off winds to beachstart is not easy.  Waves and attendant wind gusts passing under the gear tend to bust the sail out of the back hand into an involuntary air jibe. The sail only seemed happy in about a 3-inch window,  out side of that it was either getting backwinded /pushed down from behind or ripped over the front in the gusts that seemed to be swinging in a 90 degree arc from behind.


Waiting for the wind to get steady, and for a steep gnarly set to pass, I got worked, worked, worked and worked.  It didn’t look big enough to do that, but the waves had some decent power.  Note to self: next time just get on and say to hell with the oncoming sets.

Eventually I get a sustained gust and we’re off.  Nice, getting over the whitewater is pretty easy heading right for it.


“You got it you m@th*rf@#%r!!!" screams Mustang from his surfboard.



The first run is a whiteknuckle feeling -- the only windsurfer out there, side off, and you can't see land, because it's behind you. Like very behind you.  Even though the outside is flat and undulating,  looking back or in a direction other than the one you're going in doesn’t seem like a good idea.  But the feeling is shortlived.

Daggit. The wind is not cooperating outhere either now.  So how far out am I? How far do I go before turning back?  Going further offshore isn't a brilliant idea even though it's blowing harder there. Cos you don’t know how much harder. I turn sooner rather than risk the usual long distance trek to another galaxy.  It was a good enough spot, but the wind is still not helping and I’m not in position for a good swell. A tad further out would have been optimal. Still Mustang is right in line with where he should be and we haven't lost any ground yet.



Getting planning again out here is weird. The low swells feel like a big puffy sofa sucking out the energy.Eventually a better swell comes in from behind and it's enough to urge me back on to a plane.


Although I’m further in now than I should be this one has potential and I decide to go with it. It’s good for a smooth short ride down the line, the feel of the swell building towards the sandbar is just dandy, a little more acceleration off the wind, down the line, look thru the sail, size up the green water wave that’s building to a peak, about to crest, rib high, and make a lovely-feeling, most excellently satisfying and gratifying carve on the upper part of the face.


I normally beyatch about the JP 265, but in this setup it feels very good – maybe because there's more wave power than windpower and it’s not feeling skitty.


I’ve now gone downwind in the process, and heading to a more powerful impact zone down to the east.  I’m still underpowered I may come in to reassess the situation and take a break. Mistake #n.  Shoulda stayed out.  Getting going again proves to be more difficult. I’m dangling for a waterstart and  I get worked , Oh I forgot to tell you how the wind and waves like to prang the mast tip right into the sandbar. A larger-ass sneaker set looms up right in front of me. Clean top to bottom bomber, I can't remember if I let the gear go or it ripped out of my hands, but that was about the choice. It washed a short way into the channel and I tried a little body surf to catch up with it. Strong rip in the channel. Mustang rides a wave right (to the east) on his surfboard and then another and joins me in the channel.


Uh oh! Sail’s got a very trashed busted panel right above the main window. Game over for now.


Back in the lot the wind now feels a lot less consistent than when I rigged. Big old holes to drive a bus through. Enough gear dragging for one day, I’ll just finish up with a surf.  IT was a good decision as the wind had backed off to the point that it wasn’t an issue surfing, and the waves were still very nice. Incoming tide was now giving things a boost, and two surfers had come to join me.  (PS. Steve, Frank, I think I want to get in a few more Gilgo sessions. Especially if there s more East in the swell.)


Back at the van 20 minutes later, a solid stram of warm liquid flows from my nose. So warm and profuse that I check instinctively to be sure it's not a nosebleed. But it's just whatever salt water was ramjetted up there during a couple of intense wipeouts. Body is pretty knackered. Very knackered. Back aches, shoulders ache, lots of other things ache in a temporary kind of way. Old UV fried milky monofilmed Naish 5.5 edge is busted. Was it worth it. Friggin absolutely. Was it better than 2 hours at West Neck asbsofrigginloutely.

Would I make the same choice each time – No.  Sometimes you just gotta get some solid mileage time on the water, and sometimes you have to go for the highly concentrated potion.




Much later on in the afternoon, the dying swell as seen by All Seasons' Cam

SwHft is one element surfers look at -- 2.6 ft can give up to a nice 5 ft wave, sometimes more with incoming tides.

9 secs - Nice period too!