Fiddling While Rome Burns. A Sublime Surf Gallery from Hurricane Gonzalo.

by Chris Dixon



Luke Hamilton, Folly Beach, SC. Photos: Clay Crutchfield. 

Hurricanes present a strange moral conundrum for surfers. They wreck lives – sometimes even our own. But hurricanes also radiate enormous pulses of swell from their pinwheeling spiral bands, and along the often wave-starved Atlantic Seaboard, they’re one of the most reliable sources of summer and autumn surf there is.


Photo: Clay Crutchfield. 

The wrongest thing about this arrangement is the fact that an Atlantic or Gulf Coast surfer can be scoring the waves of the year while at that very moment, an island or nearby coastal town is getting the hell beat out of it. This past weekend was a perfect example. Bermuda suffered a terrific beating from Hurricane Gonzalo’s 150 mile an hour winds. At one point, when the barometric pressure bombed out, water was actually sucked out of island toilets. Massive loss of life was only prevented by the fact that Bermuda has some of the toughest buildling codes (and buildings) on earth. They’re used to this sort of thing.

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In this remarkable animation from NASA’s Earth Observatory, we see hurricane Gonzalo’s evolution from October 13 – 17th, 2014 as it spins up swells and engulfs Bermuda. 

Yet from from Puerto Rico clear to Maine, the surf was absolutely perfect, and surfers here in my home of Folly Beach, South Carolina were getting barreled out of their minds, or enjoying hundred yard long screaming lefthanders. I’m honestly not sure how we can justify that. With a slew of recent weather disasters and the hottest year in earth’s recorded history pending, it sort of seems like fiddling while Rome burns.

What follows is a gallery from Folly Beach, South Carolina, which Gonzalo deemed worthy of perfect weather, and head-high swells. The next time, of course, we might not be so lucky.


Photo: Clay Crutchfield. 


Luke Hamilton. Photo: Clay Crutchfield. 


A perfect Carolina morning. Photo: Clay Crutchfield.


Pre-Dawn View. Photo: Justin Morris.


A View from the Folly Pier. Photo: Justin Morris.


Folly’s Cat Rogerson. Photo: Justin Morris.


Folly Pier. Photo: Justin Morris.


Folly’s Washout. Photo: Justin Morris.


Gonzalo Lines. Photo: Justin Morris. 


Tucking in at the Washout. Photo: Justin Morris. 


A Dangerous Spot to be Swimming with a Camera. Photo: Justin Morris. 


The Washout. Photo: Justin Morris. 


The Washout Pull In. Photo: Justin Morris. 


Folly Local Henry Martin. Photo: Justin Morris. 


Tyler Ryan. Steep and Deep in a Murky Barrel. Photo: Justin Morris. 


For a little scale, notice the surfer standing in front of the whitewater of this perfect wave at the Folly Beach Pier. Photo: Chris Dixon


Long left at the Folly Beach Pier. Photo: Chris Dixon


And the left continues. Photo: Chris Dixon


The view from my surfboard at the end of a stellar session. Photo: Chris Dixon


Sunset Light at the End of a Sublime Day. Photo: Justin Morris.

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