The Atlantic Hurricane season kicks off June 1st and ends November 30th. In the East Pacific Ocean, the hurricane season starts earlier - on May 15th - and also ends November 30th. So, why and when should you not paddle out for a few waves?
Be out of shape. Hurricanes are small storms, and the energy contained in the wave and wind swells comes in like Andrew W.K. on amphetamines to a table manners convention. That butter knife you call a paddling arm doesn't stand a chance.
In the waters surrounding major storms, you've got heavy breaking waves, shorter wave periods, and shore breaks to contend with, so your swimming, paddling, and overall stamina needs to be in top condition. And it goes without saying that you should know how to get out of rip currents because they like to show up to this kind of soiree.
Out of the water, swirling winds can quickly change direction. Steady offshore situations can become the stuff of choppy nightmares with a quickness, leaving you in a mess as energy intensifies with the advance of the storm. Be physically prepared and expect the unexpected.
Go with your gut. Okay, while there is of course something to be said for that surfer's intuition you've been cultivating over the years, the fact remains that diving out into a helter-skelter combo of wind and sea conditions (see above: unpredictable) all nature boy-like isn't going to help you much. At worst, it'll get you hurt, and at best, stress out your mom.
You are not the Hurricane Whisperer. But there are guys out there whose job it is to monitor and track these storms as they develop and share that information with the public. This is where you come in. Log on to the web, or check the weather on your TV or radio.
Pay attention to satellite data and know what to expect and where. Get down to the shore andobserve. Make watching the waves your religion. When you have a well-informed sense of what's going on out there, grab a buddy and some appropriate gear and go.
Keep a beat up quiver. Pretty obvious that boards on their last legs don't stand much chance against the wild surf. Keep your gear in good nick. These opportunities don't come around every day.
Be over-confident. Look, we all love "Big Wednesday" and "Point Break," but inside the bulk of one of Mother Nature's most destructive forces is no place to lose sight of your limitations. Know what you're able for and stick to it. You'll have more fun, and live to tell the tale.
Stay put. With active seasons once again pumping in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, there's no shortage of action for hurricane-prone coastal areas worldwide between May and November. In September, it is possible to witness three Category 4 storms surrounding Hawaii alone.
The beauty of hurricane season wherever you surf is that locations which don't see much movement at other times of the year can suddenly become flash-in-the-pan hotspots. This gives you the perfect excuse to rack 'em up and roll out to places you might never surf again.
Unusual conditions, incredible oceanic energy, and the chance to say you surfed one of the most furious events on the planet; when big storms roll in, be there, be stoked, and make some memories.