Hurricane Sandy's Effects Bolstered Miami's Wave-Starved Surfing Community

via @barlabcocktails, Instagram
Miami Beach is hardly a surfer's haven. With the Bahamas blocking off any swells from the east and Cuba locking us away from any southern waves, it takes a very peculiar set of circumstances for our stretches of ocean to come alive with the sharp crests and strong peaks for which surf rats of all credos long.

While this hellish bitch we've come to know as Sandy, the savage freak of a storm, has spent the last day and a half lashing away at the cities of New England, ripping cranes out of the sky in New York City, and bringing the Hudson River's frigid waters into the streets, we in Miami were witness to a very different kind of hurricane weather. For us, Sandy's effects created a perfect moment along the coast, one that transformed the Miami Beach coast into an unfamiliar but welcome setting -- a place where something rare and magical happened both in and out of the water.

It started with the waves. The weekend's glancing visit from the 'Frankenstorm' stirred up the sea to a degree of epic insanity the likes of which we are unlikely to see again for years. The waves were not just immense for Miami surf -- reaching up to 15 foot faces in South Beach -- but they were clean, and perfectly formed, and blisteringly powerful.

I got a chance to sit down with lifelong surfer and Miami resident, Scott Payne, owner of the local surf shop and established cultural institution, Island Water Sports. Payne has grown up within the world of Miami surfing since he started working at ISW on 163rd and Biscayne Boulevard when he was 18 years old, some 30 years ago. He is a dyed in the wool, true blue surfer, and when he talks about the waves, it is impossible not to sense in his voice the years of experience in the water and the love for riding.

"This was definitely one of those once every 10 or 20 year storms," he began, "the way the storm set up was about as perfect as you can possibly get for the biggest waves that you can get in South Florida...To have a hurricane sitting over the Bahamas, moving slowly, with those strong winds moving right up the coast and then coming offshore down in Miami, it couldn't get any better and it couldn't get any bigger."

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