Words by Tim Homa • Photos by Andrew Tonra
A couple of weeks ago, something happened to the Mid-Atlantic. We had waves. Like actual waves. Several of them were head high or larger. As surfers on the East Coast, we welcome summer. Warm water and cold beer are always appreciated. But, we grasp onto this eternal hope that the summer provides a few notable swells. We know the odds are against us, yet we yearn for some juice.
Summer ‘23 has provided plenty of ridable days for us in Virginia. Small, but ridable. With the proper mindset and equipment, I’ll admit, it’s been a damn blessing. In fact, I’d take it over nothing at all.
Until the end of August, it had been nearly three months since we saw waves chest-high or bigger. Each session on the log or foamie only built up the anticipation for a proper swell. The need to question your judgment and get planted into the sandbar grows.
Enter Hurricane Franklin. Franky came into our lives on August 20th as it strengthened to a tropical storm south of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea. The tracker showed the storm moving across the Dominican Republic and strengthening into a hurricane on August 26th in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, Franklin left several residents in the D.R. in a tough spot.
Hurricane Franklin offered up the ideal scenario for those on the East Coast. Franky grew large enough to send solid surf and remained far enough offshore that it didn’t impact land. As the forecast solidified, the hype and skepticism grew equally.
“Will the period be too long for the sandbars?”
“Are the swell models oversizing the swell?”
“Is the wind going to be good?”
“Will I remember how to duck dive?”
“Do we stay put or strike mission somewhere different?”
Despite tentative plans with 20 other people, I decided to stay put in Virginia Beach. The swell direction was perfect for here, and the northeast blow a few days prior had the sandbars primed to accept the long period energy.
As the tide dropped on Tuesday morning, the swell started filtering in with chest-shoulder high sets, and by the afternoon, head-high to slightly overhead sets tickled our sandbars. Sure, there were closeouts, but we experienced rippable lines with the odd tube section. One particular stretch of beach, dare I say, offered up its best Trestles impression.
Wednesday offered insanely fun leftovers in the waist to chest-high range, with sets still showing in the shoulder-high range. The morning offered steeper wave faces, and by late morning to early afternoon, it was back to long, rippable lines at the best sandbars.
Franklin was just what we needed: a solid tune-up and reprieve from logging and groveling. It was fun. I’d say about as fun as it gets here. The smiles and friendly banter that sprinkled through the lineups and as surfers made their drift walks back up the beach would back that claim. We are ready for more.
Throughout the planning and entire swell, I kept in touch with local photographer and endlessly stoked Andrew Tonra, better known as @smallwave_andrew on Instagram. Here is what he had to say about Hurricane Franklin:
“After a summer of logging and scrapping away on grovelers, we were ready for some surf. When the models started showing us Franklin, the collective excitement was palpable. We were going to get some waves. Responsibilities were dropped, phone calls were made, and the over-frothing began. Tuesday morning, we woke up to long period energy beginning to fill in. Nice offshore wind and a couple of chest-high sets in Virginia Beach. As the day progressed, the swell really materialized, and it turned on. After the morning session, some friends and I made the call to send it down to Nags Head. We were treated to an awesome evening session of solid overhead outer bar surf. We spent the night at Oregon Inlet and found a classic North Carolina shore break set up early the next morning. It was on the heavier side, but some absolutely incredible waves were sneaking through. We finished the day with an afternoon at Jennette’s, where we surfed till we couldn’t move. We headed home satisfied but ready for the next round. Thank you Franklin.”
Make sure to give Andrew a follow on Instagram. We hope that everyone scored and pray that this run of waves continues!