They just keep coming… and it’s still only July!
After Arlene and Cindy, the question was whether or not those first two storms would be followed by another…or more precisely, how long? Dennis answered that question, and it did so in less than a week.
Only a few days after the swell from Cindy subsided, Dennis was well into hurricane status and about to slam Cuba as a Category 4 storm. It was tracking at a fast 18 mph, but the path was the kind we look for. It was expected to travel from the southern portion of the Gulf to the north. Surf is always best on the west side of a tropical cyclone, so we only had to wait and wonder what size it woud be.
Being a weekend, and a summer one at that, a crowd had arrived looking for a chance to catch the first part of the swell. Nothing but wind chop on Saturday, but by Sunday some small lines were coming in. The hurricane had made landfall (again near Pensacola) on Saturday, July 9th. Typically, SPI will get some swell the next day…but this storm was further away than most. Dennis was just off the coast of Florida and the swell it generated travelled nearly the entire width of the Gulf of Mexico. While the lines did begin to show on Sunday evening, the next morning would prove to be the true arrival of the swell.
Surf on Sunday was no more than waist high close outs. Regardless, surfers lined just past the impact zone from the rocks all the way to Second’s. Every now and then, something came through that peeled long enough to pull three top turns. But this was way below even wind-wave average for this break, much less what we expect from groundswell. As fate would have it, being that most surfers on this coast are super-stoked, it turned out to be a very good thing that some knowledgeable surfers were in the water late afternoon.
A nearby banana boat ride, one of those tourist related pay-rides, was loaded with kids and heading out beyond the impact zone. Before the waverunner that was pulling the float could get very far out, a sneaker set came in. Rising up beyond the nearby surfers, and the kids on the banana-float, was a larger pulse from Dennis. It took out the waverunner and tossed the kids off the float. Of course they had life-jackets on, but when the pilot regained his place on the waverunner he was no help in getting the kids back on. Nah…he freaked and bailed! Quick thinking surfers paddled over to the screaming kids and brought them in two at a time. We have no information on who that pilot was or where he went, but pretty sure he won’t be back. Guess he’s never taken a set on the head before? The evening ended with pats on the back and talk of what the buoys were doing. A quick check on 42002 showed 8 foot at 16 seconds. Bummer…sounded small.