It’s finally June and the last thing most of us New Englanders are craving are the blustery, cold days of winter. When it was 30 degrees outside with an offshore wind blowing at 10 knots and a forecast for sleet later in the day even the hardiest among us wouldn’t have thought of heading to the beach for a few hours of fun. But for a small but growing number of surfing enthusiasts, those are just the kind of days they dream about.
Surfing in New England is nothing new. The sand bars, reefs, and wind off the Atlantic can create ideal conditions for surfers along the New England coast. In fact, during the warm, sunny days of summer, surfing has become so popular, it’s not unusual to see as many as 40 or more boards bobbing in the swells along a stretch of North Shore coastline, all competing for the perfect wave.
The real die-hards of the bunch, though, keep at it during the cold and snowy days of winter. Just ask Peter Stokes, the owner of Broken Neck Guitar Repair in Boston, what it’s like to surf in a winter freeze. When he’s not working on guitars for clients such as Mick Jagger and James Taylor, the Newbury resident can usually be found riding the waves at any one of his favorite North Shore surfing spots, from Marblehead to Magnolia and points north into New Hampshire.
Stokes has been surfing since he was a teen. Now the father of a college age son, he says the two enjoy father-son bonding while riding the ocean’s swells. Now that it’s warming up, Stokes may find his interest in surfing waning a bit. He prefers surfing in the “off” season because there are fewer people fighting for the big waves. “It’s all about having the right gear,” says Stokes. Covered from head to toe in a thick neoprene wet suit, a surfer can last several hours without feeling cold, even in January, when the water temperature is in the mid 30s.
Stephen Franson, a Beverly chiropractor, also caught the surfing bug as a teen summering on the North Shore. Despite the demands of running a successful practice, Franson Family Chiropractic, located in the Cummings Center, Franson says he’s out on the water as often as five times a week, all year long.
“Surfing helps keep my busy life in balance.” For Franson, married and the father of two young children, surfing has become a family affair. His wife, Camilla, also a chiropractor and Stephen’s business partner, grew up in Sweden. She says surfing wasn’t a part of her life until she met Stephen and fell in love with the sport too.
“The first time I got up on the board I remember thinking, this is amazing.” Camilla admits that surfing during the cold days of winter is more Stephen’s style than hers. She prefers to join her female surfing buddies for “Wahine” night every Tuesday evening during the summer months, for some girl bonding on their boards. Even Sam, Stephen and Camilla’s four-year-old, gets in on the act, taking part in weekly “Grom Fests” (“grom” is surfer lingo for a kid who surfs) on Thursday evenings. Wahine Night and Grom Fest are organized by the owner and staff at Pioneer’s Board Shop, just over the border in Hampton, N.H.
Pioneer’s manager, Buck Rowlee, says the evenings began with just a few families as an informal way to get out on the water for a bit of fun, but have evolved into lessons with gear and instruction provided free of charge for as many as 40 participants a night. Buck says it’s not unusual to see beginners as young as Sam hanging ten and catching waves within 15 minutes. “These nights get the moms and kids hooked. It has turned surfing into a sport the whole family can enjoy.”
Whether you’re a die hard surfer who prefers the solitude of the ocean on a cold winter day, or more of a fair weather fan, preferring the hot, hazy days of summer, surfing according to Franson, is a great work out, promotes a balance between work and life and fosters a sense of wellness.
Visit www.surfnh.com to sign up for Pioneer’s weekly e-mail notices for times and locations of Wahine and Grom events. Join the fun!