The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Local surfers catch waves at Jenness State Beach in Rye. Photo by Austin Sorette.

Summer Sessions Surf Shop

Where: 2281 Ocean Blvd., Rye; Jenness Beach is across the street
When: The next available kids surf camp is Monday, Aug. 25, through Friday, Aug. 29, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Cost: $219
Call: 319-8207

Smooth ride in
New Hampshire surf a different way to ride


 The beach at Jenness State Beach in Rye is inhabited with families who have set up camp on the beach — a surprisingly smaller amount than expected on a sunny Friday morning (though to be fair, the gusty wind was strong enough to have beach-goers eat more sand than sandwiches). 

This weather seems like a surfer’s dream day, at least to over a dozen people in the water. Though the swells aren’t the gnarliest they could be — typical for New Hampshire in the summer time — surfers line up like dominos along with boogie-boarders and body-surfers, each taking turns riding the crests. Some surfers take the wave like they are riding in a violent thunderstorm; others pop up and cruise so lethargically, it seems they don’t even realize they’re moving.
Dave Delaney looks on from his blanket at the back side of the beach. Taking a break from riding his 7-foot board, he watches the other surfers paddling out to the smooth waves.
“You gotta paddle like crazy to try to catch [the waves],” he said. “There’s not enough buoyancy, I guess, to ride it. But the big [board] is like a Cadillac out there.”
This is only Delaney’s third time out in his adult life; the first time he surfed in New Hampshire marked 35 years after his last time surfing when he was a resident of Southern California. An admitted amateur, Delaney says the laid-back surf style in New Hampshire contrasts with the intense surf culture on the West Coast. But regardless of what coast you’re on or how high your experience level is, nothing compares to the difference between watching the surf and riding it.
“I did a bunch of research on the Internet trying to figure out, is it better to surf high tide or low tide?” Delaney said. “And it said it all depends on location and weather, so I decided, hey, I just need to get out here and try it out.”
Surf New Hampshire 
Sitting just across Jenness Beach, with a view of the shimmering ocean just barely peeking over Route 1A, Summer Sessions surf shop is bustling with sun-fried beach-goers.
“That’s the fun of summer,” said Ryan McGill, co-owner of Summer Sessions. “You’re meeting new people. You understand it’s crowded, but when it comes down to it, it’s only eight weeks that we’re sharing [the water with] everyone. We’re just reminding people to take it easy. Just smile — you’re on the beach!”
Normally, when one thinks of surfing, New Hampshire is far from the first place that comes to mind. But the surf in New Hampshire is unique in that the Northern Atlantic and the East Coast weather provide a more laid-back atmosphere for surfers.
“We’ve got a small but amazing coastline for surf,” said McGill. “It’s perfect for beginners and kids. The high pressures and better weather make for a smaller surf. Perfect longboard weather.”
McGill, a Rye native, has been all around the world looking for the best spots to surf. He’s caught waves in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Fiji and Australia, amongst many other locations. Despite his ambitious travel, however, McGill never stays out of New Hampshire for too long.
“Nothing beats home, even when it’s cold,” he said. “It’s just a bit inconsistent, but it’s worth it. The people around here are awesome and this is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. And you can also snowboard in the morning and surf in the afternoon, which you can’t do in a lot of places.”
Because the summer swells in New Hampshire are typically smaller than normal waves, local surfers use longer boards, about 9 feet in length.
For the locals and off-season vacation surfers, New Hampshire’s more intense surf comes during hurricane season and the winter-time. McGill claims that during September and October the water is typically still warm, and the hurricane weather creates great swells for anyone who likes to rip it up.
How and why to hang 10
Like most everything, surfing is much more intricate than getting from position A to position B. One of the most important techniques to learn is not just standing on the board, but getting a read on the waves, timing them correctly and understanding how waves break in order to maintain a consistent ride.
That said, the biggest beginner obstacle is actually standing up on the board. For a lot of people, that might be a hard bump to roll over, but McGill claims that for the surf lessons and camps that Surf Sessions offers, it uses softer, safer surfboards and has CPR-certified coaches out on the water at all times. 
“The way to ease people [into surfing], said McGill, “is to get out there, get the basics and understand the etiquette in the water. It’s important to help with the stoke as well, to get people excited for outdoor activities and being near the ocean.”
Back at Jenness, Delaney continues to watch the surfers as he thinks about why he started surfing in the first place.
“I used to live on the lake where you had motor boats and jet skis,” he said, “which is a lot of fun, but it gets boring. Same location, same neighbors and everything. The beach is completely different. Different people, different waves, different places. Everything is always new.”
As seen in the July 10, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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