At the risk of jinxing it for all of us, I'm compelled to declare that the Outer Banks is currently in the throes of one truly majestic Indian summer. It is mid-November, the roads are clear, the sunsets are dazzling, the daytime temps are in the mid-70's, and the surf, while not exactly epic, has been consistent. With water temps still in the 60's, there's very little excuse not to make the most of it, and even the part-timers and the old-timers are digging out crusty wetsuits and waxing up yellowed boards to get a little water time in.
November always seems like the great forgotten month to me. September and October are generally vaunted as the "why we live here" months, the "locals' summer", but the fact is that most people are still working their asses off through the shoulder season, and it's not until some time after Halloween that most people around here can start taking their eyes off the to-do list and relax a little. Then, as the month slides on, people begin to linger longer in the coffee shops, phone calls from friends wanting to catch up start coming in, and little congregations of 4-wheel drives gather on the beach, reveling in the pleasures of the off-season: buddies, beer, fishing, surf, and nowhere else you have to be, and no time you have to be there by.
There's something else that I've noticed over the years, and I'm not sure if there's any meteorological truth in it, or if it's just one of those completely unsubstantiated personal observances. November on the Outer Banks always feels like autumn has finally settled into itself, like it's finally gotten the hang of it. That it's gotten its sea-legs. It just feels like fall. September carries a bit of a personality disorder, unsure what season it's supposed to be, hot then cold then windy then sticky; and October, yeah October is great, but it just goes by so fast. November, for whatever reason, seems to linger, languid and balmy, holding on to the last traces of warmth in the year, knowing that unless we have one of those freak warm winters, she is our final chance to savor the outdoors before the chill sets in for reals. November rolls on, like a long dusk, confident and at peace with herself, and in no hurry to end.
And yet it still seems to take us by surprise. As if the reset button on the year wipes away our memory of November. The cold rains of March, the flowering of April, the perfection of late May, the heat of August: for all these months we have some kind of programming. For November, stuck between the famous foliage of October and the holiday cheer of December, we have, well, dried corn bouquets and Thanksgiving. Until it comes around again, and we get that old familiar feeling, that we thought we were supposed to be getting in September or October. Even hurricane season, whose accompanying mnemonic rhyme ends "October, all over; November, remember", tends to throw out some nice little offshore disturbances before calling it quits for the year.
Last week I took an impromptu road trip down to Buxton with Jeff Myers and Quentin Turko, in search of waves. It was the kind of thing I used to do all the time, before the three-hour round trip became too much of a time-suck in my increasingly busy adult life. But on this particular day, with no responsibilities I couldn't postpone, and a cloudless blue sky beckoning for some kind of adventure, jumping into QT's Cherokee with a wetsuit and camera bag seemed like the only right thing to do.
The surf at the Lighthouse was small but clean, and mercifully uncrowded. We stayed until dark, trying to nail some shots in surf too small to fly. We got a few decent ones, like the one of Jeff above, charging up the face of a nice little set wave. Nothing that would make the cover of Surfer Magazine or anything. But we didn't really care. We were mostly out there for the fun, and not taking any of it too seriously. The setting sun was so bright it completely obscured the view of the lighthouse until it dipped below the horizon. In a day or so, it will be setting directly behind the lighthouse from the vantage point of the jetty. Somebody I know probably already has that shot.
Winter is coming, and soon surfing around these parts will be an activity only for the strong of heart. Everybody knows to make hay while the sun shines, and for the last two weeks, there's been a lot of haymaking. So much so that on the last couple days of swell, the numbers in the water were fairly depleted. Folks had to get back to the things they do when they don't surf.
And still we have nearly half the month still left. Here's to hoping the weather stays warm, the days keep lingering, and you enjoy the company of family and friends and the slower pace of the forgotten month.