Ready, now go
There is nothing a surfer hates more than hearing the phrase, "You should have been here yesterday."
That is why it pays to be informed.
"You need to stay on top of the storms, track their progress," said Skip Maxwell, owner of the Double Barrel Surf Shop in Clearwater. "You have to be religious about it. Highlight your favorite Web sites. Learn to read the satellite maps. Check out the weather buoys."
Maxwell, a former Clearwater Beach lifeguard, has spent 20 years learning to read weather and waves. Here are some of his favorite web sites:
Gulfster.com: "Enough said."
Aurasurf.com: "Good Gulf forecast."
Intellicast.com: "Caribbean satellite images."
Ndbc.noaa.gov: "Good Gulf buoy information."
Surfline.com: "Real time information from around the state."
2xbarrel.com: "We update our reports several times a day."
Skip's hurricane survival tips
• Bring a skateboard to mess around the parking lot while waiting for the swell.
• Find a good hiding spot for your car keys while you are surfing.
• Bring a backup board and leash … just in case.
• Have surfboard wax to share with your new friend in the parking lot.
• Keep stickers, duct tape or Suncure for quick ding repair.
• Bring quarters for the parking meters.
• His music: Pennywise, Jack Johnson, Sinatra.
• Have a clever excuse for your boss, spouse or significant other for when you get home late.
• Bring a sleeping bag if you're traveling out of your area. … Can you say Panhandle?
• And of course, keep a smile and a good attitude. Surfing is about having fun and being stoked.
Where to go
1. Sand Key Park, Clearwater
2. Sunset Beach, Treasure Island
3. Twin Piers, Bradenton Beach
4. Siesta Key, Sarasota
5. Naples Pier
1. Jacksonville Beach Pier
2. Cocoa Beach Pier
3. New Smyrna Beach
4. Sebastian Inlet
5. Reef Road, Palm Beach
Surfboards come in many shapes and sizes, and like fishing rods, one model won't do it all. Hurricane waves tend to be fast, powerful and steep, which means you will need a board that is versatile and easy to maneuver.
While traditional longboards — the surfing sticks featured in the original Endless Summer movie — have undergone something of a renaissance, short boards are still the wave-riding vehicle of choice for American youth.
But the "fish," a stumpy, blunt-nosed board introduced by San Diego kneeboarder Steve Lis in 1967, offers the best of both worlds. It is beefy enough to float a 40-year-old father of two, yet short enough to please a 99-pound grommet going through Xbox withdrawal.
Brian A. Tudor, one of the hottest shapers on the eastern seaboard, honed his craft in his parents' Largo garage. Now 35 with a shop in Melbourne, Tudor's B.A.T. designs are the boards of choice for storm-seeking surfers. Check out his work at batsurf.com.
The start of hurricane season is days away but don't worry about stocking up on batteries, blue tarps and bottled water. Dust off your surfboard, check for cracks and dings, 'cause it's time to catch some waves.
Dial up the Weather Channel. Set your body clock to the Tropical Update. Form a plan of action for when that first low pressure system starts swirling off the coast of Africa.
Storms that run parallel to the coast usually produce the best surf. The average swell travels about 25 miles an hour, so if a storm is 500 miles offshore, you have 20 hours to get ready.