Any way you look at it, there's a lot on the line for the Quiksilver Pro New York. Obviously, you have the wrinkle of the ASP World Tour's first $1 million purse. And then there's the drama of the tour's cutoff, with the six lowest rated surfers on tour being replaced before the next event. But there's also a certain amount of pride on the line for every East Coast surfer (this writer included) as the ASP World Tour comes back to these shores for the first time in more than 20 years. For all the critique of the new tour stops, New York seems the biggest city-to-smallest wave ratio.
Quik Pro NY Gallery
For the most part, we don't give a flying squirrel what the rest of the world thinks about our waves. But secretly, East Coasters all carry a chip on our shoulders. Maybe it's just a potato chip, or a microchip, but deep down we want to prove to the world that, yes, it does get good very good.
So, let's take a minute to break down the swell reality that a major international surf company has signed on for three years and invested so many millions into.
THIS CONTEST WILL GET WAVES:
That's right. I said it. Despite a lifetime of being let down by the Atlantic Ocean, I believe we're in for swell.
Here's the key: This event has an 11-day waiting period, as most of the events do (save for the Hurley Trestles Pro, which can only get a six-day permit from the California State Parks system). Quik will take off Sept. 11, out of respect for the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks in New York. That leaves 10 days.
"The current 36-man format has 51 heats, so if you're running 30-minute heats, that's 25.5 hours of competition. At eight-hour days, you're looking at three days and a bit," said the ASP's Dave Prodan, "but that can be shortened by extending days."
The other option is dual heats, which have been used at J-Bay, Pipe and Mundaka. I have covered the Unsound Pro for six years in a row, which until this year always ran during this same week in Long Beach, and that contest was never called off. Three days of waves in 10 is very doable.
I'm going on science here, not a gut feeling. This contest is Sept. 4-15 for a very good reason. It is the proven peak of hurricane season. Hundreds of years of data conclude that Sept. 10 is the exact historical height of tropical activity, making Quik's waiting period strategically targeted. They had Surfline's Sean Collins run the numbers and found that an average September sees three hurricane swells, mostly during these dates. Just look at the past few years -- Hurricanes Earl and Igor in 2010, Hannah in '08, plus Gabrielle and Ingrid in '07. The Unsound Pro fired in 2005 thanks to Ophelia.
This is the Cape Verde season, named for storms that come across the Atlantic Ocean and move north, delivering swell. Collins also notes that Long Island breaks are benefited by the Hudson Canyon, which enhances groundswell. In addition, if a tropical storm were to get intimate, winds often wrap around from the north, which is offshore for New York.
Thus far, this has been an active hurricane season. All of our beady little eyeballs are on Hurricane Katia, which is predicted to be a Category 3, major hurricane, by Monday, already delivering swell. Early models show her getting close to New York, but not "Irene" close, just close enough to make it interesting. The world is watching and the Tour guys will very likely taste some tropical juice.
DON'T DROP THE 'E' WORD:
It won't be epic -- not by Dream Tour standards. Come on we just came off 30-foot Teahupoo. Even Biggy Smalls didn't have so much New York pride to think Long Island is going to go off its rocker for a week straight.
I have seen days in Long Beach that make that Rio contest look like the Hudson River. But that's not every day. There could be a flat stretch after Katia passes. There will be days that the wind comes onshore and resembles something your cat threw up. But the chances are very good that there will be one knockout day of overhead barrels. The world will know just how good it can get.
Keep in mind that long period groundswells can close out. September days are still susceptible to trade winds. There's a fat, full moon right in the middle of the waiting period, and like any mid-latitude break, low and high tides are an issue. So expect to see one great day of surf, one or two mornings of decent waves in that head-high range, and unfortunately, someone's going to wind up surfing garbage.
But have you ever seen the Tour guys connect the dots? When life gives them lemons, Owen Wright, CJ Hobgood, Adriano de Souza, Jordy Smith, Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater make the best lemonade in the world. Drop that traveling lemonade stand in New York City and it could come off sugar sweet. If not, Tony Hawk better start working on a heelflip body varial frontside 9 for the Pier 45 Vert Jam.
The East Coast is not the place to be during the summer. It's hot, crowded and so many one-foot days in a row could land you in the loony ward that used be right on Long Beach at Lincoln Ave.
But September is the start of autumn, ushering in more dynamic weather patterns. A lot can happen in 10 days. A low-pressure system could form off the Outer Banks, making for a raging nor'easter. An occluded front could sweep out of the Ohio Valley, whipping up a south swell. The tropics may not be the only card in this poker game.
As mentioned, don't expect an eight-day wavefest that Jay-Z will be writing rhymes about. At some point, the swell is going to drop out. Let's say there's a magical south brewing for the final, but Round 3 and Round 4 have to be forced through sideshore two-footers. (And we can call Round 4 the "Dane Round." Quik will tolerate his hide and seek game for Billabong events, but it won't fly after the money they dropped on this event.) National Blvd. and the alternates of Laurelton and Pacific are all beach breaks, and beach breaks tend to make mush burgers taste a little better. They have a way of adding that little bit of spicy mustard to get off that air reverse or maybe an 8.3 floater.
Ultimately, like Billabong's Rio event and Rip Curl's November event in San Francisco, the Quiksilver Pro New York is a gamble -- and not just with swell. It's a bet that Quiksilver is making on a large urban area's otherwise surf-blind population that, with enough marketing hype, folks will come out in droves to see the greatest surfers in the world do their thing. Quik will have to handle that part of things, but if they can pull it off, it's likely a whole lot of jaded New Yorkers are going to watch some pretty amazing surfing in the next few weeks.