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Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: September 13, 12:44 PM ET
The 'almost' perfect storm

By Jon Coen
ESPN.com

Here's the thing about the East Coast: storms in the northern hemisphere generally travel from west to east. So, a storm approaches the West Coast from the sea. No matter where you are, you get swell. The rugged folks take the brunt of the storm and where all the cool kids live, they just get waves and perfect weather.

And while eastward tracking lows arrive from the great Pacific expanse for California, they track out of such places as Tennessee and Ohio for the East Coast. That, as you can imagine, is not ideal. The waves will fire, but they last about as long as a Ramones song.

That's part of the magic of hurricane swells. Unlike most wave-making systems, they can move east to west -- and in the case of Hurricane Leslie, sometimes they just simply sit there. She became a Tropical Storm way back on Aug. 30, much to the delight of everyone with a surfboard, from World Tour chargers to the inland folks with completely dysfunctional retro boards who decided that big hurricane swells are the perfect time to work on their surfing skills. And she delivered swell for a full week, longer in some places.

Brett Barley
Brett Barley likes nothing more than throaty barrels and the ones close to his home, on the famed Outer Banks, are his favorites.

But even these perfect storms are never perfect. As opposed to those quick moving mid-latitude storms that exit off the Southeast or drag all that weather up through the mid-Atlantic, hurricane swells are associated with long intervals. And unless you've got a fetish for long, dumpy walls, they're very hit or miss at beach breaks. The more irregular and rocky coastline of New England or the Caribbean will handle them better, but the swell was short-lived up north.

Dylan Graves
It wasn't just the East Coast. The Caribbean lit up too. Spots like this on the Northwest corner of Puerto Rico usually only go off on big winter swells from the North Atlantic. Dylan Graves knew where to be for this critical drop.

Leslie saved her best for the Outer Banks, the celebrated East Coast mecca. This was a solid one for North Carolina, and no one had to evacuate.

"I hadn't been back in years and passing over the Oregon Inlet bridge always feels like you've arrived at a secluded strip of beach because you can always hunt out a gem of a sandbar. It maybe only works for an hour and then it's done, France-style. But that has always had a special feeling to me," said Florida's CJ Hobgood, who took third and fifth place this year in two of the most exciting venues on the ASP World Tour, and was on Hatteras Island last week running his Camp Hobgood. "It had been eight years since I'd been back, but it only took about eight minutes to fall back in love with the place. The first night I was there we caught fun waves at the lighthouse and the groms were pulling red drum right off the groin. It's the best of both worlds -- fishing and surfing."

And when the swell peaked, it broke right into the inlet with the hairy, sandy barrels that this strip of sand is known for.

CJ Hobgood
CJ Hobgood surfed epic Cloudbreak and Teahupoo this summer on the World Tour, and was still psyched to come back to the Outer Banks for Camp Hobgood, especially when Leslie threw him this fun session at Hatteras Lighthouse.

Leslie finally pulled out of her holding pattern Monday. She moved northward at 40 mph and on Tuesday morning, lashed Newfoundland. Guess someone always has to pay for all that good fortune. Remember that for every photo you see here, there were 50 dudes who got skunked.

It was almost a perfect storm. Almost …