Assateague Island: Surf Side

Beach Hut on Assateague

 

It’s a 6 hour drive from here to there, and it means running the gauntlet of Hampton Roads – through perpetual traffic congestion, rough roads, backups at bridges and tunnels. For a traffic wimp like me it’s harrowing at best, and at worst, when there’s an accident or just rush hour mayhem, it can add hours to the trip. Sometimes I leave in the middle of the night just so I can sneak through when everyone else is asleep.

Approaching the shore, it gets worse and worse, the pressure building and progress slowing. Until you reach the toll gate to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Then, like a watermelon seed, you’re suddenly spit out on a 23 mile long arc, skipping across the mouth of the Bay, free of land and congestion, surrounded by nothing but water and birds and ships for as far as you can see.

 

Bay Bridge Tunnel

 

On the far side it’s like a different country altogether, and the pace of life slows considerably. I’ve always loved the place names on the Eastern Shore. Most have native origins, and they roll with a rhythm that feels like the sea when you say them, mellifluous waves of syllables:

Assawoman
Paramore
Nassawadox
Kiptopeke
Accomac
Pocomoke
Onancock
Onley
Machipongo
Wachapreague
Pungoteague
Chincoteague
Assateague
Chesapeake

followed by the more Anglo and rather stern:
Cheapside
Temperanceville
Modest Town
Helltown
Birdnest
Frogstool

and the unpronounceable Treherneville

 

Bridge to Assateague

 

It was late in the day by the time I arrived. Peter and Shirley, Tony’s parents, said he had been on the sea side surfing for the past four hours. Long enough that Shirley was thinking about getting worried. I backed the boat into a campsite, got all signed up, and headed over to look for him.

 

 

 

The island, though 35 miles long, is only a few hundred yards wide, depending on how and where you measure. In any case, it’s an easy walk from one side to the other, but the two sides are like different islands. The sound side is all marshes and wildlife, shallow water with gentle waves, quiet winding creeks tessellating an indefinite shoreline. The ocean side, on the contrary, is a broad rampart of comparatively sterile sand, straight as an arrow, with thundering surf and uninhibited winds.

 

 

 

Looking north to Ocean City

 

 

Looking south

 

 

 

 

 

Not Tony

 

 

The remnants of a distant storm had kicked up a modest set of waves, and there were a dozen or so surfers in view from the crest of the dunes. Even with my telephoto lens I managed to mistake someone else for Tony, and it wasn’t until he got out and walked up next to me that I finally figured it out. Pretty funny. I was diligently filming someone who I thought was him, while he’s standing beside me, dripping and holding a surfboard under his arm, watching me do it.

 

Tony

 

Nice views, though.

He was tired, cold and happy. By the time we left, I did get some shots of him, really him, surfing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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