OCEAN CITY -- Inside the canary yellow shack of the Endless Summer surf shop, Bart Hopkins was ringing up brisk sales to golden-maned young men in wet suits, but it gave him no pleasure on this, the best day of surfing this season.
Hurricane Bob had stirred the Atlantic Ocean off the Delmarva Peninsula into waves that reared high over the heads of the surfers. And here was Hopkins stuck behind the counter of his brother's business selling surfboard wax and leashes, and body-surfing boogie boards, starting at $60, while the siren song of thundering waves beckoned up the street. Surfboards, which start at $350, are rarely an impulse purchase, no matter how good the waves.
"God, I can't believe I'm missing it," Hopkins said to clients who called each other names like "Dude" and "Mush."
On a good day, the waves are waist-high. But at dawn yesterday, as Bob was passing Ocean City 100 miles offshore, the young man named Mush said he had surfed waves twice his height.
Said Hopkins, "Usually we get it this good once or twice a year," though to the practiced eye, even these high rollers from Bob were not perfect. They were breaking a bit too fast. Bob should have passed maybe another 100 miles farther offshore, Hopkins said, because "it gives the wave time to organize itself."
Tom Gant, a 22-year-old surfer from Pasadena, could see the waves coming before the sun came up. He paddled his board out from 45th Street at dawn and caught waves and drifted with the current down to 27th Street by lunch time. "They're barreling real nice," he said, which is surfer argot for waves that curl as they break, creating a barrel big enough for a surfer to slide though.
For Gene Sedillo, a surfer in his 50s from Malibu, Calif., this was as good as it gets. Compared to the "million surfers" competing for waves at Malibu, he said, Ocean City was secluded.
The surfers bobbing beyond the breaking waves had plyed this section of the beach all summer to get the feel for the sandbar below that lengthens the wave break and the ride it will give them.
Sedillo spoke sparingly as yet another new rapture in the roiling surf caught his attention from the shore. He pointed to one man riding, seemingly with no intention of stopping.
"That's the best wave of the day," Sedillo said.
Before the day was out, Hopkins had managed to slip away from the Endless Summer shop to ride waves that carried him the length of a city block or more. Before the wind changed and the waves got ragged late in the afternoon, he said, "I caught a real good piece of it."