Surf Season Outer Banks

Fall is here so it must be surf time on the Outer Banks.

Not that the summer surfing isnâåÛåªt great, but as summer ends the swells start building and September and October may be the best two months of the year to for ridable waves and even shore breaks.

Which means itâåÛåªs also surf competition season with the WRV/ Hurley Outer Banks Pro kicking things off this weekend at JennetteâåÛåªs Pier in Nags Head. ThatâåÛåªs followed by the ESA Eastern Surfing Championship September 15-21 also at JennetteâåÛåªs Pier.

Things started slowly for the WRV/Hurley competition on Thursday . . . well, itâåÛåªs still summer, so they get at pass on the high chop and unridable ankle-biting waves.

Friday brought some nice swells, especially in the afternoon as high tide rolled in, and there were some pretty spectacular rides.

Competition runs through tomorrow, with the forecast calling for knee high break waves but even swells.

JennetteâåÛåªs Pier has become one of the best spots on the Outer Banks for surfing. One of the effects of beach nourishment–Nags Head beaches were nourished last year–is a sandbar that forms offshore creating a long even break.

Just one more reason to visit the Outer Banks in the fall.

Unknown History of the Outer Banks

Here it is, just about the end of the summer and we havenâåÛåªt even talked about some of the really neat, little known history of the Outer Banks.

The whereabouts of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island fame is still a mystery although there is some circumstantial evidence that the settlers wandered off into the interior and became absorbed into the Native American tribes.

It seems apparent that hostile Roanoke Island Indians either overran the settlement or forced its evacuation–which is true as far as it goes. But the reason for the IndiansâåÛåª anger was the destruction of their village by Governor Ralph Lane over what was by most accounts a minor theft of trinkets.

It is possible that fear of the Spanish off the North Carolina coast contributed to the decision to desert the colony. Spain and England were very much at war at this time and Spanish had a very robust presence in the area.

How robust? Look no farther than the Corolla Wild Horses. Genetic testing has shown that they are pure-bred Spanish mustangs–probably survivors of a shipwreck.

Finally–the Native Americans, along with understanding how to plant native grains, also understood vineyard production. Written accounts that found their way to England mention a sweet grape the Indians were growing–a Scuppernong in this case. There is still an ancient vine growing at the exact location of the vine that was described. Look for Mother Vineyard Road on the road out of Manteo.

Work to Begin on Outer Banks Wright Memorial Bridge

I had to take a trip out of town this weekend and IâåÛåªve got to say that as soon as the car wheels hit the Wright Memorial Bridge, I suddenly felt more relaxed and better about the world. ThatâåÛåªs how youâåÛåªre supposed to feel about vacation–which is what the Outer Banks is all about–but I think thereâåÛåªs a lot to be said for coming home after a long trip.

However, since weâåÛåªre talking about the Wright Memorial Bridge, this is probably a good time to mention that the westbound bridge (the bridge off the Outer Banks) will be closed beginning September 15. ThatâåÛåªs the newer span and there have been problems with it almost from the day it was completed 15 or 16 years ago.

NC DOT is going to repave it, but mostly I think they want to correct the problem with the expansion joints. Right now crossing the bridge on a hot day is kind of exciting for the kids . . . up and down, up and down, up and down from one end to the other. Of course who ever is driving is wondering how much itâåÛåªs going to cost replace the shock absorbers, but the kids love it.

The expansion joints allow the bridge to expand and contract in a wide variety of weather, but for some reason the westbound bridge never has seemed quite right.

Depending on weather, work should wrap up in mid May. Especially on some of the busier weekends during the fall, expect delays.

Lost Colony–Great Production, Plan for Next Year

TonightâåÛåªs the last night for the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island for the season, and I finally got to go last night. I try to go every year, and IâåÛåªve got to say, the 2013 production seemed a little better than last yearâåÛåªs edition.

Last year they threw in a lot of stuff that just didnâåÛåªt seem true to the original Paul Green production. You have to keep reinventing yourself to move forward, but bits and pieces of Shakespeare appearing at random in the dialogue just didnâåÛåªt seem to help the narrative.

Lot of dancing and a lot of visuals in this yearâåÛåªs production.

The choral work has always been outstanding and this year was no exception. The production also features some stunning choreography and one dancer in particular just blew us away.

Gary Gatling as Upowac, the medicine man with Chief Wanchese, took his dance to a level very, very rarely seen. Acrobatic leaps with amazing grace, all done in rhythm to the music.

The performances were excellent as well, Christopher Manns as Wanchese and Abby SheridanâåÛåªs Eleanor Dare were particularly strong.

CanâåÛåªt wait for next yearâåÛåªs production. If youâåÛåªve never seen the play, put it on your schedule for next summer. ItâåÛåªs a great way to spend an evening outdoors. The setting is beautiful, the production values amazing.

Peak Season (Almost) on the Outer Banks

Now that summer’s just about gone, it’s time to think about what there is to do on the Outer Banks in the coming months. And there is a lot–sort of a subset of the Peak Season.

Actually there’s so much to do we’ll just hit a couple of highlights and then put a few links out there so readers can check out out what’s coming up for themselves.

September is all about activities, with the the Eastern Surf Association (ESA) Championships will kick off September 14 at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Running through the 21st, it’s a week of some of the best surfing around.

OBX Pridefest weekend is the 13th through the 15th. Sponsored by OBX Pride it is a celebration of the joy of life and beauty of the Outer Banks as well as a gay pride festival. Evening activities are for more adult audiences, but daytime activities are geared for everyone.

October is festival month, and honestly, if you can find a way to show up and just stay here for the first two weeks you’ll see some of the best live music around.

The 2nd Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival kicks things off October 3-5 at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Mateo. Rhonda Flemming and the Rage return as headliners.

The following weekend is Columbus Day weekend and two great shows that don’t overlap are happening.

Friday and Saturday, it’s the 3rd Annual Mustang Music Fest in Corolla. Two days of non-stop music. Followed by the 7th Annual Duck Jazz Fest on the town green in Duck on Sunday. Beautiful setting, great music–an amazing day.

Wow! Too much to even write about. Check out these links for more information. Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau or the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.

Outer Banks Tribute to Patsy Cline

Sometimes you kick yourself because you know you should get around to doing something and then when you finally do, you know should have done it earlier. Which perfectly describes Laura Martier in Portrait of Patsy Cline at the Outer Banks Jubilee in Kitty Hawk. Tonight was the last performance of the season, and honestly, if I had seen it earlier, I probably would have gone back one or two more times.

Laura is a remarkably gifted vocalist and although people who know her are more familiar with her as a jazz singer, the power of her voice and her range really lets her take on the music of Patsy Cline and make if feel real.

As good as Laura is, her back up band, the Tumbling Tumble Weeds, are just as good. Not a note missed and two of the musicians in particular are much better known for other kinds of music. Joe Mapp on guitar is an amazing jazz guitarist and LauraâåÛåªs husband, Dan–who is also the musical director–is a rock and jazz drummer who tours nationally with Tim Reynolds and TR3.

Hard to point to a high point of the show, but the second set of the first act really came through for me. A slight shift from strictly country to country swing that seemed to suit LauraâåÛåªs voice and the bandâåÛåªs mood a little better.

If YouâåÛåªve Got LeavinâåÛåª on Your Mind and Lovesick Blues in particular really stood out.

Fine Dining Outer Banks Style


Here’s some important information about the Outer Banks: there’s probably more really good restaurants per square mile than any other place anywhere. I realize this sounds like pure local boosterism, but I am continually amazed at both the quality of the cuisine and the diversity of what is offered.

I took my daughter to dinner at Firefly down in Nags Head the other night. The restaurant specializes in Southern cuisine and I realize it’s hard to think of fried food and collard greens as “cuisine” but these guys really take it to another level. I had what may have been the best fried flounder I have ever had. Huge serving . . . and I mean HUGE . . . fresh, flaky with a light breading that brought our the brought out the mild, slight sweetness of the fish.

My daughter got the lobster mac and cheese–monstrous portion . . . easily a meal the next day. And it was wonderful.

Last night I met a friend for dinner at the Beachside Bistro in the Sea Ranch in Kill Devil Hills.

Another great meal. We both ended up getting the grilled mahi-mahi with shrimp risotto. It was very, very good. The view was nice too. The Bistro sits right on the Ocean and with storms rolling through last night we got to watch the weather move out to sea.

All this just says to me, Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives fame needs to make a second visit to the Outer Banks with a new list in hand.

Outer Banks Coastal Studies Institute

When our roads are filled with visitors, our houses full and the beach is lined with families camped out on towels enjoying the surf and time together, itâåÛåªs easy to forget that the Outer Banks is actually a geological wonder . . . a series of gigantic sandbars that call the coast of North Carolina home.

IâåÛåªm thinking of all of this because I had a chance to visit the Coastal Studies Institute on Roanoke Island the other day. The CSI, as it is known, is the gigantic very modern building that seems to rise out of the marsh on the road to Wanchese. Part of the UNC system itâåÛåªs a collaborative effort among just about every college and university in North Carolina.

The research theyâåÛåªre doing there is pretty cutting edge stuff, but one of the neat things about it, is every time IâåÛåªve had a chance to talk to the folks who work there–and yes, they are real scientists–they go out of their way to try to make their work understandable.

Here are some of the things theyâåÛåªre working on. How sea level rise effects the marshes of the sounds. Undersea archeology and mapping the sea floor off the North Carolina coast. And the Renewable Ocean Energy Project where they are looking at wave, tidal and ocean currents as a source of renewable energy.

Cool stuff. Mostly graduate school programs, but there are occasional undergrads who make their way there as well.