Chris McDonald of Kill Devil Hills, NC turns the corner on a beautiful Hatteras barrel. Photo: Brittain.

Words by John Streit. Photos by Daniel Brittain & Streit.

Snowmageddon. Winter Storm Janus. Polar Vortex.

Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure: our most recent blast of Arctic air has produced more than just winter-wonderland landscapes, school closures and icy streets.

It produced pumping conditions for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, particularly for the reliable swell magnet of Hatteras Island. With a massive low-pressure system sending a healthy fetch of north-northeast wind pointed directly at the Mid-Atlantic, swell forecasts lit up with what promised to be ideal conditions for Thursday, Jan. 23.

While the swell exceeded the original projections with solid overhead surf and scattered double-overhead rogue sets, a frigid northwest wind added sideshore texture and the extreme swell angle produced a 15-knot north-to-south current. The result was challenging conditions that thoroughly tested the hearty crew that braved the lineup. While temperatures were up considerably from the day before — a balmy 33 degrees — 47 degree water and a bluebird sky provided some relief.

The following photos document the overnight trip I made with fellow S&A grinder Danny Brittain to chase this frigid pulse of swell. Even though the conditions didn’t line up well enough to be considered “epic,” his lens captured some jaw-dropping moments.


As clear and cold as a Mid-Atlantic night could be, Danny pointed his lens toward the heavens in Colington, N.C. Photo: Brittain.


The morning dawned cold and brisk. Thankfully, the sunshine provided what little warmth it could across the Outer Banks. Photo: Streit.


It was one of those sandbar-search kind of days. After checking around the island, the boys decided on this Hatteras shorebreak. Photo: Brittain.


John Streit pig-dogs a slabby one. Due to the north-northeast swell angle, lefthanders were dominant. Photo: Brittain.


While most waves were in the 5- to 7-foot range, this bomb shows the size of the larger sets of the day. Use the guy in the right side of the pic for reference. Photo: Brittain.


An unidentified surfer negotiates an against-the-grain right. Photo: Brittain.


The bodyboards got some of the day’s gems. Unidentified. Photo: Brittain.


The same unidentified sponger from a different angle. Photo: Brittain.


There weren’t too many sections that allowed for big turns, but this unidentified ripper sniffed one out on the inside. Photo: Brittain.


John’s friend Crew Hayes of Hatteras Island Boardsports was charging hard. Photo: Brittian.


John Streit, over the ledge. Photo: Brittain.


Icicles grip Nags Head Pier. Photo: Brittain.


It was a good day. Photo: Streit.


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