Oct 20, 2008
Author: Andy McKinney
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Ride Guide: Canadian Hole
The first time I pulled into the lot at Canadian Hole, I was frothing at the mouth to go windsurfing. The 15-hour drive from Vermont will do that to you. There were a few whitecaps on the water, so I couldn’t understand why everyone was just lazing about. How in the world could they be passing up these perfect 14-knot conditions?
I learned a lot that day. First, I found the sandbar that juts out from the north end of the parking lot with my 40-centimetre pointer fin. I hit it well enough to knock the nose off my board. Luckily, like most windsurfers, I had a lot of redundant gear back then. So I grabbed a different board to continue the session. However, while stashing the broken stick in my truck, I watched my sail careen wildly across the parking lot, whereupon I learned my next lesson: The wind in Hatteras can build quickly. While all the other windsurfers in the parking lor started rigging 5.5 m2 sails, I learned lesson No. 3: Southwesterly winds typically build throughout the day, resulting in a ton of nice-lit sunset sessions throughout the summer.
The Canadian Hole is located south of Avon, North Carolina, on the Pamlico Sound side of Cape Hatteras. Water depth is consistent for miles, stretching out into the sound, where it is affected more by wind direction than the tide. Any westerly wind pushes water into the Hole, while easterlies push it out. On extremely windy days, water can either flood the parking lot or be so low that the sandbars are exposed, leaving a little pond to sail in. Water texture ranges from mirror-flat to waist-high rollers, depending on wind direction.
My favourite part of sailing the Hole is noting the change of seasons. During the winter, there is usually only one car there—yours. When spring rolls around, the lot fills up with shredmobiles from all over Canada and the U.S., packed to the brim with gear. You’ll hear more French than English, see more G-strings than boardshorts, and be able to count upwards of 100 sails on the water. After a few weeks, the spring rush ends and things settle back down. Summer draws a hundred tourists to the Hole with cameras in hand and a handful of sailors screaming around on 5.0 m2 sails. The best-kept local secret is that it’s windy here during the summer. As fall arrives, the windsurfers flood back in for a few weeks in October, ripping and fighting for parking spaces.
Accomplished and wannabe wavesailors will find easy access to the Atlantic Ocean at Canadian Hole—simply carry your gear across the highway and over the dunes to Ego Beach. South to southwest wind is the preferred directions for sailing Ego, but north to northeast will work for experienced ocean sailors familiar with launching through a ripping downwind current. When choosing gear to sail at Ego, the rule is this: Rig one size bigger sail and board than you’d use at Canadian Hole.
- Southwest wind usually builds through the afternoon.
- Northwest wind usually fades through the morning. Rig one size bigger than you think you need.
- Westerly wind blows the water in.
- Easterly wind blows the water out. Watch out for shallow sandbars.
- Bring a weed fin.
- Beware of sharp seashells in the launch zone.
- Watch out for fishing nets (two orange or neon buoys 50 metres apart).
- Watch the clouds as huge thunderstorms can spring up suddenly.
Words by Andy McKinney / Photo by Donny Bowers