Bob Freeman's
Surfing Memories

... Coast Guard Rescue - Hurricane Faith
Story September 1966 - Shackleford Banks, NC
Hurricane Faith was only a Cat one storm as she focused swell energy towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She would pass by well offshore, but was sending a large groundswell towards our south facing beaches.

Hurricane Faith's tract - 1966
Hurricane Faith's tract - September 1966

Three of us planned on surfing late that afternoon in front of the Pavilion at Atlantic Beach. Winds had just shifted out of the north which is offshore on our barrier islands. My best friend, Bernie Moore and my cousin Bobby Webb (not the Bobby Webb of Action Surfboards) were surprised to see how big the surf was. The outside waves had 10 ft faces and the strong offshore wind was producing huge fans of spray as the waves broke. We knew it was too big for us to surf as we still considered ourselves beginners ... we'd never make it out anyway.

But, then the spectators and news media saw us.

"Look... Surfers!"

Atlantic Beach had very few surfers back then. Probably no more than 30 in all of Carteret County by that summer's end. So most of the spectators had never seen surfing.

With everyone watching... we knew we had to at least make an attempt to paddle out past the 1st break and catch a couple of the smaller waves. The crowd gathered as we walked across the boardwalk. We could sense their anticipation and excitement ... so, we decided to put on a show for them.

We stopped on the beach to wax up and the crowd pressed even closer. We drew a circle in the sand, place our surfboards inside and arranged some shells in it. Then we started chanting and stomping around it in some contrived ritual fashion. We gathered up seaweed and wore it like wigs. The crowd watched with much interest when we then sat quietly at water's edge with our boards at our side for about 10 minutes.

We then attempted the paddle out... Hurricane Faith - 1966
Hurricane Faith - September 1966
We were all riding the classic longboard logs of the 60s. Big heavy boards with no leashes. Mine was a new 9'6" Hansen Competitor.

Bobby Webb got caught inside and never made it out. Bernie Moore and I were knee paddling, and with the strong offshores at our back we made it past the first several breaks. This is where we had planned to stop and catch a few waves, but when the outside appeared flat we kept stroking hard to see if we could get far enough out before the big sets returned.

Bernie swung around and caught the first wave of a set. He rode it to the beach and never made it back out. I kept paddling over that set, then saw a much bigger set further out. I paddled harder and managed to make it over each of its waves. A smaller set approached and I dropped in on the last wave. I fell on the backside takeoff and the offshore wind blew the board back over the wave. I got to it in time to race further out as more sets were appearing on the horizon.
I had been around the ocean all my life. I was a Beach Boy and part time ocean lifeguard that summer. I was a strong swimmer. But, I realized that if I lost my board again ... I wouldn't be able to swim all the way in. Afraid to risk another late takeoff air drop, I paddled around way outside trying to find a rideable shoulder while avoiding the sets.

Atlantic Beach Fishing Pier
Spectators were moved off the piers
By this time I had drifted about a half mile up the beach and was now several hundred yards off the Sportsman's Pier. The sets were producing much bigger waves and the offshore wind was sending a constant spray across the surface. A passing squall produced strong gusts and very nasty conditions. The water was full of churning sand.

Beaufort Inlet
Beaufort Inlet

Cape Lookout
Cape Lookout's lighthouse

Before long the rip had taken me further out and more up the beach past the Oceana and Triple-S piers towards Beaufort Inlet with un-inhabited Shackleford Banks on the other side. There I could see even bigger waves consistently breaking on the outer sandbars about a mile offshore.

Nearing the shipping channel I tried paddling back in through the deeper water, but the currents and sideways drift carried me across that zone and back into breaking waves.

I had been in the ocean now for about 3 hours and the sun was sinking fast. I could not overcome the currents and was still afraid to paddle into a wave out on those outer sandbars.
I was drifting outside eastward with Cape Lookout's distant lighthouse now in view.

I decided to paddle the 8 miles towards it hoping that sometime after dark, I would reach the protected waters of Cape Lookout's inside blight. There I would be able to paddle in to its protective bay and spend the night on the beach until next morning.

That's when I saw a US Coast Guard boat approaching. The boat pulled up alongside me. I passed my 9'6 up to the crew then they pulled me aboard. Two of the crew were surfers from California. One from San Diego area and one from Huntington. They said it is the biggest surf they've seen since Cali and were estimating the faces on the outer sandbars surrounding the channel at 12 feet.

Some accounts of this event mention I was recoverd by a helicopter, but that was not the case.

After a long ride back, we finally docked at the Ft Macon Coast Guard station.
I walked out with my board to be met by my Mom and a small crowd. I was in real trouble now as I had not told her I was going to try to surf that day.
That afternoon she started receiving phone calls from friends who were expressing concern about my safety. The local radio station WMBL had reported me swept out to sea. She did not know I had gone surfing until then.

She grabbed me by the ear and marched me to her parked station wagon ... much to the enjoyment of the Coast Guard crew and others. One of my friends who was there said I might have been safer that evening marooned on Cape Lookout then facing my mother's fury.
Coast Guard boat
this was the boat that found me

Ft Macon Coast Guard station
Ft Macon Coast Guard Station

This maps shows where we paddled out and where I was rescued by the Coast Guard...
Shackleford Banks
Atlantic Beach, Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout

Shackleford Banks is a beautiful barrier island. These days many boaters enjoy the calm waters along its backside where there are several nice beaches.

The ocean side has a powerful shore break and has become a well know surf spot. I surfed the lefts there that emptied into Beaufort Inlet a couple times back in '65. It has now become a crowded surf spot.

Its only residents are the famous wild "ponys". Actually they are descendents of Spanish stallions ... survivors of 16th century shipwrecks. It is reachable only by boat.

the wild Ponys of Shackleford Banks

Within a few days following this adventure I moved to Cocoa Beach.