To open the new year, Winterstorm Grayson battered the East Coast with blizzard conditions and arctic temperatures. The storm was defined as a bombogenesis, “a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours,” according to NOAA. Knowing the conditions were going line up just before nightfall XTERRA SURF ambassadors, Sean Santiago & Fiona Mullen, ventured into the storm at its worst. When they arrived, they were greeted by a desolate beach and howling offshore winds. 17 inches of snow to accompany what would turn out to be a solo session to remember.
“I woke up, not planning to do anything that day. I walked about 3 miles to the nearest coffee shop and on the way, saw some waves rolling through. I immediately ran back and grabbed my camera. It just so happened that Santi was messaging me, frothing to get in the water. We headed north up the frigid coast until we found a peeling left coming off a pier. Sean suited up and I went out to the snow-covered pier to shoot. Although it was challenging conditions to shoot in trying to keep the subject in focus during the blizzard, and not knowing if my toes were going to fall off, it was truly a moment us surfers and surf photographers live for. Only a couple hours of shooting amounted to several photos. It was definitely worth it.” – Fiona Mullen on photographing during the Grayson Storm, Central New Jersey.
The storm proved to be a memorable one for a majority of the Eastern seaboard. From Florida to Maine, most of the coast was coated white with snow and pristine conditions.
Meanwhile, in the days following the storm unusual cold and slushy waters plagued the coast. This phenomenon created an interesting aesthetic setting for surf photographer, Jay Ruthkowski.
“Days after the storm, it got extremely cold dropping to -9 degrees F. I woke up before the sunrise and put on my best pair of Carhartts. I headed down to the beach at low tide with a fully charged battery and not a soul in sight. The frozen bay and icy ground was glistening in the rising sun. Once I got to the beach, I noticed some breaking waves that were fully slush. It was crazy to see salt water go against all odds and freeze like that. It was hands down the coldest I have ever been shooting, boarder line frost bite. Most people think it’s crazy for us to go out in these conditions, but that’s what separates the men from the boys. We have a strong core group of surfers and surf photographers here in NJ that we are proud of. We do what we love, under any conditions. Once I started defrosting and looking at the photos, I knew it was worth every freezing moment.” – Jay Ruthkowski on shooting slush waves, OC NJ.
And worthy it was. Check out the images above for full gallery!
When the swell fills in, you are guaranteed to see some incredible photos from the day captured by XTERRA SURF staff photographer Lee Bertrand. Between chasing swells, swimming with sharks and playing with his daughter, Lee has become a staple in the San Diego surf scene. We were able to catch up with Lee for a little Q&A to get to know the man behind the lens.