Finding time to surf a superstorm

By Doug Robichaud
On November 13, 2012

Johnny Benevento went home last weekend to get his chipped tooth fixed, but instead found himself in the dangerous ocean on his surfboard in the midst of Hurricane Sandy.

"I wasn't really planning on going out," Benevento said. "I chipped my tooth and had to go home to get it fixed. I brought my boards with me just in case there were some waves and it ended up being a pretty fun day.  I never ended up getting my tooth fixed though."

Benevento, a sophomore business student at UNH, is from Beverly, Mass., but calls Wellfleet, a town on Cape Cod, home during the summer.

Benevento started surfing about six years ago and said that it is now his favorite thing to do. His uncle, Drew, had been a surfer his entire life, and was the one who got Benevento up on his first wave.

"My home break would for sure have to be Wellfleet," Benevento said. "I try to surf every day it's decent down there.  When I'm not surfing, I'm teaching surf lessons, so either way, I am in the water just about every day of the summer."

Benevento ended up surfing at West Beach in Beverly on Sunday morning while he was home. He said the winds were blowing about 35 mph, creating a very choppy ocean; dark storm clouds blanketed the sky, giving the ocean an evil look. Benevento said there was a light rain, but the heavy winds made the rain seem worse than it actually was.

According to him, West Beach does not usually get waves unless there is a powerful storm like Sandy.

"I've surfed there once before, and both times were wicked fun. There are a lot of rocks, so it's a little hairy, but I grew up playing at that beach and knew where they all were," Benevento said.

He said that all of his friends and family thought he was crazy for going surfing in the storm and that a couple of people were surprised to hear him say he had been in the ocean. He explained that the storm wasn't as bad as he expected it to be.

Benevento paddled out his 5-foot-2-inch Al Merrick Biscuit, which he described as a fast little board, and his "go-to" in most conditions. He wore a wetsuit with booties, which kept him warm throughout the whole session.

He ended up surfing Hurricane Sandy alone.

"My younger brother had school and couldn't come. ... I was sending him pictures, which got him pretty rattled," Benevento said. "There were a few other surfers out too, but everyone spent the day running up and down the coast to different places, which is always fun."

While Benevento was out surfing, a crowd of curious people watched from the beach.  He said that the people were stoked to be watching people surf during the storm.  Every time someone caught a wave, they all would cheer.

"My last wave was my best one by far. It was decently long and pretty fast with some fun sections to snap around in," Benevento said.

The numerous surfers caught the attention of local reporters, as well. A photo of Benevento surfing during the hurricane made it into his local newspaper.

"I had no idea my photo was in the paper," Benevento said.  "My dad called me the next morning and told me to look in The Salem News. There was a decent amount of other people surfing that day, so I was surprised. I snapped an Instagram of it, which got a lot of hype. All in all, it was a pretty fun day."

After surfing during Hurricane Sandy, Benevento said he thought it was pretty sick, but that the hurricane was not as good as others he has surfed.

He said that hurricane swells are all different from one another and he has been in different places every time he has surfed a hurricane; Hurricanes Bill, Igor and Irene were some of the past ones he remembered of having a lot of fun surfing.

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