Windy Weekend, Part 2

Saturday morning weather was horrible for anything other than staying snug inside.  But if I wanted to get any kind of story, I would have to pull myself out of bed in that warm, cozy camp and brave the elements.

My plan was to head to the island for breakfast and just see where that would lead me.  I grabbed my notebook, jacket, camera bag and I was off.

After breakfast, I drove the quaint inner streets of the island, wanting to see what kind of destruction had been caused by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Grand Isle actually served as the “barrier island” for coastal communities north and northwest of there, including mine, during Hurricane Gustav.  The wind moved many of the sand dune levees inland, covering yards and roads with sand that has not yet been removed seven months later.  However, the island interior looked pretty good considering the beating it took.

Several years ago, I attended a birding weekend in Grand Isle.  It was the first time I had ever gone for the “fallout” of the migratory birds making their way from across the Gulf of Mexico north.  The first land they see is the barrier islands along the coast; and since most of the islands are gone, Grand Isle is the first one they come to, and they are exhausted, hungry and thirsty and they literally fall out of the sky.  Many don’t survive the journey; but those who are strong enough to survive find backyard feasts–tables laden with seed, red mulberry trees, bird baths, and water hoses misting in the trees for birdie showers.

I passed by the backyard where I first learned to identify many species of migratory birds and even took a sneak photo of our then governor doing some birding of his own.  The yard looked storm ravaged with no signs of feeding tables, but just a little further down the street . . .

Birders welcomewas this pretty little yard, waiting at the ready for both birds and birders alike.  The sign says, “BIRDERS WELCOME”.

And if you’ve been to Grand Isle but never bothered to ride down the little streets where the full-time folks live, well, you’ve missed a special treat.

grandislestreetBecause in their prime, this is how those back streets look.  This photo is taken from the back of the road looking toward the main highway and beyond that is the beach.  Just gorgeous.  I could get lost in a world of make believe back here.  (That’s another blog post!)

Enough day dreaming.  Back to business.

The night before, D-Wray had told me there might be surfers taking advantage of the super high winds that would not be conducive to the poor kayak fishermen who would be fishing competition next morning.

I went in search of surfers, and I was greatly rewarded!

Commander BendleThis is the first one I came across.  Met him the parking lot while he warmed up next to his car.  Uh yea, it was kinda cold to be surfing, but according to him, the waves were “offshore, head high” and that is AWESOME DUDE for Grand Isle.

I don’t know if he minds my saying so, but this is the commander of the Grand Isle Coast Guard station.  I thought that was kinda cool!  He remembered the dolphin rescue photos I took of his crewmen last year.

Well, was that just another “small world” serendipitous moment?

Unknown surferI confess. I have no idea who this surfer is.  He just looked so good carrying that board, that I momentarily lost my mind, slapped on the zoom lens and basically invaded his personal space.  He was clueless, but he was cute!

When I snapped back to my senses and turned around to head toward a concentration of surfers, this HUGE surfer came running out of the water and walked in front of me so fast I could hardly catch up to him without breaking into a run, so I hollered,

“Hey!  I’m trying to catch up to you!  Hey!  Could you please slow down?”

The handsome young man turned, hand on chest and asked, “Who?  Me?”

I gave him the quick “I’m working on a piece for the Advocate schpeel,” and he seemed very willing to talk and low and behold, it’s a very small world again.

Exchanging introductions, I learned his name is James Walker and he’s from my nearby town.  He’s 40 years old and admitted through shameful laughter that has been surfing at Fourchon Beach and Grand Isle for 20 years.

He gave me the skinny on surfing there and taught me some of the terms and pointed out what some of the guys were attempting to do out there.

And then he had to rush off because, “These waves won’t last all day.  Gotta catch ’em while we can.”  And off he went into the surf from whence he came, just like some black-skinned merman.

Then my zoom lens and I had a veritable visual feast!  It was a blast watching these guys catch a wave and I was sitting on top of the world!!

James WalkerJames Walker getting ready to ride a wave.

James Walker 2At 205 pounds, surfing is quite a challenge for James, but he loves it.

James Walker 3Hang in there, baby, hang in!

James Walker 4After the riptide carries them far enough east where the waves run slack, they get out of the water and walk the beach back west about 300 yards and do it all over again.

It was time for me to go see what other kind of trouble interesting stuff I could find for this piece . . .

Unknown surfersAs I was leaving, these youngsters were arriving, so I threw a little surfing lingo at ’em, “Hey dudes!  Epic day! Off the head, shore high!”

They just shook their punky little heads, shrugged their shoulders and walked on by. Smart kids.

To be continued still . . .

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  1. The only part of the Gulf I have ever seen was Galveston, I know, I know, but I never thought the waves would get high enough to sport a surfer dude……I would have to wait for warmer waterz, training rudders & a handle bar……..I have been wanting to learn to kayak for a while now, but fishing from one…light bulb! Single mom, young fisherson, big boat vs little budget….sounds like a workable & do-able plan. Will start searching for guide/teacher, if you have any one in your vast resources, could you email me?? See…your article has inspired yet another, (& I havent got to read it yet…!!! lol) And, I now want to come & check out Grande Isle too…have heard of it but never seen it…Your making my to do list longerrrrrrr BW, but thats ok too.

    1. Sweetie M – you will most likely be able to read the little article online, and I will post the link at the proper time. If not, I’ll send you a copy, okay? Now, about kayak fishing. I have two fishing kayaks for when you and son come down. You can start easy right in the bayou and see how it goes. How does that sound? I don’t know of any instructors up your way, but I will certainly keep my eyes and ears open in my network, okay? Sorry about adding to your list but we ain’t gettin’ any younger, sweetheart! LOL!

  2. Beautiful photos! I know what you mean when you say “my zoom lens and I”. I couldn’t part with mine!!

  3. I have actually surfed before and I loved it! Too bad Oklahoma isn’t the greatest place to go surfing…..I learned a couple of years ago in Hawaii and fell in love with it. If I had my own board I would be tempted to get in the Jeep and head south right now!

    1. Mrs. Coach, I wish you would have been there in all your surfing glory!!! Those little boys were just so cute running around in those wet suits!!! And yes, it’s all in good fun because I’m old enough to be mother to almost all of them!!!

  4. Are you sure you were in G.I. for the beach shots? The other places I recognize, not the water though! You must have blue lenses for your camera. The water almost looked blue! We can’t wait for G.I. State Park to reopen so we can do 2 of our most enjoyable ( and OVERDUE) pastimes. Camping and surf fishing! You’ve really made me want it even more just looking at pictures of the surf. I’m glad I wasn’t able to hear the crashing of the surf. It would have sent me into a deep depression! You didn’t happen to make it to the end of the Island, did you? They might have let a “Reporter” in the Park to see the the re -building progress. Thanks BW, I really did enjoy all the photos and the story as well.

    1. Steffi, I really was there. The way the sun was positioned, it sometimes cast a purple glare on the waves, which I could not remove no matter what I tried. I think the blue sky makes the water look that way, because I did not have a lens filter nor did I add blue in editing. Sometimes, color just isn’t true. And those waves were enormous for G.I. and the sounds of surf were magnificent!!! Sorry to depress you, dear! I didn’t make it into the state park. If I would have had time, I would have flashed my “PRESS” badge (yes I do have one) and maybe they would have let me have a sneak peak. Camping and surf fishing. Sounds grand!!! (get it? GRAND?!!!)

  5. Well it’s better to have a long to-do list than a complete blank dance card….lol. I will certainly take you up on that!!! but will still continue my search around here, with Lake O the Pines, Caddo Lake, Cross Lake, Lake Cherokee, yadda yadda, surely someone is out there kayak fishing, and SURELY one of those would be willing to give a lesson or two or at least be willing to fish out a couple of drenched diehards. lol

  6. I’m sorry I haven’t been here in awhile. So you finally caught a fall out? We tried to catch one (probably the same storm system) on the Dry Tortugas the other day. We ended up having to leave the island because we would have been stuck there for days if we didn’t return. We did see quite a few birds (many warblers) that added at least a half dozen to my lifelist. I miss the Grand Isle bird migration but this was almost as good.