Watch “Winter Surfing”, our new short documentary about New England’s best kept secret

Hear writer/producer/director Greg Shea and surfer Pam Chevez talk about the film on GBH’s morning edition.

Driving along the short stretch of New Hampshire coastline with her college boyfriend in 2005, Melinda Ferreira looked out the window and spotted what she thought was local wildlife.

“I said ‘Oh, look at those beautiful seals in the water just off the coast,'” she recalled with a laugh. “And he’s like, they’re surfers.”

She decided to join them, but figured her first lesson scheduled for a weekend in May would be canceled when New Hampshire’s choppy spring weather got worse.

“It was 40 degrees outside, hail, wind and rain,” she said. “And we went to the store to politely reschedule and everything. The guy who took us for a lesson was like ‘you guys excited or what?’

It was his introduction to a community of New England surf enthusiasts so dedicated to their sport that bad weather is never an excuse to avoid the beach. Indeed, GBH News has spent time with more than half a dozen surfers from Rhode Island to Maine for whom braving wind, snow and freezing water temperatures is part of the fun.

LOOK: Winter Surfing: New England’s Best Kept Secret

“If you have a good swell and the winds are going to be good, it doesn’t matter if it’s 90 degrees or 3 degrees. You go out,” said Dave Cropper, 53, of Hampton, NH “And then you’re in the water and you’re just waiting for the next wave and you go into another dimension.”

“For me, it’s a very spiritual experience.”

Melinda Ferreira, surfer from New Hampshire

For Ferreira, that cold surf lesson decades ago sparked a passion. Standing on a wave made him want to start over. She often starts her day along the coast of Rye, NH at first light – half an hour before sunrise. On a recent morning in January, the sky was pink as she warmed up with yoga poses on her surfboard. Then she closed the hood of her wetsuit and headed for the water.

“You look out to the horizon and the sun is coming up, to be able to see that coming up off your board in temperatures of zero degrees or less, I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “I imagine it’s like an astronaut looking down to earth and just thinking ‘what am I looking at?’ For me, it’s a very spiritual experience.

Short documentary written, produced and directed by Greg Shea

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