Hampton Gone Wild

By Tom Richardson
Dave Cropper of Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop on North Beach.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, is best known for its crowded beaches and raucous nightlife, but it also has a “wild” side that offers a different perspective on this famous summer destination.

The author, surfing.

Last week, cameraman Camden Spear and I visited the Hampton Beach area to check out some its other outdoor activities and venues, starting with a surfing lesson with Dave Cropper of Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop on North Beach. The shop had recently suffered smoke damage from a fire in the restaurant next door, but Dave was kind enough to devote a few hours to tell us about the local surf scene. I even donned a wetsuit and jumped in the ocean, which felt surprisingly warm (65 degrees) for mid-September. Dave walked me through the process of getting on a board, and in no time I was shredding the one-foot-tall waves. Yeah, not exactly challenging, although I was pretty proud of myself.

The author, left, Hampton Beach lifeguard chief Patrick Murphy and Seacoast Regional Parks Supervisor Meredith Collins pose for a photo on Hampton Beach.

Once I had peeled the wetsuit from my body, Camden and I headed to Hampton Beach State Park for a tour with NH State Parks Seacoast Regional Supervisor Meredith Collins. First, Meredith showed us around the popular RV campground next to the harbor inlet and the pavilion. Then we made our way to the beach, where we were met by Patrick Murphy, chief of the Hampton Beach Lifeguards, who gave us a ride along the beach in an UTV. We stopped by lifeguard headquarters to learn a bit more about the lifeguard training process and duties, as well as some safety tips for visitors. We also got to see the lifeguard’s extensive collection of toys found on the beach (dinosaurs and sharks rank high on the list of recovered items).

Our Ford Bronco Sport, on loan from Hampton Ford, at the launch area off Rte 101.

As evening approached, Camden and I headed for the dirt launch area at the base of the Rte. 101 bridge. This spot is an ideal place to launch a kayak, which is precisely what I did as Camden flew the drone over the surrounding marshes. The marsh really feels worlds away from the bustling Hampton Beach strip, as afford opportunities to view all sorts of birdlife. There’s good fishing for striped bass too, or so I have been told.

The headquarters of Al Sauron Deep Sea Fishing.

The next day, Camden and I arrived at the Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watch docks and boarded the F/V All In for a half-day bottom fishing trip. Our captain was Derek Gauron, grandson of Al Gauron himself. After steaming some 20 miles east, we fished a set of deep humps for a variety of bottom fish. In short order, a mix of haddock, redfish, whiting, pollock, mackerel, and cusk were coming over the rails, keeping the mates busy unhooking fish and untangling lines.

Anglers get down to the business of bottom fishing on the "All In."

Despite the lumpy seas, most of the passengers seemed to enjoy themselves, and most went home with a least a few fillets. We had a great time talking with Derek in the wheelhouse, as he has a lot of interesting stories about the local fishing scene and the changes he has witnessed over the years. You’ll hear some of them too, when the “Hampton Gone Wild” episode airs on October 30!