Hurricane Surfers Chase Irene as Others Evacuate East Coast

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"Water is incredibly heavy, so when it's moving at you it has a lot of force behind it," Watson said. "That's where the damage comes from. It's that water that kills people."

Even though he understands the risks, Lopez is not backing down.

"We look forward to these hurricanes," he said. "People die every day and it's a fact of life with these storms. But there will probably be more traffic fatalities and direct wind effects and storm surge from Irene [than deaths from surfing accidents]."

For Lopez, the thrill of danger and passion for surfing large swells began when he was a child and his surfing father would come and take him out of school on the pretense of a doctor's appointment so that they could surf hurricanes together.

"That was the highlight of my childhood, waiting for those storms to come," Lopez said. "I've been waiting on these my whole life."

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