MIAMI BEACH — South Beach has long been the playground of eccentrics, its sidewalk cafes and white sand beaches often crowded with overly tan musclemen, busty beach bunnies, literal snake charmers and other colorful Floridians that make it a people watcher’s dream. And no storm, not even the churning deadly force of Hurricane Irma, was about to change that.
Though the flood-prone area, like most of coastal south Florida, was under a mandatory evacuation order as Irma took aim at the state, Ocean Drive on Saturday afternoon was only somewhat less crowded and every bit as weird as usual. As the first band of feeder storms began to pound the area, with tropical force winds and stinging horizontal rain, the beach was the busiest spot in largely deserted Miami, as self-described storm tourists flocked to the ocean with their iPhones in hand.
Among them, a local man who would only be identified as “Fursace” who bolted out of a car dressed in a tiny Speedo and football helmet determined to rush into the churning ocean. He had tried it before, during two other big storms that had hit Miami, he explained. “But I didn’t have the right equipment,” he said, as a friend helped him install arm pads on his elbows. “This time I’m ready.”
A few feet away, as the rain grew heavier, three skateboarders rolled down the middle of Ocean Drive—one doing a handstand on his board. The stunt that prompted a woman who had been filming waving palm trees with her phone to shriek with delight and chase him down the street, determined to get footage. As one of the skateboarders, who identified himself as “Funky Matas,” did a second pass down the street he was flagged down by reporters who asked why he hadn’t heeded the evacuation order. He shrugged and said he wasn’t scared of Irma. In fact, he said, he planned to ride out the hurricane by tying himself to a palm tree.
Others on the scene weren’t nearly so bold. On the beach, Beatrice Felix, a 26-year-old from nearby Hialeah, wandered down to the surf with a group of friends before quickly heading back to her car. “I’ve never been in a hurricane before so I wanted to see what it looked like,” she explained. But now she was headed back to take shelter safely at home.
“This is scary, and we haven’t even been hit yet.”
A few feet away, Fursace was preparing to conquer the sea. “Tag me in your photos!” he called out, as he sprinted toward the storm. “Tag me!”
Photography by Holly Bailey/Yahoo News