New York area surfers know they are flirting with danger when a major tropical storm or hurricane approaches the area, but they also know they can catch California-like waves or better. Hurricane Irene promises to bring a prime surfing opportunity to the area this weekend but the storm is so powerful the surf may simply be too dangerous.

The latest forecast models show Hurricane Irene gained strength Tuesday night and is now approaching major hurricane status at a Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The storm is projected to impact the U.S. East Coast beginning Friday and into the weekend.

Also, the storm is likely to approach southeast Virginia Saturday night before moving just off the New Jersey shore Sunday. Hurricane Irene could make landfall on Long Island or in southeast New England late Sunday afternoon or Sunday night as a Category 1 storm with winds of 80 miles per hour or greater.

Long Island, New York stretches over 118 miles into the  northern Atlantic Ocean, and produces some of the most powerful surf on the East Coast, thus the area is one of the most popular surfing areas in the region. Because the middle and eastern end of Long Island is cluttered with reef and point breaks, the area results often in some of the biggest, and best surf on the East Coast.

Throw a hurricane or tropical storm into the mix, and the waves can become collasal, and dangerous.

Heavy rain, pounding surf, rip currents and strong winds are expected along the the coast into New England as the storm approaches and passes.

Experienced surfers in the New York area are famous for tackling currents from tropical storms, and one who moved to Manhattan from California four years ago said the best surfing action he's ever had was in the midst of a passing tropical storm. Wishing to remain anonymous, he said he had to talk a surf shop into renting him the board beacuse they feared for his life.

When he explained his experience, they rented him the board and he caught great action all day long.

But while Hurricane Irene may seem like a good surfing opportunity, this storm appears that it will approach the New York area in hurricane strength -- meaning the surf and rip currents will be so dangerous experienced surfers should not even attempt the waters -- or they'll be putting their lives at great risk.