Anything Goes on LBI for Summer 2013Unexpected Surf, Lib Tech’s Waterboard, ‘Landfall’ Film, Tom Curren and a Tidal Wave?
I’m probably going to feel differently by the end of the summer, but right now, everything and everyone on LBI is just awesome.
Normally I take the position of a typical local. The first stellar weekends come around, and although we know damn well how all of our livelihoods are affected by tourism, we start to get all jaded.
“Oh boy,” we say with a roll of the eyes, “They’re here again. Did you see what she was doing on the beach today? Did you hear what he said to his waitress?”
But not this year – not yet anyway. This summer is a little different. Anything goes.
We’re not so quick to complain about traffic. We’re not so put off by having to buy a badge. We graciously wait at a crowded bar for our beverage, even if we know the bartender. We don’t even get mad when our new neighbor cuts all the trees down in the yard and invites everyone he knows to his post-Sandy acquired beach house to blare classic rock all night.
No, you won’t hear a word out of us. We had a good scare put into us this year. Of course, there was Sandy and a good “rogering” from the insurance companies. We rubbed our nickels together, and somehow we’re getting this soggy sandbar and muddy mainland back into shape.
But there was a point when we wondered if folks would be returning to LBI. See, we never really had to work at it before. We were kind of like that not-so-bright guy or girl who gets by on good looks. But when your face gets mangled in a chainsaw accident (or 6-foot storm surge), you have to step up their game. And we did.
We knew some folks wouldn’t be back. Despite all the positive vibes we put out there, there are still a lot of houses under renovation. Some are almost done. Some are being raised. Others are just a pile of dust and a chimney. But early-season weekends were downright scary for business.
April and May were a cruel joke. The piping plovers were still sitting down in the Caribbean going, “What a’ you, outta your mind? I ain’t flying back up there yet. Call me when you can’t see your breath.”
Memorial Day weekend saw a cold front drop out of the Arctic. The next weekend had tropical-storm rains. And on top of all this, the wind hasn’t stopped – and I think I actually saw an iceberg with a Titanic-shaped dent a few weeks ago.
All of this had locals feeling pretty uneasy.
That’s why Saturday was such a joyous occasion. Suddenly there were sunbathers on the beach. There was a wait for a breakfast table. There was traffic on the Boulevard (merging to one lane in Brant Beach was a nice touch, Thank-You Fest.)
The surf shops started booking lessons. The mini-golf courses had to actually get out more than four clubs. The hardware stores stopped just selling garbage bags and mold masks and went back to filling propane tanks.
There were people here. They were laughing. They were surfing. They were scarfing down clams on the half shell that have been declared free of toxins. They were zipping boats across the bay without fear of hitting a submerged house. They were enjoying musicians who actually wrote their own music (good work, Thank-You Fest.) And finally – finally – people were swimming off our beaches!
And locals seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. We shrugged off the out-of-state plate that pulled out obliviously in front of us. We just smiled at the fair-weather surfer who couldn’t get out of the way. We accepted 14.5 percent as a plenty fair tip. We embraced the parked cars stacking from beach to bay. Nothing could bother us. It was summer and people were back, enjoying LBI.
SHRED REPORT: Locals have been in a pretty good mood lately anyway from all the solid surf we’ve had. Following that Tropical Storm Andrea swell, we then enjoyed a full week of rideable waves. And most notably, the ocean temp made a nearly 10-degree jump.
Unlike the June 8-9 event, we didn’t have highly anticipated swell. These were just locally generated waves that exceeded our expectations. The first came last Wednesday. Tuesday presented a few lines of decent size with southwesterly winds. The wind had switched to west during the night and the waves were super clean by morning, at waist to chest-high. It wasn’t huge or phenomenal, but the way the sand is set up and the fact that we were barely expecting waves, when you see that 2- to 3-foot forecast, it might mean barely rideable or shoulder-high and firing. This one was more on the firing side, and, its being a weekday, you could have had it all to yourself.
After one particularly long right, I was jogging back up the beach and noticed someone paddling into a wave. It seemed weird because I had just been out there alone and hadn’t noticed anyone paddling out. Upon closer inspection, it was a dolphin riding into a wave. Then I noticed two dolphins in the face of the next one. They were so graceful I thought maybe they were mocking my bad style.
And the surf stayed fun most of the day, with the wind not going south until late afternoon (although a little mean to the 9-to-5 crew.) It was great for getting in early and getting to the nose on a longboard or making speed in the pocket on a shortboard and gouging a little pocket turn. Perhaps you got a little of both?
Friday morning was when we had all the storm warnings from those tempests coming out of the west. From what we saw locally, it was a lot of bark and not a lot of bite. After what we went through last October, March and even the previous Friday, it will take a lot more than some storm clouds to shake us up – although that was a pretty impressive wall of black that moved in.
Some of the northerly winds associated with that front kicked up another surprise swell that cleaned up Friday afternoon. I heard a few reports of faces that picked up just overhead. This swell had north-northwest winds with a bunch of lefts and a few against-the-grain rights. The tides were a little funny, and in general, it was fairly peaky. I got plenty of reports from everywhere that evening up at Asbury Lanes, where Face to Face played. I am pretty sure that everyone who regularly surfed Bergen Avenue circa 1999 was at the show, letting loose to such classics as “A.O.K.” and “Big Choice.” Good stuff.
While there were some who were too lumped up from PBRs and the flying elbows of poor dance styles in Asbury, everyone else was up on Saturday morning for clean leftovers. The winds were fairly light with a few rippable sets on offer. Even when the tide eventually ate the small swell, it was clean enough for a ride on the right board. Having all these solid days is making June a great month of surf.
Saturday was the first day that you could really surf in trunks this year, and it’s a much-welcomed relief. If you remember, winter struck a day after Sandy. Before that historic landfall, I had just put on a 3-mil. I think I actually wore a short-sleeve full to surf the groundswell that Saturday. The next time I surfed was in Atlantic City (LBI was still closed) a week later, and I needed every bit of a 4-mil, boots, gloves and hood. Considering we were still wearing all that three weeks ago, in surf terms, that’s a seven-month winter. But now it’s over. Halle-freaking-luja.
TIDAL WAVE?: Our SandPaper managing editor, Jay Mann, is handling the news of the tidal wave that hit here last Thursday. What? You didn’t hear we had a tidal wave? I guess in the realm of weather weirdness, it hasn’t even been the strangest thing to happen this month.
Technically it was a meteotsunami, or a “an atmospherically generated large amplitude seiche oscillation,” a surge of water created by a shift in pressure over the ocean associated with the storms we had last Friday.
These things are rare, but it is documented that it blasted through Barnegat Inlet and caused several people fishing on the jetty to be rushed to the hospital. You can read about it in The Fish Story.
LANDFELL: I want to congratulate director Andrew Pearson, producer Corrine Gray Ruff, and Jetty on “Landfall, the Eyes of Sandy,” which made its world premiere on Sunday. I’m sure they made their dads very proud in telling the story of the worst natural disaster to ever hit this area and the work our community has done to rebound from it.
The film will play again on June 28, July 3 and July 24 at Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven. The film travels off LBI for a show at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton on June 29, and July 20 at Pier Village in Long Branch. DVDs will be available soon at Jettylife.com.
If you have the opportunity, see the film and support the people and businesses that are featured. I also want to highlight something that Jetty co-owner Cory Higgins said in narrating the film. One of his closing comments is that “the new normal on LBI” is for community support – getting involved to help our neighbors and no longer accepting the status quo of curmudgeons who don’t ever want to see things change. If a brutal weather event is what it took to wake us up, then so be it. “Landfall” is a must-see.
WATERBOARDING: This is about the time of year that surfers, if they haven’t already, start thinking about new boards. Of course, we all want to expand our quiver in the summer, but I have a feeling it’s because a lot of us simply have a few bucks in our pockets. And I have to say that the most innovative thing I’ve seen in surf products in the last year is the Lib Tech Waterboard.
It's likely you haven’t heard of it, the reason being they’re made by a snowboard company way up in Washington state. Now Lib Tech, a.k.a. Mervin Manufacturing, has been around for 30 years, run by Peter Saari and Mike Olson. Although they have access to some of the best snow terrain in the country, they’re not far from the coast. And Olson started shaping surfboards back in the early ’80s.
The Waterboard is several decades in the making. It’s a surfboard made of 31 materials that are completely new to the surf industry. I could go into long explanations of how volcanic organic basalt honeycombs work, but the reality is that no one who’s not an accomplished surfboard shaper crossed with an organic chemist would get it – except creator Mike Olson, who is basically a stoked-as-a-grom boardrider crossed with a mad scientist.
Though they were bought by Quiksilver in 1997, Saari and Olson still run the show and have always been known for quality products above slick marketing. And through the years, they’ve had some of the most badass snowboarders in the world on their team, such as Travis Rice.
Next, let’s call a spade a spade; modern surfboards are made to last about as long as napkins. The pros all ride ultra-light, gleaming white surfboards. Hence, the rest of us want to ride these delicate magic-slippers-of-fragile-glass jobs. Unless you specifically order otherwise, the glass jobs start to deteriorate after a few months from use and sun. And if they don’t snap, they start looking like brown golf balls in a year. The Waterboard is marketed as “DH2D.” Sounds technical, but that just means Dang Hard to Ding. Northwest surfers claim these things can bounce off the rocks in serious swell and come out unscathed. How they hold up over time still remains to be seen, but Olson apparently spent two decades working on this technology.
Surfers are also very aware of where boards come from. Admittedly, we have little shame in buying disposable sticks, but we want our sleds handcrafted by U.S. boardbuilders. Otherwise, it’s a “China board,” mass-produced in an Asian factory. Most self-respecting surfers draw the line there. All Lib Tech boards – surf, skate and snow – are, and have always been, handcrafted in the United States (near Canada), as they like to advertise.
Furthermore, as the surf industry gets more aware of its ecological footprint, the Waterboard has got a huge list of environmental improvements over our standard petroleum-based-material boards, like up to 50 percent recycled content in the blank and cutting out all ozone-depleting blowing agents. The whole foam and resin formula has been cut out. Specifically, the board builder isn’t working in a toxic fog.
Island Surf and Sail in Brant Beach is the exclusive area dealer. Terry Deakyne has dealt Lib Tech snowboards for years and has a full line of Waterboards. They are broken down and named according to the company’s skate influence into the Ramp, Bowl and Vert series.
“The satisfaction rate on these is 110 percent,” said Deakyne, who has sold about half a dozen boards this spring. “And they last. There’s no reason that in this day and age surfboards shouldn’t be more durable. I send out these demo boards and they come back still looking brand new. I could take off the wax, spray them with Windex and sell them as new boards.”
Last fall, I had an opportunity to ride a Bowl. The shape, specifically the wide tail, wasn’t really conducive to Harvey Cedars’ steeper faces. But there are plenty of options. The Vert would have worked better, but the Bowl and the Ramp would probably be best in our summertime conditions. Everything else about it felt great, including its integrity.
SUMMER RADNESS: The first official day of summer is this Friday. Congratulations to all you kids who made it through a trying school year, from the ones who still managed to pass despite being displaced for months or having to wait on line twice as long on taco day with the temporary overcrowding.
It seems Thank-You Fest went off really well. You can’t beat that theme when you think about the first responders and what they risked during Sandy. Whoever had the idea to book original music gets big props, too. There may be hope for this culturally forsaken sandbar of cover bands yet. I saw Ken Gallant of South End Surf and Paddle getting people out on SUP boards in the bay. The food was awesome, and the vendors were all busy. The kids genuinely seemed stoked, too. I know there are a few folks around who would like to see the balloons cut for next year since so many of them wound up in the bay we are working so desperately to save. And maybe these local environmentally themed events should do away with the plastic water bottles and bags to set an example.
There are a few events I want everyone to mark down before summer gets under way because as slow as summer took to get here, it will fly by twice as fast.
South End Surf N’ Paddle will host a paddle race on Saturday, July 20. More details as they get ironed out. The ever-popular Island Surf and Sail Ladies Paddle Challenge is currently slated for July 26. They’ve gone two years in a row now without a tornado, so that’s lookin good.
Jetty will host the fifth annual Coquina Jam on Aug. 3, with a no-wave date of Aug. 10. The past few years this has become very popular for traveling female surfers, so let’s make sure we get all the local girls and women on board this year.
In some big news, Jetty will also be co-hosting a benefit concert at the Sea Shell on Aug. 14 with Rip Curl. The legendary surfer, three-time ASP World Champ and noted musician Tom Curren will be playing his soulful tunes. It doesn’t look like Curren is doing a full East Coast tour, so there will be a lot of people traveling to this one. Get your ticket now.
Finally, the Alliance for a Living Ocean will host its LBI Longboard Classic on Aug. 24, a great way to end the summer.
So there you have it. This is your official summer kickoff. Stay out late, get up early, work hard and get as many waves as you can before the water goes back down to polar temps.
And as I said at the start, we will be letting things go this year. If you’re an “I live in Cherry Hill but my family has had a place with the native Lenni Lenapes” summer person, a weekender, or you’re here for one glorious Saturday to Saturday, enjoy yourself. Locals are going take it easy on you. But let’s get this straight. When you come to LBI, it’s called “going to the beach.” This whole “down the shore” thing just won’t fly.