Guess Who’s Trying to Ruin a Great Surf Break, Busy BPs, Hurricane Brewing and MoreTaking Stock of September Storms and Dangers
It was 2003 and my first trip to Ireland. It was myself, my brother and our oldest surf buddy, the guy who would come raging into my parents’ house at 4:30 in the morning, over a decade earlier, to rouse us for dawn patrol. I was 16 and he was my ride to the beach – therefore, by default, my lifeline.
Even when said surf bud would creep past my parents’ bedroom at this ungodly hour, interrupting our fitful summer sleep (we didn’t have a.c.), my dad would let him get away with a lot more than he would ever let us. Hence, when my Pops heard that the three of us had booked a trip to Ireland, he announced he would visit our ancestry while we surfed.
Since I had driven on the left side of the road in Australia and New Zealand prior, I was elected as driver. This was not exactly a cultural adventure; once the swell died, we decided to drive every point and crag of the Irish coastline. My vote had been to just bag the surf and check out the wonders of Dublin. But my brother was intent on checking every surf spot in Ireland and surfing the only waves we could find in 30-knot onshores, and then visit legendary pubs every night. Fortunately, he let us visit the cliffs of Moher.
My father, in the passenger seat, would leave his half-empty (that’s the Irish optimist way of saying it; the Irish pessimist says it’s just empty) bottle of wine and the Lonely Planet guidebook in the driver’s console, making me have to work around it every time I shifted. My brother and my buddy just tossed Guiness cans and comments about my driving from the back seat. And it really was one of the best times of my life.
To be honest, our favorite session was the day we arrived, touching down in Shannon International Airport on Easter Sunday and making a groggy drive to the closest coast and looking for waves south of Lahinch. I remember getting directions from the most friendly people on the planet and driving around a massive golf course. We arrived at a crescent shaped beach with swell, no one out, and offshore wind. We couldn’t really judge the size, but by the time we reached the lineup, we discovered it was a few feet overhead, and somewhat critical lefts. The size dropped pretty quickly, but since it didn’t get dark until 9:30, we got another, evening session. This time it was a long, albeit slow, peeling right. The stoke of scoring that wave ranks as one of our all-time travel moments. The place was called Doonbeg.
But like so many waves in the world, Doonbeg, or more specifically, Doughmore Beach, is in peril. Apparently, just like homes, you shouldn’t build a golf course so perilously close to the Atlantic Ocean. Years of erosion are now undermining the sandy cliffs upon which the westernmost holes of the golf course are built. So, the owner of the golf course has proposed a 2.5-mile-long wall along the beach to protect his green (you can use golf or money here, interchangeably – marijuana, not so much). In actuality, the owner of the course had a few giant boulders placed at the foot of the dune already, without any permits or permission.
There is some support for the wall in the community of County Clare, as the golf course is an economic draw for the area. There is also a lot of pushback against the project because it’s a gorgeous natural coastline. Tony Lowe of Friends of the Irish Environment, who is working on a campaign to stop the insanity with the international organization Save the Waves (yes, the group that brought the Save the Waves film fest to Farias in August) told the Irish Times that the seawall would “destroy the sand dune habitat, restrict public access, negatively impact the quality of the surfing waves, and ultimately result in beach loss,” all common themes in the face of direct beachfront development.
For most of the world, golfers or not, this owner sounds like the villain in a movie with a simple plot. And if you’re wondering why this made its way into Liquid Lines, it’s not just so I could retell a classic personal surf travel story. Nah, you just have to wait for the punch line.
The owner of the golf course is Donald Trump.
And he wants to build a wall ... seriously.
SWIM NEAR A DAMN LIFEGUARD: Before I get way into the surf conditions and all the September goodness that may be coming up, I have to stress to folks to be careful in the water. As of late, without having any significant weather, we’ve had something of a “perfect storm” of conditions for dangerous swimming. There are three major factors at play right now.
1. We no longer have our trusty water temperature reading from buoy 01409125 at the mouth of Barnegat Inlet, but I am going to say the ocean is still near 70, which is nice (down from some amazing 78-degree highs, but still nice). The air temps have finally let up on us after a consistently melty summer, but we’re not dipping so low at night yet that the water temp is feeling the effect. In fact, the forecast doesn’t show us dipping down below 65 this week, so it should stay pretty nice for those late-season swims and surfing in trunks. There have been years when you could surf a quick session without a wetsuit until three weeks into October. Because the air and water have both been so warm, folks naturally want to go for a swim. That’s the obvious factor.
2. All of the sand that was pumped onto our beaches this spring and summer combined with the rapid erosion from Tropical Storm Hermine has meant that our beach and surf zone are very unstable. There are rips everywhere. I noticed a major rip cutting right through the line-up on Saturday that experienced surfers had to consciously paddle out of in Surf City. Hermine also dug out a lot of sand just off the beach, so instead of that nice sandbar at some tides, folks are treading water.
Also, the replenished beaches are made to fend off tides and surge, so when a set of bigger waves comes through, that energy doesn’t disperse as easily as it did onto the natural slope. This isn’t the case just with replenishment, as it can happen at any steep beach, but the result is a lot of people get sucked out, sometimes 200 yards or more.
3. Despite the warm water and weather, we have only skeleton beach patrol crews out. And most people are not looking to swim near those crews. Harvey Cedars BP was busy fishing folks out of the surf all day Saturday. Surf City is the only town with zero beach patrol, and there were three dispatch calls made on Saturday alone, with one more on Sunday. In those cases, the calls were attended by the Ship Bottom BP and Long Beach Township BP, with Barnegat Light fire and rescue assisting on Jet Skis. In one case on Sunday, I saw the Beach Haven fire and rescue zipping up the Boulevard 7½ miles, likely to make a rescue – and that’s with the traffic lights still on.
Also, a Pennsylvania man was pulled out of the ocean by a surfer in Beach Haven Park on Sunday afternoon. He was administered CPR and rushed to Southern Ocean Medical Center where, sadly, he was pronounced dead.
We could be looking at another gorgeous weekend. Maybe two more gorgeous weekends, and that first one of October, we will be hosting a few thousand extra people on the Island with likely even more swell in the water. So call whatever town you go to the beach in and find out where the lifeguards are. Yeah, you may have to drive, but parking won’t be an issue. Be safe.
SURF AND ’CANES: There’s been a bit of surf in the water, but nothing fantastic. Saturday was probably the best of it. The onshore winds haven’t really given us much in the way of quality. Although temps are still singing summer, we’re in a patter of actual weather, where the wind has not been dying at night, meaning no morning glass-offs. Then on Monday, we made up for a whole summer of rain in about an hour. Watching folks drive coupes and sedans through the standing lake at the Ship Bottom circle made me want to get one of those aquatic vehicles.
If the 2016 hurricane season is going to be what the forecasters predicted, then we are not done yet. Thus far, we’ve had 11 named storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane, which is about average to just shy of average. We passed the historic height of hurricane season two weeks back, but I still think with the sea surface temperatures being so warm, we’re going to see an active late season. As always, we’re hoping these storms stay out of our garages.
This week, we had three systems all partying in the Atlantic. Tropical Depression (formerly Tropical Storm) Julia formed, strangely enough over land, and did a little dance off the Florida/Georgia coast. That may have contributed to some of the little swell we had this weekend. Overall, Julia won’t be much of a big deal for us.
The one we will be keeping our eyes on is Tropical Storm (perhaps by now, Hurricane) Karl. And every time I check an update on this storm, all I can picture is a 1995 Adam Sandler a la “Billy Madison” screaming, “Hey Karl … Good to see you, Karl!”
Karl was a classic Cape Verde storm, tracking off the coast of Africa and becoming a named storm last Friday. Though Karl has been chugging toward our swell window, we haven’t felt any of the forerunners yet, mostly because Karl wasn’t very strong. In fact, Karl’s winds weren’t much more than 40 mph until the last day or so.
That said, I do think Karl will deliver swell. Unlike Hermine, which was a forecaster’s nightmare, Karl has proven to be a very by-the-book, easy to read storm. I’m never one to rule it out, but the long range doesn’t show it making landfall. The models have it moving toward us, but getting picked up by a cold front later in the week and being pushed offshore.
As for surf, how close it gets and how slow it moves will determine the size of the swell. What we have to keep an eye on is the wind and the period. Karl may not get close enough to affect our local winds. When swell travels that far to reach us, it’s often plagued by closed-out conditions. This is where local winds can come into play. If we start to see some stronger southeast winds, we might see a combo windswell/groundswell, which is ideal.
RACE RESULTS, MAKERS AND ALL THE HAPS: Island Surf and Sail pulled off its first LBI Paddle Cup on Saturday, with competitors racing either the long race from Beach Haven or the short race from Brant Beach, finishing up in Harvey Cedars. Shop manager Adam Frack reported that it was a great success.
Winning the 6-mile for the All Around Men’s was Todd Page. Locals Ann Marie Deakyne and Jamie Baumiller took the All Around Women’s one and two slots. Ryan Oliver won the 12-mile, 14-foot Men’s Elite, and Robin Delgado aced the 12-mile, 12-foot Men’s. Josie Latta finished first among the women in the 12-mile.
Saturday was also The Maker’s Fest, which was, by all accounts, a phenomenal event. As I wrote after the Alliance for a Living Ocean Longboard Classic in August, our area is experiencing something of an awakening that started about a decade ago and is really hitting its stride with events like this.
This event is local in its primary scope, which is awesome. But the Maker’s Fest is really a juxtaposition of the fantastic creative movement on LBI and the very best coastal and surf artists of the Jersey Shore, with a side of Brooklyn, the flavor of the Pine Barrens and the best of Philly.
I don’t know that event organizers have or can have a head count, but there were thousands of people enjoying the day. As organic as it felt to have this event last year on a farm, Manahawkin Lake Park proved an excellent venue. Just seeing a few folks with their feet in the water made the day (also very handy for cleaning ice cream off little kids). The food was fantastic, and it’s so good to see creative choices that are more than just a formerly frozen piece of meat on a roll with ketchup and cans of soda. You also have to give the organizers, food vendors and Alliance for a Living Ocean a ton of credit for holding another great, single-use water bottle-free event, thanks to great cooperation and ALO’s free water station. They kept untold thousands of plastic water bottles out of the waste stream in a single day.
You also have to love a stage that showcases locals like that. How amazing to be walking along and just notice someone you know on stage and had no idea had that much talent!
In other paddle results, Ship Bottom Beach Patrol’s Johnny Skolnick aced the 14.5-mile Cape to Cape Crossing’s Prone Stock division in Virginia. He finished the paddle, which took racers from Cape Charles, across the Chesapeake Bay to First Landing State Park Beach in Virginia Beach, in 3 hours and 30 minutes.
“It was just fun to have the opportunity to go to a new area, meet new paddlers, get in the open water and paddle across a body of water like the Chesapeake. We crossed two different shipping lanes, including the Naval lane out of Norfolk.”
Skolknik pocketed $1,000 for his efforts. This is the second major race he won this year, after acing the Cape Henlopen to Cape May race in July.
This Thursday night, the Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and Glide Surf Co. present “An Evening with Bill Finnegan” at the House of Independents in Asbury Park. As you may know, Finnegan is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of several books, including 2015’s critically acclaimed Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.
This Saturday, Sept. 24, Brighton Beach Surf Shop will host the Fall Board Swap. This is a chance to buy, sell and trade used or vintage boards and other gear. You really never know what you’re going to find at these things.
Jetty is getting revved up for the 10th annual Clam Jam at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars. The first weekend day with quality waves on or after Oct. 7 will be the call. If we don’t get a decent swell, Jetty reserves the right to hold it on a weekday in November (so save your sick days). The Clam Jam team selection party will take place at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House on Wednesday, Sept. 28, always a good time.
I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of “The Fourth Phase,” snowboard/filmmaker Travis Rice’s latest film, and it is absolutely phenomenal. It’s quite a bit more than a snowboard film, but rather where riding intersects with science and philosophy – really interesting stuff. Red Bull will present the film at the Paramount Theatre on Oct. 2, as a fundraiser for Skate Asbury. I highly recommend seeing this film at some point, snow shredder or not.
And in final local news, Chris Scarpinato, surf instructor, vegan, ripping skater and head ding repairman at Wave Hog Surf Shop, is getting his driver’s license. Yep, at the age of 30, he made the move and has not only a permit but also a car, with a tape deck. Good luck, Scarp.