LBI Surf Returns to Its October GloryThe Debates Are Over, But the Surf Season Is Just Heating Up
So the debates are over. Now what are we going to do? Passionate arguments, skewed facts, zingers and binders – what more could you want?
I was really getting into that stuff, man. Actually, I wonder if it’s too late to petition for one more debate. But this time, I would love to see the Commission on Presidential Debates change up the format a little. You know, keep it from getting stale.
How about doing a casual Friday debate? Maybe let the candidates show their true colors? Perhaps Barack might wear a Hawaiian shirt. Mitt could don his old fraternity sweater.
And let’s get some moderators who would shake things up. I know people were up in arms about Candy Crowley’s performance, but those people are from Fox News. Anybody short of Joe McCarthy is skewed, in their opinion.
But hey, in the spirit of shaking things up, let Sean Hannity moderate one of these things. He could toss that Nerf football back and forth with the candidates when it’s their time to talk. Then maybe someone could show him how to actually throw a spiral instead of that little chicken wing toss he does while he smugly tells us how right he is. How about he plays steady quarterback and Romney and Obama run pass patterns on the stage?
Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her vice presidential running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested outside the debate at Hofstra for trying to make a point about the dominance of the two-party system. Let them play defense. They’ll probably lay hits on Obama like Lawrence Taylor.
What’s it going to take to get some characters in there? Give me some Jesse Ventura. Or how about those guys that do “Car Talk” on NPR? Dave Chappelle would be amazing!
If you didn’t notice, this column wasn’t in The SandPaper last week. We’re back to every other week now for the off-season. If you haven’t been following online, you can find Liquid Lines at thesandpaper.net under the “columns” menu. The web version is the same as the physical, but it allows us a little more room to run slideshows and web videos from time to time, so check it out.
That also means that when I recap the latest in oceanic movements, I’ll be going back two weeks at a time. Frankly, I’m happy to reach back and relive all the stellar surf we’ve had the last few weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, September is a much-loved time. We had plenty of surf, and everything about that ninth month of the year tastes sweeter after our busy and crowded summers. But all too often we look to October to really deliver, especially where the surf is concerned, and that Wednesday, Oct. 10, swell is exactly why.
Early on, the forecasts seemed to point toward a southeast swell from winds that blew on Oct. 9, showing at about chest high with offshores. What actually happened was the wind turned a little more easterly and even blew north as the low passed over us.
Now if there’s one thing we’re used to on LBI, it’s when the forecast looks like lobster tails and the waves turn out to be a can of tuna. It’s not often that conditions change for the better, but that was certainly the case.
The earliest reports I heard that day were down on the South End, where a few of our jetties were producing rippable, shoulder-high waves. It was reported from several surfers how fun the dawn patrol was, even without a full clean-up.
After a morning low tide, the swell got new energy and the wind went offshore, and I will say it was a reminder of how good LBI can get. Instead of the 2- to 3-foot lines we were expecting, it was 2- to 3-foot overhead with juicy bowling lefts and a few against-the-grain rights. And I think pretty much any work being done on Long Beach Island ceased for the remainder of the afternoon.
“I didn’t even go to work today,” one working man told me. “When I’m on my death bed, am I going to say, ‘Man, I’m sure glad I fiberglassed that deck?’ No, but I’ll remember getting good lefts.”
That made my day … well, that and all the blue peaks that were ridden. The last few months have been marked with a lot of groundswell, which is bound to happen during tropical season. But groundswells are so often marred by closeouts and inconsistent sets. On that particular day, there were plenty of bombs to anyone who wanted to stroke in.
Of course, for the goofyfooters, it was a field day out there. But while it was a little harder to come out of the longer barrels for the regularfoots, I saw plenty of pits slayed backside as well by the likes of Tim Raimo, Shaun Casey, Nick Rossi and Peter George.
This was a quintessential windswell. The sets came rolling in and jumped up. The drops were steep, but the wave picked you up and gave you that momentum going in, with light offshore winds. It was magic.
Unfortunately for some, the wind went southwest and blew things out in the middle of the afternoon. But there was another clean-up before dark, not the epicness of earlier, but a nice evening of waves.
And as windswell does, it was gone the next morning. I mean totally gone!
That Thursday produced the tiniest little wave, and the surf pretty much lay down through the weekend. But October is a magic month where we can get anything from a south blow to a raging nor’easter or a hurricane groundswell, and we’ve had pretty much all of that in the past few weeks.
Hurricane season isn’t over by any means. Tropical Storm Rafael, the 17th named storm of 2012, packed a good deal of punch, kicking up surf on Oct. 16 to 18. And old Ralphy boy showed us the difference between groundswell and windswell here. Tuesday had some clean peelers down at the South End, but it was largely a festival of unmakeable swell.
Brian Farias was in California and took a red-eye flight home to get on the swell on Wednesday.
“I drove back to the Island, and Ship Bottom was every bit of 8 to 10 foot on the face on Wednesday morning. But there weren’t even any corners. It was an astronomical high tide, so it was backwash and bouncy closeouts. Then I went down south and it was chest high."
A few surfers found mid-sized waves here and there, but nothing special.
Rafael was on a fast track away from our swell window, but was still pushing up some swell on Friday, when a heavy weather system approached the East Coast. Thursday night was one of those storms that send the deck furniture crashing into the railing, and Friday continued to be a maelstrom. But at this point, the new south swell was mixing with the old Raphael swell, and the results would prove to be magical.
The Jetty Clam Jam was called “on” for Saturday. This wasn’t just the best waves for an event, it may have been the swell of the year. By the afternoon, there were mountainous peaks rolling into Harvey Cedars and detonating on the sandbar. And with 96 competitors surfing or watching the action in Cedars, the rest of the Island was relatively empty. I heard reports of roping waves with no one out in Ship Bottom. The usually high-profile spots in Surf City offered plenty of empty waves. And there were six surfers trading great waves at Holyoke. It was a day for the books.
Once again, it was an excellent community event. I think people were pretty happy to have it on an ideal, 70-degree day. And it was awesome to be back in Harvey Cedars.
“It’s such an important piece of the community here,” Farias said. “Sometimes you get frustrated with the surf or people get bummed on the surf scene. But then you get a day like that and it reminds you of everything that is good about surfing LBI.”
Sunday was again pulling in waves. It wasn’t the magnificent peaks of the day before, but it was still plenty of fun with some little barrels, offshore all day with perfect weather. In fact, when the Giants had their 1 p.m. kickoff, the beach was pretty much empty. If you were finding tiny tubes, fishing, getting a late-season swim or just hanging out, it was autumnal perfection.
As many of you know, the sandbar (for swimming, surfing, wading and other fun) at Harvey Cedars was pretty much ruined by an Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project in 2010, to the dismay of local surfers. The Clam Jam had to move to Holgate the last two years. But Cedars has been making something of a comeback.
Several people kept an eye on Hudson Avenue last week to see what kind of sandbar we would have for the Clam Jam. It looked dismal. Aside from a few bright spots in the summer and fall, it has been very hit or miss. No one could have predicted the world-class waves that showed up on Saturday. There is already talk that it may have been the best waves for a contest on the whole East Coast in 2012.
We spend a lot of time in Liquid Lines talking about these surf-killing projects that stand to protect the private, oceanfront property. And in most cases, Island elected officials have shown that they couldn’t give a damn about the lost resource. But I have heard a few quotes from the mayor and Harvey Cedars Board of Commissioners that they were hoping the surf comes back. They were pretty proud to host the Clam Jam again.
There’s not much any town can do once the surf has been destroyed, but at least Cedars hasn’t treated those who bring it up as a nuisance. It was great to be back in that borough, and the whole Hudson Avenue/Sunset Park set up is a fantastic venue.
But more importantly, having Cedars as a surf option again is going to help spread out the crowds, the dangerous and frustrating conditions that occur when every surfer for 30 miles is on the same break. Here’s to opening things up this fall and more pitching lips.
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On Saturday, Oct. 13, the 5 Gyres crew came cycling through LBI as part of the Last Straw Tour, to raise our awareness of what our societal addiction to plastics is doing to the ocean. I know most people don’t think slideshows about environmental oceanic voyages are any way to spend a Saturday night, but there was a group of concerned citizens there.
I got to spend some time with the crew over pizza after the presentation, and they were a very knowledgeable group, as well as very interested in our local area and ecosystems.
As you can imagine, they are for plastic-bag bans, something we’ve discussed a lot in Liqiuid Lines this year. If you’re one of those people who has yet to change over to canvas shopping bags but feel that bringing a giant ball of plastic totes to the “recycling” bin at your supermarket is doing your part, then think about this: Stiv Wilson, who has become very involved in bag-ban campaigns, told us that only about 4 percent of plastic bags ever actually get recycled. As he explains it, humans have taken plastic, which is very durable, and used it for disposable products for the last 50 years –- and we’re now facing the consequences of it.
It seems a foreign concept to get a bag ban on LBI; there aren’t any bans anywhere in New Jersey. But consider the “ultra progressive” places that have enacted bans, countries such as India and Haiti.
For anyone who decries a bag ban as an affront on their god-given rights to be wasteful, in terms of dealing with the plastic problem, we’re behind Haiti. Nice one …
In other news, the DVD “You Look Swell” arrived at The SandPaper office last week, much to our delight. A majority of this film by Rick Starick features LBI surfers playing home and away – such rippers as Connor Willem, Danny Mears, Randy Townsend, Peter George, Ben Raimo and Will Sweeney, as well as such international stars as Flynn Novak, Chris Del Moro, Zach Plopper and Keoni Jones. The film played at the New York Surf Film Festival in September and is available at Storenvy.com for $24.99.
There is one more contest for those of you who didn’t get enough at the Clam Jam. Following the Moto portion of Moto/Surf, which was held earlier this fall at the Sahara Sands Hare Scramble, the surf portion will be held this weekend at Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven. If you are not a Moto rider, there will be alternate Men’s, Longboard and Women’s divisions this weekend as well. You can check Moto/Surf on Facebook for an update as to which day it is.
There is also a good chance we could see the Smith Optics Garden State Grudge Match happen up in Seaside Heights this week. Good luck to Randy Townsend, Conor Willem, Pat Emery and Royce Weber. Let’s show the locals some love this year.
Taking a look at the week ahead, it does appear the surf train could come steaming through again. The second half of the week will likely be as flat as Obama in that first debate, but the weekend might see some fireworks courtesy of Tropical Storm Sandy (formerly Tropical Depression 18) coming out of the Caribbean. And while these tropical swells have not been our best wavemakers, this one might stay close enough to the coast to act like more of a windswell. This time of year, we see these storms become hybrid systems. Think Wilma in 2005, Noel in 2007 and Ida in 2009. Earlier this week, there were some wild forecasts for 18-foot at 11 seconds or something crazy. That has already backed off. Don’t expect to be chasing Mavericks in Surf City, but get ready for a few waves.