Learning About Garbage Patches; Prepping for Some Clam Jam FunAnti-Pollution Bike Tour Arrives Saturday on LBI
I feel like a bit of a failure this week. I don’t know if I can look my father in the eye.
When I was a kid, we used to get a few cords of wood delivered to the house each fall. My Dad would cut and split, while my brother and I would stack. My parents were young, had three kids, and the electric bill was a major source of stress. Hence, the fireplace was pretty essential.
And my father had this rule: no heat before Oct. 15 or after April 15.
Their financial sense was something like – save money on essentials so you can do fun things down the road. That meant cutting wood in the fall, no a.c. in the summer, basic cable, hand-me-down surf gear, and wardrobes from clearance racks. We were fine with that, and they were sound fiscal policies. Then, hopefully we’d be able to afford a family trip. I like to think I inherited that, along with my bad back and crummy teeth. A good percentage of what I own is garage sale, pre-owned, and straight up trash-picked. Craig is my boy.
Anyway, when we awoke on Sunday morning to a 41-degree reality, with a few windows still open from the balmy Saturday, I buckled under the pressure. The wind was north, the sky a bleak gray, and I turned the heat up to 55. Hopefully, Saturday’s sunshine had loaded us up on solar power to cancel it out.
But don’t tell my Pops.
That was a quite a September and early October we enjoyed. I hesitate to call it an “Indian Summer,” because I have heard different definitions for that term. Actually, one time when I was on the customer support line with a nice man from India, I asked him what they call really warm spells in the fall. He told me, “Native American Summer.”
But after Friday’s pure beach weather when folks were splashing and paddling around in swimsuits, Sunday was a shock to the system. Close the windows and pull on the hoodie. I imagine it was the first time many of us have worn shoes and socks since May. I wouldn’t be too concerned, however, as the temps are supposed to be back into ice-cream weather by this weekend.
I would be a little concerned about the surf situation, being that this is October, a month when we usually have our first real nor’easter and a few south windswells with the odd, post-tropical cyclone to top it off. Here in week two of what is supposed to be autumnal utopia, the surf has been a drag.
There was a small wave that developed last Wednesday evening, but hard as we checked it, last Thursday was just dismal. It went completely flat for Friday and Saturday until a tiny, clean, trace swell filtered in on Sunday evening. If you were checking it, the beach was actually warmer than anywhere else, thanks to water in the high 60s and chilly air.
The swell was somewhat of a mystery. The only possible feature on the map that might have been sending it was a blob of activity way in the North Atlantic. And there was actually a legitimate wave on Monday morning – groundswell reaching up to shoulder high at 14 seconds. Of course, when the wind was light offshore on Sunday night, it was barely longboardable. And when the swell came up on Monday, when a few surfers had off from school or work, winds were north/northwest. Still, there were a few spots mid-Island and one break on the south end that got good. Being groundswell, it was inconsistent. I heard a few other spots were getting decent sets in the evening, as the wind completely lay down. There was plenty of time to watch the pelicans between sets, but considering that none of the forecasts or models picked up on the swell, it was still a bonus.
Those who scored on Monday were in the minority, but it was the only savior from an otherwise down week. The scary thing is that there really isn’t anything too promising on the horizon. I’m seeing potential for hard, southwest winds on Sunday that could amount to a clean, 2-foot swell for Monday. But when you’re hanging your hopes on one waist-high day in October, it’s not a good sign. That little skate park up in Barnegat Light is starting to look better and better.
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Now on to something you can always count on: pollution.
By now, you have likely heard about the famous “garbage patches” in the Pacific Ocean. We’ve all read stories of giant islands created where millions of pieces of plastic debris collect in the middle of the sea. I imagine it’s everything from 3-ounce energy shots and your old Star Wars figures to every single plastic water bottle of the three cases that I watched a tourist couple buy last month. As each case, which is already wrapped in plastic, was put into yet another plastic tote bag, I could hear the woman saying, “The taaap wattah down hee is just awwwwful.” (Actually the water coming out of pine barren aquifers is some of the cleanest in the nation, so screw her.)
Anyway, the Pacific garbage patch is real, although not always in the sense that our brains conjure up. It’s not like there is a constant landmass of pollution that you can get out and walk on. And the fact that we haven’t seen a YouTube documentary of someone exploring an island of Fiji Water bottles that is actually bigger than Fiji kind of takes away from the shock value.
But if you really look into it, you’ll find that the danger is largely unseen – tiny polymers found in alarmingly high parts per million. Plastics break down, but the pieces never go away. The “patches” are areas of high concentrations of microscopic bits that are a plague to the seas.
There’s a group called 5 Gyres that has conducted numerous expeditions not only to the Pacific, but in the other oceans of the world and, most recently, the Great Lakes. A “gyre” is a rotating current in a large body of water. It’s through that group's hard work and findings that we have an understanding of the dangers to the ocean from our single-use-plastic addiction. And there’s plenty of problems in our Atlantic.
Even if you despise the green movement, dismiss global warming and shoot squirrels for fun, you might find it interesting that plastic ingested by marine life has human health implications. So, when you’re the guy out there taking post-legal season fluke, you could be ingesting three times as many bits of Twinkie wrappers, which are almost as bad for your system as actual Twinkies.
This month, several members of 5 Gyres are taking part in a 1,400-mile pedal along the East Coast called the Last Straw Bike Tour to educate us about all that plastic crap floating around our beloved ocean. They’re conducting beach cleanups and giving presentations to offer realistic solutions.
This Saturday, Oct. 13, they will be at the Long Beach Township Municipal Building from 7 to 9 p.m. with a slideshow, research and tales of their trashy adventures. It could be a very interesting evening. One of the presenters is a fella named Stiv Wilson, who is somewhat of an eco-adventurer. I met him in Beach Haven a few years ago when he came to speak at the East Coast Conference of the Surfrider Foundation. He should be not only informative, but also entertaining.
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In one of the most interesting surf contests I have heard of in some time, the Southern Regional High School Surf Club had a “scrimmage” of sorts that pit the teachers vs. the students on Oct. 4. This is an annual thing to prepare faculty advisor Joanne Rist’s Surf Club for contests this season against other schools.
And this year, the teachers fared pretty well, with autism program aid Josh Law winning the whole thing, science teacher Jason Hoch taking second, and history teacher Bill McClennan finishing third. The only student to make the final was sophomore Brian Aji, who took fourth place, just above teachers Julie Stokes and Barb Conover, who were all in the final. Needless to say, the teachers have bragging rights this year as they won 90-51.
Conditions were pretty weak and a lot of surfers had to rely on longboards. There were a few kids from the team missing. But hopefully, they are now better prepared to face off against the Manasquan, Point Boro and Ocean City teams. Kind of hard to be all cool and mouth off to your teachers when they whopped your butt in the surf.
Last spring, I did some video work with local filmmaker Tony Coon and we created three pilot episodes for a possible SandPaper video series in 2013 (provided the Mayans made a miscalculation). The first one, about Randy Budd’s all-female alaia building class at the Tuckerton Seaport, is now on the SandPaper website at http://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com/ae/story/randy-budds-all-female-alaia-shaping-class-at-the-tuckerton-seaport/902688. Keep an eye out for more this fall.
In local enviro news, Beach Haven’s Heather MacConnell of My Girl is Water Jewelry just tallied up all the money from the profits of her “Drop of Water” necklaces. After earnings this summer at SwellColors, Sandy Banks, Firefly Gallery, Lily of the Valley, Gallery 100, South End Surf ’N Paddle, Surf Unlimited, Fish Heads and Shore Solutions topped $1,000 and a few more bucks at Chowderfest, she will be donating a healthy amount to the Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
Now, it’s no secret that LBI is a little detached from the chapter, which is based in northern Ocean and Monmouth counties. Though they have reached out to Island surfers for years, even offering advice in campaigning to modifying beach replenishment projects long before the Army Corps of Engineers wrecked many of our favorite breaks, very few locals ever get involved. It’s embarrassing how many of us are actually members. I’ll go out on a limb and say it was more than all the money ever raised here for Surfrider.
Sadly, despite water quality and access issues, LBI surfers aren’t even involved in any projects right now to put the money toward. But Surfrider’s East Coast Regional Manager, John Weber, suggested the money be funneled to Alliance for a Living Ocean.
ALO has long had a running bottle cap collection history. Caps, which are not recycled as lighter plastics, are sent to the naturally based cosmetic company Aveda, which has a special program to properly recycle rigid plastic caps. But shipping has gotten extremely expensive recently, causing ALO to shut down its cap collecting service. This money will be used to jump start it again and keep our beaches free of Pepsi caps for a while. MacConnell deserves congratulations for her work, and the rest of us could take a lesson from her.
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The teams are all picked for the 2012 Jetty Clam Jam. As always, there are some blockbuster squads and very interesting pairings that result in the random “pick the clam shell out of a hat” method. This year, there are 48 teams, down from 64. That should make the day run a little smoother. If you slacked on your registration, your best bet is to sign up as an alternate.
We are now officially “on call” for any weekend. The first potential date is this Saturday, which looks to be knee high and onshore – not really Jam worthy. Sunday looks to pop into the 2- to maybe 3-foot range with hard, south/southwest winds. Obviously, this isn’t ideal, either. But we still have to keep an eye out for a surprise.
As always, call your partner in advance. All surfers check in at 7 a.m. at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars. You are responsible for getting your partner there, signed in, and on time for your heat. This year’s sponsors and after party at Sunset Park, with food and music from Triumph & Trajedy and Rob Armenti, promises to be another great community event.
If you’re a fan of New Jersey professional surfing, the Smith Optics Garden State Grudge Match has been postponed this year to a waiting date of Oct. 22 to Nov. 4. This is usually the heart of the waiting period. Last spring, Heritage Surf Shop won another contest, the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge Northeast Regional Qualifier. Its team, comprised of four Grudge Match competitors, is heading to the Surf Shop Challenge finals in Bali, so the Grudge got pushed back. Representing LBI this year are Conor Willem, Randy Townsend, Royce Weber, Pete Matchotka, and Pat ‘Surfcat’ Emery.
That’s all we have for now. As of next week, Liquid Lines goes back to every other week in the SandPaper. Seems like fall is in the air. Go stack that wood.