Long Beach Township Just Opened All Beaches to Surfing, But Where Are Township’s Surf Breaks?Lots of Action With Storms and Swell Going Into Labor Day
I will admit that there are times I sit down to write this column and I have no idea what to write. Granted, when we have a firing swell or back-to-back summer happenings, it’s a no-brainer. But there are other times when I wonder right up until deadline what the hell to give you that week.
But other times, it’s easy.
This week, Long Beach Township made this announcement via Facebook: “Since 2008, the Board of Commissioners have worked together with our community to improve our beaches and ensure the public’s enjoyment of all the unique activities our Island offers. At that time Long Beach Township had only 7 beaches designated for surfing. As promised by Mayor Mancini, each year additional surfing beaches would be added, and upon the completion of the Army Corp of Engineers Beach Project, all beaches would be open for surfing. By 2016, 21 beaches were designated for surfing.”
There’s more, but first let’s rejoice in the fact that this Labor Day weekend, with multiple swell-producing tropical systems in the water, there will be 21 beaches you can legally surf, even when the lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Twenty-one beaches throughout Loveladies, North Beach, all the adjacent neighborhoods between and including Brant Beach to North Beach Haven, not to mention Holgate, home to one of the most special surf spots in all of New Jersey. This will spread the crowds out, and there’s a chance you could be gliding lines with just a few buds or pulling into bowls all by yourself. Moreover, Long Beach Township is working toward opening all public beaches to surfing.
So get out there. Go find yourself a wave and –
“I’m sorry, ….what’s that you say? Shorebreak? No sandbars?”
Yes, in the municipality that has 21 designated surf beaches, it’s tough to find a place to surf in Long Beach Township, thanks to the recent beachfill that has left miles of beach without any sandbar or rideable surf spot. Holgate’s were buried by beach replenishment last spring. North Beach and Loveladies, which we were told at a 2011 public meeting “would never be pumped, because of the easement holdouts,” got sanded this summer. And the beaches that were unsurfable in the summer of 2015, the spots that were the last resort for many displaced South End surfers, are now being re-filled thanks to 100 percent federally funded emergency repair after a storm last winter. That leaves you only some beach mid-Island.
So, here’s your obligatory statement – one that I might as well copy and paste every week for the duration of this 50-year project (wait, only 40 now, right?). Yes, anyone with half a brain can understand that if we are to continue living on a barrier island in the face of natural erosion and impending climate change, we’re going to have to fortify our beaches. It may not be sustainable, but it’s not a waste of money. And in fact, without the past projects, the Island might be riddled with four new inlets that would allow the ocean to start chiseling away at Little Egg Harbor, Manahawkin and Barnegat Township. And yes, we know the towns work at the mercy and schedule of the contracted dredging company and the Army Corps of Engineers. This is understood.
What is also understood is that people love LBI for swimming, fishing, surfing and basking in late-afternoon tide pools with toddlers. We live and love here because of great beaches. I can’t imagine how good the most recent groundswell would have been down in Holgate, were it not so sanded down. And according to several EMS and beach patrols, dispatches for spinal cord injuries have been way up this summer because of the beach slope and constant shore pound. And keep in mind that the injuries are up, despite fewer people actually swimming at those beaches because many go elsewhere.
So while the current method blunts storm damage, it creates beaches that, well, aren’t very much fun, and possibly are dangerous, despite what some elected officials have told us for years. And despite efforts on all ends to experiment with all slopes, they haven’t made a whole lot of difference. And no sooner did beaches come back to natural profiles this year than they started getting pumped again. It has been a grim summer on the beachfront. And it has certainly had an affect on many businesses.
So, yes, Long Beach Township’s realization of its “goal to open all Township ocean beaches to surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and fishing,” with “surfing areas on guarded beaches designated by Blue Flags located on the northerly and southerly boundaries of the swim area,” show seriously progressive thinking. This is a genuine thank-you. It’s something all towns might look into, as it’s worked so well in Ship Bottom for years. (We’re looking at you, Surf City.) And hopefully much of that sand will shift before next summer. I might also add that until 10 years ago, there were zero surf beaches in the township. But it might be a little difficult to get excited about this grandiose promise, considering how many beaches have been, and will be, unsurfable until we get some real weather to set things straight.
Thanks, Long Beach Township, for giving me the perfect intro to my Labor Day column.
LIGHTING UP THE HURRICANE PARTY: Labor Day? Holy hell. How did that happen? Every summer seems shorter than the one before, even when we spend most of it with big sweaty stains around our armpits.
Well, aside from the facts that beach replenishment has rendered a good percent of LBI a waveless wasteland and everyone who owns a surfboard in Ocean County has been crowded into the few decent sandbars, there has been surf, and there is certainly more on the horizon.
There was a little groundswell evident on Friday, a tiny swell that arrived at 13-second intervals, the telltale sign of waves generated far off in the Atlantic. Saturday and Sunday both saw a bit of swell, Saturday mostly offshore and Sunday mostly onshore. The quality varied through the day, depending on tides and winds. As is usually the case with tropical swell, it waned at the lower tides, and higher tides presented bouncing, backwash conditions. The water is back up to ideal bathing/surfing temps. The meat of the swell arrived on Monday morning with offshore winds. We had significant 3- to 4-foot waves courtesy of Hurricane Gaston, well east of Bermuda.
The biggest negative to hurricane swell is usually closed-out conditions thanks to those higher swell periods, aka swell interval. These swells travel 1,200 miles and tend to just wall up on our straight sandbars. But thanks to some other tropical features, the lines were broken up a bit. It wasn’t epic, often providing a peak to take off on, but often another peak instead of a tapered line, and always with flat spots. But it still wasn’t bad when you found a corner, especially after so many months without significant swell.
MEET YOUR HURRICANES: Right now there are four tropical systems spinning in the Atlantic. That’s not all that odd, but what’s amazing is that all four have the potential to deliver swell to New Jersey. OK, here’s the rundown:
First off, there’s Gaston, which became a hurricane, then downgraded to a tropical storm and then revved back up to a pretty significant storm early in the week. Gaston hooked around and started heading northeast, but was powerful enough to create swell that we’re still feeling. Because it has winds up to 115 miles per hour and there isn’t any weather feature to really move it, it’s slow enough for swell to radiate back to us. Not sure how much longer it will stick around, though.
Next up is Tropical Depression 9, which basically had meteorologists playing guessing games for a full week and a half. Nine was formerly Invest 9, a slow moving, weak system that has been hanging around to the east of Florida and finally became TD 9 near Cuba on Sunday. Then it took a right turn, cruising northwest across the Gulf of Mexico, and is bearing down on the Tampa area. This interesting system is projected to cross back into the Atlantic and continue moving along the southeast coast. One model has it pretty close to our coast. I would say it’s not impossible for that storm to impact us as well.
Then there’s TD 8, which pretty much popped up out of nowhere this weekend as a tropical depression. This would be an ideal storm if it would hug our coast a bit closer. Let’s hope our friends on the Outer Banks don’t have Labor Day weekend business ruined, though. We like the fact that it’s not making landfall, but it would be amazing for it to give us a brush-by with a day of honking onshores and current to move some sand around. I guess we can’t be picky. I will say that TD 8 may provide us with some short period swell. Together with Gaston, we could see a nice combo swell, rather than just walled-out conditions.
The last thing on the map is a tropical wave that came off the coast of Africa on Monday. We are now approaching the heart of the Cape Verde season, which means these bullets might come spitting off that coast like a machine gun. Gaston was something of a Cape Verde storm, but to this point, we haven’t really seen a storm make the long trip across the Atlantic to our neighborhood. Might this be the first? All in all, there are a lot of storms, and a lot of storms means a lot of variables. These swells will affect each other, in positive and negative ways. There should be no shortage of swell for the next two weeks, which is insane. To score is going to mean watching closely. Prepared to get skunked a few times, but overall, the last week of summer is going to be far better than the first nine weeks.
HAPS: Last Monday was the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol’s 10th annual Barnegat Bay Challenge, which attracted a lot of paddlers and rowers from the Island as well as neighboring beach towns. The weather and conditions turned out to be gorgeous, and the race saw some of its best times yet. Matt Gianetti won the open division. Ship Bottom Beach Patrol’s Johnny Skolnik won the stock prone while Bob Highly aced the Prone 12+ board division. Ryan Oliver, of Toms River, won the SUP. Josie Latta took the Women’s SUP, followed by locals Gabby Sacco, Caroline Unger and Melissa Salterelli. Eric Constanzo finished first in the surf ski, and the team of Bill Webster/Randy Townsend won the Van Duyne Surf Boat.
Looking forward, I’m not telling anyone to leave LBI on Labor Day weekend, quite possibly the most festive of occasions here on our sandbar, but if you’re not down to watch a wedding band light up an Island night spot this Friday night, the ultimate surf/punk band, Agent Orange, will be ripping up the Brighton Bar in Long Branch. I’ll be celebrating the end of summer by throwing myself across the floor into a mass of dirty punkers all singing along to “Tearing Me Apart.”… Just sayin’.
The holiday weekend usually doesn’t have a whole lot of official events. Labor Day is more for soaking up every last bit of summer’s goodness.
Beyond that, life will change drastically here on LBI. Families have already been peeling off for inland commitments. Between the time the Eagles vs. Browns kick off at 1 p.m. on Sept. 11 until the Giants vs. Cowboys game ends sometime that evening, you will have free rein to do pretty much whatever you want on LBI.
Should you not be here by Tumbleweed Tuesday to read The SandPaper (it’s also online, folks), I should mention that Island Surf and Sail will be hosting the Naish LBI Paddle Cup on Sept. 17. This is a paddleboard and kayak race to involve most of the Island. The elite paddlers will start in Beach Haven, and the non-elite racers will start in Brant Beach. Everyone finishes in Harvey Cedars with a full party. You can race individually or as a team. Find more info at LBIPaddleCup.com.
That same day is also the Maker’s Fest at Manahawkin Lake Park, the second-year creative festival featuring amazing handiwork from those in the area who are changing the current of production and consumerism. This year promises to have even more makers, creative food, original music and beverages.
In all seriousness, be particularly careful in the ocean this weekend. We will have some heavier swell, and that will cause a lot of rips with a lot of people swimming. If you’re on the beach after 5 p.m., be particularly vigilant.
For those of you getting your last breaths of salt air, we hope you had a fantastic summer. For those locals who will be waking up with a bit of a hangover on Tuesday – that combination of too much surf, too much work, and too much Monday night Fireball – well, this is known to be a pretty special time of year around here.
And once the lifeguards go off duty, you can surf wherever you want. Let me know how that pans out.