Liquid Lines

Longboard Classic a Gliding Success, Bumming on Beachfill, All Running Hot and Cold into August

By JON COEN | Aug 17, 2016
Photo by: Petley Ship Bottom’s Matt Aniski spent most of Saturday on the nose of his classic log. The Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic was as classic as they get.

Man, is it great to give credit where credit is due. Alliance for a Living Ocean just did a bang-up job hosting the 8th Annual LBI Longboard Classic in Ship Bottom. This was probably the best event in this contest’s eight-year history. Thinking back, it’s almost hard to remember that these kinds of things didn’t happen on LBI 10 years ago. It happened in Manasquan. It happened every weekend in Ocean City. But not here.

On LBI, shortboarders rode shortboards. Longboarders rode longboards. Harvey Cedars surfers stayed on the North End. Beach Haven surfers were just angry. There was no one running events. Folks didn’t volunteer their Saturdays. The Island was working on becoming exclusive, not inclusive. Contractors, cafes and investment advisers didn’t sponsor surf contests.

Ship Bottom didn’t allow any surf contests for 15 years. Live music on the beach on LBI? Are you out of your mind? Town officials didn’t want surfers running “commercial” events because that might bother the all-important tourists.

But things have changed, as the powers that be started to understand that visitors are actually quite interested in “community” events. In fact, they bring more people to town and raise money for good causes.

Ten years ago you couldn’t find a fish taco on LBI. This Saturday, we were muching them on the beach, watching our friends glide along shimmering little faces. And let’s face it, the waves played a part, too. Well-angled, consistent, peeling, 2-footers are phenomenal for riding old longboards. And the south wind at dawn even went offshore for most of the morning. You really can’t ask for anything more.

Credit has to be given to former ALO Executive Director Tom Beaty for coming up with the event, and current Director Kyle Gronostajski for taking the torch. Both surfed phenomenally. Contrary to popular belief, Beaty can surf rights (very well actually.) Gronostajski even made the finals. The event was staffed by ALO and the South End Surf N’ Paddle crew, who did an awesome job keeping the event running all day. They also made a fantastic decision to move the contest from Saturday to Sunday, which had more swell and far better winds.

We had fellas who surfed back in the ’60s slapping the backs of 22-year-old competitors and women who know how to move a heavy, old log. Then you have all this support from the community. Because today’s business owners – the mortgage brokers, landscapers, accountants and others – are all surfers.

When the surfers arrived in the morning, they were greeted with a bit of 1- to 2-foot surf with textured conditions. They were also greeted with a disgusting wall of humidity that made carrying a 50-pound sled (and possibly cooler, chairs, tent, sand toys) a disgusting kind of workout.

Then, during the first round, the surf came up a bit. The wind went west/southwest, mostly offshore, grooming up some long, righthand dreamboat waves. Throw in some cold clams on the half, old buds, new friends, music on the beach and fish tacos, and you have one hell of a day.

By the afternoon, the wind did switch onshore. It may have muddled conditions a bit, but at least it cooled down the scorching beach. Overall, it was the best surfing we have seen. In the end, Evan Dries won the Junior with impressive style, Ed Barbieri and Kerry Horleman laughed their way to tandem champs, and Allie Panetta showed pure grace in winning the women’s. Jack Ryan won the AARP title by having the best finish for a surfer over 55, his first surf trophy, apparently since 1990.

It was also awesome to see the amount of talent from LBI locals, who were cross stepping and noseriding like they ride 60s singlefins at Malibu every day. Of course, the favorites were killing it, like Jared Temple and Kurt Schiebner. But how about Bill McLennan, Matt Aniski, Greg Malega, Chris Scarpinato, Matt Holloway and John Gilman? Or Mark Tesi, back from his relocated home in California, who returned to give a lesson in glide. Or Ashley Pellagrino pulling out every trick in the book?

It’s also pretty amazing to watch the Gaudioso boys of Surf City show their stuff, a couple of fine watermen and fine human beings. Last year, Mikey Gaudioso claimed the title, and this year, it went to younger brother Mitchell, who was just throwing around this old hatchet fin board in the final, making turns on short sections and making it look easy.

“I am so stoked to win the ALO longboard classic,” Gaudioso told me. “It’s such a fun event and I’ve been looking forward to it all summer. A lot of cool boards and cool people made it a great event to be a part of.”

RUMBLINGS: There’s a good bit of discontent right now among surfers and beachgoers for a couple of reasons, and they are not mutually exclusive.

The first reason is the ongoing plans to pump our beaches. By now, the more astute among surfers realize that the entire future of coastal existence is at stake if beaches are not fortified. And sandbars tend to form much faster offshore now that there is sand in the system. It’s a necessary evil.

However, the amount of sand that has been pumped onto our beaches this year is just depressing. We’ve seen historic surf spots completely buried for months now. Guys down south are comparing it to losing an old friend. We have literally miles of beach without sandbars for wading, surfing and swimming. And this isn’t just coming from surfers. Blaming the number of stingrays and water temperature on beachfill is just silly, but the shape of the beach is a serious downer for everyone who enjoys water and beach time. Even the beaches that were built to different slopes are seeing little results.

Moreover, every time we think we’re out of the woods, the Army Corps of Engineers announces that it is going back to a recently filled beach to spray it with yet another round of sand. I honestly forget what a jetty looks like.

OK. We get it. This is all being done with 100 percent federal money and there are four mayors who feel it’s their first responsibility to get every grain sucked off the bottom of the ocean and onto our beach before the next fall hurricane or winter tempest. All that gear is already here and once it takes off for Seaside, or the Outer Banks, or Long Island, or wherever, it’s not coming back anytime soon.

So, we understand why. It’s just that in the past it was one town at a time. Currently, Beach Haven, Holgate, North Beach and Loveladies are wastelands. Our favorite breaks in Surf City are scrubbed and now Harvey Cedars is about to get a sanding. Now it seems that the spots in Long Beach Township where South End refugees have been heading are going to get the same McBeach.

But here’s what everyone was wondering on Sunday, with literally hundreds of families out enjoying the waves at the Longboard Classic, which was in Ship Bottom. Why is Ship Bottom, which might have the most perfect post-Sandy/post-replenishment beach ever, going to get sandblasted this fall? Why don’t we just fill in the ocean and get closer to Europe? Will someone grab me a baguette as our beaches start to reach France? We feel pretty good going into a winter of storms, but frankly I am terrified about our sandbars this autumn.

The second is the lack of any real swell. Two weeks back we had that northeast swell, then a few thigh-to-waist days leading up to this most recent south swell. Sunday was downright fun. All in all, not terrible, but it hasn’t provided much in the way of critical surf. And it hasn’t done anything to move our mountains of artificial beaches.

As overhyped as they are and as often as they underdeliver, we still look to hurricane swells to save us from summer doldrums. Here’s what’s going on:

There is a pattern of disturbed weather that essentially circles the globe at the equator. It moves at its own pace, but generally makes one rotation every one to two months. This whole mass of rising air, which allows storms to form, has spent far more time over the Pacific than the Atlantic this season, which is why the Pacific has seen 10 named storms. Looking down the backside of August, one might think we’d start to see a switch.

Last week, NOAA announced that it is sticking with its prediction of a near average hurricane season. While this doesn’t sound terribly ominous (or promising for waves) and preseason NFL is already starting to pull society’s attention from the beach, let’s put this in football terms.

The winning team in each NFL game scores an average of about 29 points. In an average hurricane season, we see 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Now to be clear, unlike a football game, a disproportionate majority of tropical activity happens in September. That would be like a team scoring an average of three TDs and a field goal late in the third quarter and into the fourth.

See where I’m going with this? We’ve seen two hurricanes and three tropical storms, all short lived at their peak intensity. The models call for one potential system developing in the next week, but conditions don’t look favorable for it to become anything of note. But if the long-term forecast for an average season holds out, we could be looking at some serious end zone dances as we get into September, to the tune of eight named storms, four hurricanes and three major hurricanes. This is all based on averages and predictions, but tropical science is getting pretty damn good. And I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t hoping for some close-call moderate tropical storm to give us a beefy swell and move some sand from those ugly damn pumped beaches.

HOT NIGHTS, COLD WATER: I do not believe we actually hit triple digits on LBI this summer, but I’m gonna go ahead and call this a hot summer. That’s actual temperature. The heat index has been brutal. According to NOAA’s data, the start of the season was the fifth warmest on record. And for those of us without an air conditioner or trying to limp through the summer undergunned with a shared window unit, we can tell ya firsthand that August is melting away whatever numbers were set in June and July, at least in this part of the country.

The reason the needle has been redlined all summer isn’t so much the number of scorchers (as I mentioned, we haven’t really hit 100) but generally hot days that don’t cool down at night. When the sun has gone down this summer, the heat hasn’t backed off. Hey, it’s summer. It’s hot. I think we all agree that jumping in the ocean or enjoying an icy drink in the shade to get relief is far better than those cold snaps in winter where the only option is to get inside and stay there. We’re not really the inside-types around here.

But hot eves are certainly fair game to complaining. Stifling midnights with no wind in the high 80s that have those areas you learned about in fifth grade health sticking to other parts of your body are just no fun.

Last week, we also had some south winds, which bring the heat. Significant upwelling is rare in August, but with so many days of a true south blow, we saw the ocean temp go from about 74 a week ago to a brisk 65 by Saturday. That’s not even really cold, although maybe a bit of a shock to the system. But when that south wind or a hot land breeze (coupled with the black fly swarm on Monday) is blowing, chilly water isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’m pretty confident that just a brief period of onshore winds later in the week will drive us back up to bathtub status. And while the weekend will still be hot, at least your flip-flops won’t melt off on the street.

THIRD THURSDAY AND MR: There are some great events to round out this summer. Just think how you’ll miss this stuff for the next 10 months. First off, we have the Third Thursday Maker’s Pop Up happening this Thursday afternoon and evening. Various artisans, musicians and makers will show of their skills and wares at East, The Local Market and Kitchen, Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Co., Five O Six Boutique, the Ann Coen Gallery, Modern Boutique, Wally’s, Firefly Gallery and Solace Gallery.

We get a lot of visitors here in the summertime, but this is one of the coolest. The 1979-1982 world champ, Mark Richards will be stopping by the Farias Ship Bottom store this Saturday, Aug. 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. with Quiksilver founder Bob McKnight. “MR” is a legend in every sense of the word. He arrived on the North Shore with his fellow Aussies and took an entirely new, radical approach to heavy waves. There will be a film on MR’s surf career. And if you have any deep curiosities about multinational boardsports companies, you can ask McKnight, who will be accompanying MR.

This Saturday, the Birdland Gallery in Beach Haven will also host the Summer Group Exhibit of all the artists who have shown in the space this summer, featuring some of the most talented artists who also surf our local waters. The opening reception is 6 to 8 p.m. and is a great chance to pick up local art before the summer is over.

Next Thursday, Aug. 25, the Sink ’R Swim Men’s Shop will host an Oyster Roast to benefit an oyster farmers film. Get details and tickets at the shop. There’s also the Save the Waves Film Festival at the Farias Ship Bottom store on Aug. 27, which is basically touring the East Coast with films about issues that affect surfers worldwide. More on that next week.

The surf is looking pretty average for the weekend. Look for an easterly flow to kick up some more of that thigh-high stuff. Maybe it will peak at waist high on Saturday evening. Stay cool, surf when you can and try to remember all that good that sand is going to do, instead of how much of a bummer it is right now.


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