Looking Forward to the Best Time of YearTropics Coming to Life
I woke up early on Monday morning and stepped outside. Yeah, the birds were chirping, the rain had rejuvenated the plants, the sun was shining, and all that happy nonsense. But I just had this feeling it was going to be a great day, a great week, maybe more. It might have had something to do with the fact that this was the first day in months that the heat and humidity didn’t punch me in the face as I got out of bed. It’s just a nicer way to start the day, you know… not getting punched in the face.
Everyone has his or her favorite time of year on LBI. Mine starts right now and goes right through the holidays.
I know, I know, that’s a pretty wide range. It’s like saying your favorite kind of music is “rock,” or your favorite kind of food is “cooked,” or your favorite days are when you don’t wake up to a punch in the face. But I really think that mid-August through December truly gives us a taste of the best of our sandbar, and everything is pointing to life turning pretty damn great if you’re the kind of person who loves a nice 3- to 5-foot swell, steamed crabs and a flannel at sunset. Aside from the Freddy vs. Jason-style freak show that will play out in American politics this fall, the next four months will give us a complete sampling of the good life.
We’re in the midst of full-on summer. And for many, that means work is punching you in the face. For locals, it means double time, since half the seasonal help is back buying textbooks and Imagine Dragons posters or just taking that “week off just for me because I worked 30 hours a week all summer …” But even if you’ve got your shoulder to the grindstone (keyboard, deep fryer, nail gun, lifeguard stand, cash register, whatever), for the next few weeks you need to find the time and make the most of a summer that’s days are numbered. Maybe that means meeting friends after your late shift to go jumping in the ocean under the moonlight or getting up after two hours of sleep for an early morning fishing trip. Because in a few months, those things will not be options.
I might mention that the week’s weather, aside from Friday’s 90-degree-poke-in-the-eye (not a full punch in the face) looks nothing short of amazing. And we’re now staring down the barrel of Labor Day weekend, a grand culmination of every cookout, boat day, band set, surf session, keg rager and beach party all summer.
And there’s a subtle undercurrent that comes with that for locals. Because to all you visitors, whether you’ve been posted up at that house that you’ve “spent every summer in since you were born” or are just here for a weekend of sun, sand and seafood bisque, we really do love having you here. Make no mistake, without your kind donations to our local economy and paying a good portion of our school tax, we would simply be sandy hillbillies without anyone to sell our art, weekly beach badges, sunset cruises and fancy cucumber drinks to – so know that we appreciate it. Plus, sometimes in February, we’d love the company.
For the most part, we keep it to ourselves when you can’t find a parking spot right in front of your favorite “shore” lunch spot and simply stop your vehicle in the middle of the road to ponder this massive injustice that has befallen you. Also, we want to apologize for confusing you. We know that “Division St” doesn’t actually divide anything. We also are aware that we have 16 neighborhoods that all include the name “Beach Haven” (including one where we just switched the order of the words and one west of the bay that’s not even across from Beach Haven). That was not intentional. That’s on us.
But after summer folks have packed up the kayak, pickle ball racquets and Under Armor rash guards and headed west over the bridge on Sept. 5, it’s not a terrible time to be on LBI. The streets will be empty that night and locals will slowly assemble at the Quelle, hopefully on their way to enough cash under the mattress to keep the lights and heat on through next May. And for you visitors who aren’t here for the next 10 months, yes, we have to keep the heat on until May ….
And then we start September. Even with the water warm, you can feel like the last person on Earth. And we’ll get more into this below, but someone just started the hurricane train down on the equator and life could be very interesting for wave riders in the next few weeks.
Keep in mind, it’s not just locals. The smartest of the visitors will somehow resist the gravitational pulls of East Rutherford tailgates and Bucks County pumpkin farms to get back here for those awesome Indian summer weekends. And before you know it, October is upon us. The ocean gets moody. Nights get cool. The ocean temp drops and someone’s leaving fresh-caught bass on the doorstep. And then the storms pick up, nor’easters, extra tropical depressions and fall souths, right into Thanksgiving. And even those first few weeks of rubber boots and gloves don’t seem terrible with the holidays upon us.
So now you see? Best time of year …
THE TOPIC OF THE TROPICS: Let me start off this part by reiterating a point I make every August. Yeah, surfers love hurricanes. In reality, fall and winter storms bring better surf on average, but the chance of serious surf in warm water, especially at a time of year when we’re jonesing for weather and waves is too good to not get excited about. But all the rooting for storm development and storm track certainly doesn’t mean we want a landfalling hurricane.
Surfers are just as affected by loss of life and property as anyone else. No matter how much we root for storms, we can’t control the track.
And I say this because the Cape Verde season just started with a vengeance after very little tropical activity all summer. In addition to last week’s Tropical Storm Fiona, whose remnants are still lurking about the Atlantic, we have two other systems out there that have potential to be not only wave makers but also problematic for the East Coast.
Tropical Storm Fiona was all but off the map, but it is now a tropical depression again. Assuming Fiona doesn’t get herself all fired up, we are watching another system that could threaten the U.S. but might not ever become very significant and still another system that will become significant, but might not ever threaten the U.S. You still with me? We’re certainly hoping against a landfall, but while this hasn’t seemed like an active year, the first five named storms of the year all made landfall. But that’s just a coincidence, not science.
Last Sunday, we had two areas of low pressure lurking around the equator. One, in the middle of the Atlantic, was labeled 99L and the other, just coming off Africa, was assigned as 90L.
99L is the one we are watching right now. This one could brush the islands and then come visit the East Coast. Right now it has its sights on Florida. It’s also a larger storm. Right now, it’s looking at the threat of wind sheer before landfall. If it were to intensify, it would become Tropical Storm Hermine. But even if it were to smash right into the coast, it wouldn’t likely be a worst-case scenario, yet something to think about.
Hurricane Gaston (formerly 90L) should be the more significant of the storms (although that is a matter of perspective should we have a tropical storm come through Barnegat Bay). He went from a tropical wave to a Tropical Storm on Monday night and then a hurricane by Wednesday. It’s far too early to start predicting exact tracks, but Gaston would not look as likely to get all up in our mug.
Keep in mind that these storms can affect each other. Often outflow from one can kill another storm. Or systems can morph into each other, becoming bigger storms. And something that the whole meteorological community has been watching – and this is since early July – are the water temps. Those sea surface temps in the Western Atlantic are boiling right now. Any storm that winds up with even the slightest window for intensifying is going to be feeding off those temps like hungry folks filing off the beach into Surf City Pizza.
Later this week, the forecast should come into a bit sharper focus. We do need to keep an eye on these things. Even if we’re not talking large-scale devastation, a storm making a mess of the last week of summer would sincerely impact us (anybody remember a guy named Ernesto in 2006?). It’s never a bad idea to make sure you have the essentials in the house or ready to move to higher land. That said, we do have a very good chance of finally scoring some waves out of this. I think the last head-high swell might have been April. We honestly forget what it feels like to do a bottom turn. Man, are we due.
THE GREAT EQUALIZER? One more point here, and I am aware that some folks will take issue with this, but I don’t really care – what LBI really needs right now is for a tropical storm or low-level hurricane to come close, but not too close. I’m thinking one of those storms that comes off the southeast and just makes that north/northeast heading right up the coast without actually hitting land – the kind that blows the surf up for a few days, then turns hard onshore, before the wind goes west for a day of utter overhead, short period magic and zero damage.
But it’s not just the 8-foot peaks we need. Folks are really sick and tired of the most recent round of beach replenishment. Yes, all that sand could save us from one of those storms that veers just 75 miles to the west of the optimal track. We can all appreciate that. But how nice would it be to see all these huge, obnoxious beaches equalized back to our natural profile in a manner of hours? Remember that most of Surf City was unsurfable for the summer of 2011, but Hurricane Irene brought it back to its former glory overnight. The sand would still be in the system, just not wrecking the thing we love.
And maybe that won’t happen with either of these storms. Actually it would be better to happen once the dredging company (which must see Long Beach Island as a virtual broken ATM machine, just spitting cash at it) has picked up its Death Star barges and Imperial Walker amphibious buggies and takes off. Because at this point, I can see the company’s management just saying, “Well screw it. There’s more federal money. We’re just going to start over again.”
GETTING DOWN TO THE BUSINESS END: We’re staring down the business end of summer, and the events certainly will not disappoint. Last Saturday was the 10th annual 25-mile Surfers Environmental Paddle around NYC, the annual fundraiser for autism awareness and environmental issue. Ship Bottom’s Jonny Skolnick took fourth overall behind prone stroker Michael Conner from Ocean City, perhaps the most famous stand-up paddler in the world, Kai Lenny of Hawaii, and Asbury Park’s Ryan Mathews. Skolnick earned third in the prone and collected $1,000 for his efforts.
Looking ahead, this Thursday night is the Oyster Roast and Social to benefit the locally produced Oyster Farmers Film. It will be held at the Sink ’R Swim Men’s Shop in Haven Beach at 7 p.m. $50 gets you beer, wine, grilled clams and five varieties of oysters.
This weekend is the ESA Central New Jersey’s Contest #5, sponsored by Surf Unlimited in Ship Bottom. This has been rescheduled after last weekend was so flat. The ESA is always looking for competitors and members. Not a bad way to get into a little heat action. Maybe get the groms down there? Perhaps it’s a whole family day at the beach?
Saturday evening is the Save the Waves Film Fest at the flagship Farias in Ship Bottom starting at 7 p.m. This will feature a host of features and shorts centered on surfing activism with music and food. Check the full preview of that event in this issue. There’s not much locally on the schedule for Labor Day weekend, but stuff always pops up.
Next Monday evening, Aug. 29, is the Barnegat Bay Challenge, one of the longest running paddle races on LBI, run by the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol. This paddle is huge for Van Duyne boats, prone and SUP paddlers, a 5-mile tour of Ship Bottom’s bay side. The course takes racers south from the bay beach at 133thStreet to Flat Island in a clockwise manner and then proceeds north around Cedar Bonnet Island with a run under the bridge, finishing up again at 13th Street. Though it’s long, it’s for racers of all abilities and a great way to see how much you’ve improved this summer.
We are getting into the time of year when the East Coast experiences its little run of pro surf events, starting with the Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships, which started this week in Virginia Beach. That’s followed by the WRV Outer Banks Pro, Aug. 31-Sept. 4. In the past, the Belmar Pro owned that prime September slot, but unfortunately, Pacifico pulled out of that event and New Jersey will not have a single pro surf event this fall for the first time in 15 years. The RVCA Unsound Pro takes place Sept. 14-18 in Long Beach, N.Y. So there won’t be any chance to experience a pro surf contest this September in New Jersey. If you’re interested in spectating or competing, you’ll have to drive. If you’re content to stay right here in Southern Ocean County, I don’t blame you. It’s the best time of the year.