Liquid Lines

Remembering When We Used to Have Windswell; Weather and Politics Colliding in a Hurricane.

So Much Groundswell, But What About a Quick-Hit Windswell?
By JON COEN | Oct 19, 2016
Photo by: Bill Machotka Pete Machotka blasts a left one on of the better days of surf in a string of consistent waves of late.

I thought about just passing on this, but I think I have to address it. Since Liquid Lines runs every other week now, I wasn’t sure if this would still be timely. But it turns out, yes, it is. Everyone is still talking about p***y.

There can’t possibly be anyone in the country today who doesn’t know about one of our presidential nominees making the ultimate frat boy comments while being recorded back in 2005. We throw the term “frat boy” around to generally describe obnoxiously entitled dudes. I am not a fan of that type now, nor was I when I went to college with actual fraternity brothers. But I don’t even think it’s fair to lump all those beer-pongin’, Billy Joel singing fellas with this Orange Lives Matter candidate.

But yeah, it’s still relevant. My 4-year-old has been walking around the house yelling, “Grab ’em by the p***y.”

For the record, we don’t have a cat.

In running the most inept, fear-based candidacy ever, he has said countless ridiculous things. Now the question is, will he be able to top himself with anything more inane? I am holding my breath for what he Tweets on Nov. 9, partly out of entertainment, partly for fear of a red-state jihad.

I’ve heard all sorts of justification for his words, some from women, others from deeply religious folk, which is just another weird act in this freak show of an election.

We were told this is locker room banter. Now, for the record, his language was barely offensive. I use far worse words when I run out of toothpaste. But his sentiment is terrifying. I haven’t spent much time in a locker room since high school, but I have surfed and camped on remote coastlines with nothing but sweaty men for days. Can I assume that’s similar? We’d say disgusting things about a guy’s wife, girlfriend or mother, and no orifice was off limits. My poor mother just winced as she read that, but I had to make a point. It was comically ridiculous material. (But sorry, Mom, anyway.)

But here’s the thing. We did not glorify actual sexual assault. That’s something different. The fact that people need that pointed out to them is scarier than Harvey Cedars at low tide on a 10-foot winter swell.

But this is the most recent episode in the reality show that has become American politics. Some Americans are “shocked and appalled” by these quotes. You should be appalled. But what are you shocked about? He is an amalgamation of the creepy bad guy in every ’80s movie. How do you think he talks … or treats women? Let’s let this guy steer the fate of the world.

You can save your defenses of him. I’m not trying to sway an election in a surf column. I’ve always believed the system needed to be burned to the ground, but perhaps not so literally. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but just give us the corrupt, lying lady so we live to see next summer …

WHAT WERE THOSE SWELLS WE USED TO SURF AGAIN CALLED? There was a time, not so long ago, that we would have a certain type of waves on LBI. The wind would blow from the northeast for three days. Or perhaps it would blow from the south for two.

Rain would fall. Gusts would howl against the side of your house.

And on the third we would look to the west (or fourth, it’s not as exact as Lord of the Rings) and see the final black wall of clouds. Or perhaps it would happen overnight. And within a few hours, the wind would switch. The sky would clear. The conditions got clean. They are called … help me out here, I forget the name … oh, windswells, that’s right.

And it would get good. Sometimes very good. The waves would have a predominant direction, but there would be a few against-the-grain waves as well. They would have a peak and sometimes peel down the line. Often, this would happen in several spots on the Island – not just one. Sometimes it wouldn’t be great. After all, this is New Jersey. But they tend to be our best waves.  We had a lot of them last winter; most of them got very good.

I write this because I miss windswells. These hurricane- and tropical storm-generated groundswells can be a lot of fun, but they can be frustrating just as often. Mostly, I’m referring to when swell intervals (known as swell period) get up to 9 and 10 seconds or higher. Our mostly uniform beaches and sandbars don’t handle long-period swells. Now if we had rock reefs and point breaks, like New England, those 13-second interval swells are a different story. But we barely have jetties anymore.

And when this is at its worst, there are about one or two spots that really work on LBI, so surfers gravitate to them – which is frustrating for everyone, no matter your ability level.

I had already been musing this point when I saw a friend this weekend who had the same thoughts as me. Then I called another friend on Monday morning. He had just landed in Puerto Rico for Nicole to find a wave that didn’t close out.

We have had no lack of waves. Though the action was late, we’ve had very consistent tropical swell for a few weeks now. In fact, it’s hard to remember when we had two flat days in a row (something we may think about in January, when the wind goes offshore for three weeks straight.) But it has all been from far-off storms, arriving in the form of long-period groundswell. Other than the north-wind waves generated during the Hurricane Matthew swell back on Oct. 9 and 10, we haven’t had that good ol’ fashioned local storm rolling through producing waves of size followed by offshore winds, since about April. These are our bread and butter swells, and I don’t know about you, but I am kind of itching for one of those.

Windswells tend to have a lot fewer closeouts. They also tend to break in a lot of spots all over the Island. They peel better, and at a certain size, they produce far throatier waves. Even if we could get a windswell mixing in with a groundswell, that could break up the lines for some combo swell.

But whatever kind of waves we’ve had, it hasn’t been all bad. At times, the winds have been in our favor and the surf has gotten decent. Hurricane Matthew swell arrived on Saturday, Sept. 8, for the Jetty Clam Jam. By Sunday, the winds were howling from the north, creating a sizable combo swell that was definitely windy all day, but may have had some windows. That Sunday night, spots on the South End were mostly clean and very big, for some heroics. The wind went offshore by Monday morning, but then back to north/northwest, and everyone made a beeline to Holgate. The sets were still very good, but the size and consistency that had been showing early on dropped off. And since it was the only somewhat protected spot between Long Island and Atlantic City on a holiday, it was mobbed with locals as well as visiting surfers from north of LBI. You can’t get sour about it as we tend to haunt Northern Ocean County and Monmouth spots on southwest winds, but it certainly made for some traffic jams out there.

The Extra Tropical Storm Matthew swell began to fade and we started harvesting swell from Hurricane Nicole, which reached that threshold of a Category 2/3 storm that lasted most of the week and delivered some decent swell that seemed to peak on Thursday evening, with straight offshore winds and sets that reached about 2 feet overhead in Surf City. The wind went north again on Friday for a few South End waves, and then Saturday morning was offshore again.

I have to say that this weekend was an absolute gem. No, the waves weren’t exactly firing, but if you wanted to sneak in a session, there was plenty of opportunity to get out there. Throw in some absolutely perfect mid-October weather and decent water temps and you have a fine stretch that ran right into early week. If you were out on the beach or bay, it was magnificent. This is what autumn should be. I guess there are the folks who are waiting for cooler, crisper weather, but you can keep your pumpkin spice for a few more weeks. It’s nice to see the temps and humidity drop, but no matter how many windswells we get, I am in no hurry for February.

POLITICS AND WEATHER COLLIDE: It pains me to write about anything involving affairs of state again during this election season, but our country is so divided right now that bitter politics have made their way into weather. Every time it rains, I am sure someone is like “... Thanks, Obama.”

Despite those who claim that it’s a silly hoax, climate change is real. I’m going with the scientists on this one (pretty much all of them.) Human actions have changed the Earth, and we are already dealing with the effects. We talk about the repercussions so much on LBI without even knowing it.

Clearly, science is aware of naturally occurring cycles, but the statistics point, particularly, to hurricanes being not only more frequent, but more intense since the planet has changed. Each year, we see overall temps on the globe a little higher and sea levels rising. This year, the Atlantic Basin, where hurricanes breed, saw record sea surface temps. And if you look at the way the last few storms rapidly intensified, there is certainly a connection.

Hurricane Matthew caused about $4 billion to $6 billion in damages in the United States alone, and its track when it was a major hurricane saved the Southeast from having some new rivers and inlets. Ask your friends in the Carolinas about Matthew.

No, go ahead. We can wait. Text your friends on the Outer Banks …

We know how powerful it was because the National Hurricane Center has cutting-edge means of recording and analyzing storms to better predict them. There are crazies who fly into the eye of a storm to gather intel. This allows our government to order evacuations or storm prep. Yes, these can be off. But maybe ask your friends who thought Sandy was just hype about how to err on the side of caution.

No, go ahead. We can wait. Text your friends who finally evacuated their home in a military vehicle.

So anyway, there’s this guy named Matt Drudge, an author who does a fringe political news site and radio show (they exist on both sides, for the record.) As a fan of conspiracy theories, Drudge decided that the wind speeds recorded in the Bahamas didn’t match the reports of the National Weather Center. In his mind, the federally funded agency, part of NOAA, was cooking the books on the actual strength of the storm to support the big lie that climate change is happening.

So, being the smart guy he is, Drudge Tweets: “Hurricane Center has monopoly on data. No way of verifying claims. Nassau ground observations DID NOT match statements! 165mph gusts? WHERE?”

We need a healthy amount of skepticism for our government, but scientists take this stuff seriously. They’re trying to get people out of harm’s way and Drudge is telling them it might be a bait and switch? Then Rush Limbaugh gets on board.

Thanks, homies.

Just for the record, I traded a few texts with Jon Rose of Waves for Water early last week. You remember him? He’s the guy who led so much of the recovery on LBI, and actually much of New Jersey and New York, after Sandy. He was already on the ground in Haiti, delivering water filters to areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew. They got the brunt of it, sadly. Rose may save hundreds of people from contaminated water and cholera. He didn’t seem to think the storm was overplayed. But Matt Drudge knows best.

And in another ironic twist, it was Gov. Rick Scott who told surfers not to surf with Matthew just offshore. Scott called the storm a “monster” and understandably ordered Florida under a state of emergency. He had a Cat 4 storm that could have rendered his state a third-world country just offshore. Matthew ramped up from a Cat 1 to a Cat 5 in less than a day!

But Rick Scott is the guy whose administration reportedly banned the term “climate change,” as several folks who worked for and with the state attested, for political reasons. Funny, isn’t it, that the governor of the state that has so much at risk with climate change – the death of coral reefs, hurricane danger, sea level rise, etc. – would be the one to keep folks from accepting the idea. Brilliant folks, brilliant.

AND SOME STUFF GOING ON: It seems that the seasonal surfing and paddling events have pretty much cooled off for the year. Looks like it’s all about hayrides, gourds and scarecrows. And that’s cool. Then we get the spookiest holiday of all – Election Day. And the Christmas season probably starts the following weekend.

But if you are still looking for beach-related activity, this upcoming weekend is Clean Ocean Action’s Fall Beach Sweeps. This is where the beaches not only get cleaned, but all the debris gets catalogued. This helps determine just what kind of trash is mucking up our beaches, possibly where it’s coming from, and maybe, just maybe, some ideas for how we can change that.

There are dozens of sweeps up and down the New Jersey coastline, but locally, Alliance for a Living Ocean will be hosting the event. Stop in the headquarters next Saturday morning, 1101 Central Ave. in Ship Bottom, to grab your supplies and start sweeping.

This is a ways off, but worth marking your calendar for: South-End Surf ’N Paddle will host a screening of “Fire and Water” on Nov. 26. This film, about New York City firefighters and their little-known exploits in the early days of big-wave surfing in Hawaii, showed at the Lighthouse International Film Festival back in June. But that was June, and you may have had 2,848 things going on that day. So the Lighthouse Film Society is bringing it back. Worth a watch.

Not much officially happening for the salt and sand community in the next few weeks. I have to imagine we’ll be getting some fall swells followed by crisp nights by the fire pit, which is about as good as life gets on this sandbar. Maybe we’ll even get a windswell again someday …


Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.