Liquid Lines

Strangers on Your Couch, Waves in the Water and Awaiting New Word on Long Beach Township’s Surf Beaches

People Who Don’t Suffer Consequence Seem to Love LBI
By JON COEN | May 31, 2017
Photo by: Mark Halikas No better way to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Was this a great Memorial Day weekend? It certainly wasn’t that bad, depending what kind of metrics you’re using.

From a wave-slayer point of view, it certainly started out pretty nice – 3- to 4-foot, clean surf on Friday and knee-to-tummy leftovers on Saturday morning with perfect northwest winds. The water temp was about average, so compared to most summer holiday weekends, it was pretty damn good.

Economically, it was a mixed bag. The Sunday/Monday washout and predictable early exodus wasn’t great for business, but when people have rentals and rooms booked, they’re coming to LBI hell or high water, also known locally as traffic or rain. The cloudy and cool meant folks were in restaurants and shops, dropping cash instead of soaking up rays.

But what this weekend reminded me of was that LBI is one magic little sandbar where you can make the biggest blunders without repercussions.

Case in point: On Sunday morning, my friend woke up to a female friend asleep on the couch. Being a thoughtful host, he got her a proper pillow and blanket. But as he went to place the blanket, he discovered it was a young guy, likely underage, in nothing but a pair of black gym shorts.

He gave the stranger a nudge, and when black gym shorts opened his eyes, my friend stood above him.

“Hey, bud.”

Gym shorts’ first reaction was surprise. He took in his surroundings and the gears started working.

“I asked if he knew where he was. He told me he was in the Repolos’ house. I told him, ‘No, you’re in my house.’ Then it all started to come together for him. He didn’t know the address or even the town he was staying in. I asked if he wanted coffee or water or something,” my buddy told me with a laugh.

My friend didn’t recognize the name, so gym shorts asked if he might borrow the phone to call his parents. Now, up to this point, my friend had already been beyond accommodating, but this is where he really did gym shorts a solid.

“I was like, ‘Well, there’s no reason to get you in trouble just yet. Let’s see if we can find where you’re staying.’ So I took him outside for a look around.”

My friend asked gym shorts if could describe the house.

“It’s a big-ass house, really nice,” said gym shorts.

“This is LBI, kid. That doesn’t really narrow it down.”

So they walked to a house down the street where my friend had heard some partying Saturday night. Not only was it the right house, but his homeboys were out on the deck.

“Yo, Joey, where the f--- were you? We was about to call the police,” they heckled.

From the dialect (and yellow license plates) my friend determined they were from New York.

Mind you, it was 8 a.m., so my friend coaxed them to use morning voices. Black gym shorts returned to the correct house.

My friend chuckled, went home and lay down to enjoy his day off. But then there was a knock at the door. It was gym shorts, still wearing nothing but a pair of black gym shorts.

“Hey, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean no disrespect, and I wanna thank you,” gym short said.

His apology was accepted.

“Oh, and have you seen my wallet?”

This is not the first such tale I have heard like this. I had a friend, let’s call him Golden Boy, who was riding his bike home from Rick’s American Café one night and fell short of his parents’ place in Harvey Cedars only by about a mile, stumbling into a stranger’s home in Loveladies. The tale has been embellished over the years, mostly based on Golden Boy’s general good looks and general good luck. (Whenever he comes back to LBI, the waves and fish magically appear.)

In the morning, he met the whole family. They wound up being really friendly. Even Grandma smiled at his silly mistake. When he returned a few hours later for his watch, they invited him in for lunch. I think he may have later dated one of their daughters.

Point is this: Anywhere else in the world, these guys might have woken up to a shotgun in their face. For some folks, LBI in the summertime is 100 dirty hot days of grinding out work. For others, it’s a happy Valhalla.

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP’S NEW SURFING FREEDOM: I know Memorial Day felt more like a rainy St. Pat’s, but despite the fact that we were rummaging through our closets or suitcases for a hooded flannel, summer is actually upon us. And by that, I mean lifeguards and badge checkers will be on patrol around June 17. (Note: most boroughs offer preseason prices, but today is likely the last day, so go get ’em.)

And with the beach patrols comes the enforcement of surf regulations of where and when you can surf. Historically, borough councils and beach patrols were not all that thrilled about surfing and/or surfers for its association with the counterculture. In fact, if you go back to 1964, there was the formation of the Long Beach Island Surfing Association, a group that worked with the towns to designate surf beaches. It was spearheaded by such early Island surfers as Stretch Pohl. Pohl was an athlete, teacher and coach and actually coached under Vince Lombardi. (Once again, thanks to Caroline Unger and her book Surfing Long Beach Island, an invaluable reference over the years.) They were able to establish surf beaches in various towns. Spots like Hudson Ave, Holyoke and Sevies have been legal surf beaches now for 50 years, ensuring that we have a place to surf and swimmers are safe from fiberglass missiles.

But while surfing sees hills and valleys in participation, it has grown overall. It’s a year-round lifestyle for many locals, a standard activity for summer visitors and an overall economic draw. Surfing regulations have improved dramatically overall on LBI in the past dozen or so years. Barnegat Light has long allowed surfing outside the swim flags. Ship Bottom, which has far more swimmers and surfers, followed suit.

And shocking as this may be (Again, we’re looking at you, Surf City) it works! Corralling all the surfers into one block causes nothing but conflict and danger.

Now, until the mid-2000s, surfing was prohibited during lifeguarded hours throughout all of Long Beach Township. But over the years, the Township (including all those little micro neighborhoods between Ship Bottom and Beach Haven as well as Loveladies and North Beach) set up a few designated spots. Not only did it alleviate the stress of too many chickens in the same cage, but also families were actually seeking accommodations where they could access the surf beach. What had once been a liability was now a selling point. Over the years, LBT allowed more, and by last season, there were 21 legal surf beaches. Then last August, Long Beach Township made this announcement: “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. In 2017 we will realize our goal to open all Township ocean beaches to surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing.

“Surfing areas on Guarded beaches shall be designated by Blue Flags located on the northerly and southerly boundaries of the swim area (marked by Yellow Flags). For safety purposes, surfing on guarded and unguarded beaches shall be subject to water and weather conditions.”

Ironically, at that time, there wasn’t a wave to be found anywhere in the Township. The recent beachfill project had buried every jetty and break for miles. But winter has a way of equalizing our beaches, and as of the start of summer 2017, LBI’s sandbars are back. Long Beach Township Beach Patrol didn’t get back to me on the situation for this summer, but hopefully they honor the promise. I can’t see why they wouldn’t, and it’s a win/win for the Island.

WHILE THE GETTIN’ WAS GOOD: While last Friday was very good by late-May standards, I certainly hope that wasn’t the last of it.

While all the forecasts called for solid surf on Friday, you would have been justified to question such a call, especially looking at the surf on Thursday night. The south wind had blown up a little gray, peaky swell, but it was weak and pretty uninspiring. And the wind was already dying out. But the low moved offshore and created fetch aimed at our coast, and we awoke to blue lines and offshore winds. At the right tide most of the day, sets were up to head high. At times it was a certain tweak off, a bit closed out and tough to get into, but for the most part, waves like that this late in the spring are a welcome sight. There were some tubes to be had, and one surfer even scalped himself with his board in Surf City.

The wind did get a little screwy on Friday afternoon and evening, going southwest enough to make it frustrating. But if you could find them, there were still some good ones to be had.

The wind went straight offshore again on Friday night, and there was a decent little swell left for Saturday morning, enough to shortboard, but really ideal for a morning log session. Eventually the tide got too high, and then the wind came onshore. The swell died out. But then Monday’s onshore winds blew up some disorganized waves that were actually worth hitting if you had the time.

AFFAIRS AND SUCH: This ship looks to be a-rockin’ this weekend with some fun things lining up. Saturday, June 3, is the fourth annual Hop Sauce Fest, which seems to have a solid crossover with the Liquid Lines crowd.

The day starts with South-End Surf N’ Paddle running the Hop Sauce Tune Up race, which ushers in the season of races on LBI. This one is for fun, and all levels of racers are encouraged to compete before the fest. The race is $20, or you can do a combo deal with your race registration, Hop Sauce Fest ticket and T-shirt. There are divisions for Surf Style, 12-foot 6 SUP, 14-foot SUP and prone, broken down into long course, short course, age groups and gender. The net proceeds go to Alliance for a Living Ocean and the Jetty Rock Foundation. Sign up in advance via the event’s Facebook page.

Hop Sauce itself starts at 11 a.m. with all that amazing food, craft beer, spice and original music that folks are traveling far and wide for. There are plenty of transportation options, so no need to drive afterward. Tuckers Tavern will host the afterparty.

Saturday or Sunday will also see the Central New Jersey District of the Eastern Surfing Association’s third contest of the year. This one is at 110th Street, and is one of several events this summer sponsored by Surf Unlimited. The ESA has long been a great place for young surfers to try their skills in competition. Older surfers find it a solid place to connect with old friends as well.

Beyond that, the m.t. burton gallery in Surf City has its Summer Art Opener on June 10 and 11, and the Lighthouse Film Festival comes to town with a few surf selections.

While most upcoming events are happy affairs to announce, some are not so much. Back in March, the Island surf community lost Denny Brown, a surfer who dominated local lineups in the 1990s.

“Denny was a free spirited, full energy, full throttle-all the time kind of guy,” recalls his longtime friend Pat “Surfcat” Emery. “There was no medium pace to Denny. Although he grew up in a small mainland town, the guy had some of the deepest passion and love for the sport of surfing I have seen in random individuals. When you looked at him, you knew that he was oozing the soul of surfing. From his tattoos to his sick rip sticks, his mug showed no weakness when it got big. Surf videos, music, or just a good chat would rev a guy like Browny up to charge a frigid 1-foot slop in the middle of February.”

Brown’s was a name you heard pretty early on. He was a carpenter from Tuckerton, of a family of builders. He was a dedicated father, surfer, skater and snowboarder who liked heavy music and supported Body Language Surf Shop and Planet Blue Surfboards. In recent years, he’d been living in Myrtle Beach.

On Saturday, June 17, Denny Brown’s friends and family will pay their respects with a traditional paddle-out at Leeward Avenue, Beach Haven, at 9:30 a.m.

“Denny’s best surfing was showcased at many of his favorite breaks on the South End. But Leeward Ave. was where Browny would surf the hardest, fastest, and had no fear. I’ve personally seen him pull off some of the filthiest barrels and wrote him as one of the most underrated surfers to charge that break,” added Emery. “It’s all too fitting to have a paddle-out memorial at Browny’s break to lay his soul in place where he was at his most peaceful time in his life and made him the person he was – a positive, energetic soul.”

South-End Surf will then have Shape Fest on the weekend of June 23-25 with surfboard building and music with a live performance by The Ellameno Beat.

Look for some medium-sized, clean surf lining up for Thursday. Enjoy these weeks of relative normality before the full chaos sets in. We will be shedding rubber week to week. And if you find yourself stumbling home drunk this weekend, just crash wherever you like. LBI people are cool with it.

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