Liquid Lines

A Season of Ideal Conditions for Local Events and Finally Some Windswell

With All the Fall Fests in the Books,Ttime for the Jetty Clam Jam
By JON COEN | Oct 11, 2017
Photo by: Matt Reitinger Unless you’re a lover of hardcore winter, the last few weeks could not have been more perfect.

You have to hand it to those runners on Sunday.

Last weekend was the annual LBI 18-Mile Run and anyone who completed it deserves huge respect. There were one or two Island surfers who gutted it out from Holgate to Ol’ Barney as well.

The reason I’m heaping on the compliments to the runners this week is because LBI and the mainland just had one amazing “festival” season and the 18-miler generally falls into the string of fall events.

Thing is, the weather for all of these events probably couldn’t have been much better. Yeah, yeah, I know some folks are ready to put on their new turtleneck sweater and wrap both hands around some kind of pumpkin spiced (for the record, it’s cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger … there’s no pumpkin in it) warm beverage.

But each of these events serve two purposes. One of the purposes is the celebration, be that of the bayman heritage, locally crafted goods, kites, the union of clams and potatoes, weirdos who like to run long stretches, etc. The other is to get people out and about in our area, maybe back to the Island for a few weekends after the summer. And for the second purpose, the weather since Labor Day has been absolutely phenomenal.

Let’s look back: Sept. 16, Maker’s Fest, gorgeous blue skies for local art, music and food at Manahawkin Lake Park, Sept. 23-24; Ocean County Decoy and Gunning Show, epic weather for guns, ducks, dogs and banjos; Oct 1, perfect temps, not too hot, and sunny skies as Chowderfest sets a new attendance record, especially notable after yuck weather in 2016 and a State of Emergency flood in 2015.

And then last weekend the LBI FLY Kite Festival hit a new high. Yeah, bummer that Monday’s festivities had to be canceled, but Saturday was in the 80s with plenty of wind. The ocean was still near 70 and people were laying out, wading on the sandbar and swimming. Thousands of people just stared at all those colorful kites on a gorgeous October day. Even Sunday cleared up for a full day of windy fun.

The Jetty Clam Jam was postponed from last weekend. Contest directors will eyeball the next weekend and there’s still a chance for conditions to be as perfect as they have been for the other big fall (or should we say “extra summer”) gatherings.

That leaves us with the runners. After every one of these prior fests had fairly ideal weather for its needs, these athletes had to run through a blanket of unseasonably moist, gross humidity. So, they all get credit for finishing. At least they had the wind at their backs.

THE OCEAN MOTION: To give you an idea of how idyllic this season has been, we had our first “hurricane” weather of the season on Monday. The remnants of Hurricane Nate, which made landfall in Mississippi on Saturday night as a Cat 1, moved up the Appalachians and doused the Mid-Atlantic. After all the damage and misery caused this hurricane season, we are lucky to have only gotten a single day of rain.

The past week has seen plenty of surf, albeit some uncooperative winds. Guess you can’t have summerlike weather without south winds. We did, however, have our first pure windswell last Wednesday. Surf City was bowling, but there were several peaks and you could have found a wave at pretty much any beach on LBI. Top spots were head-high, but there were some decent chest-high waves from north to south. From the chatter in the water, I was not the only one happy to have medium-period windswell again after all that groundswell. Just to be able to spread out or even pick a random beach and surf alone was such a treat. The wind wrecked it after the morning sesh.

The surf didn’t drop below that 2- to 3-foot threshold all week. Actually that goes back to August. Friday morning had a wave and very little wind. It was funky but rideable. The surf picked up Saturday. We actually got a session during the kite fest. The wind was ripping south and the lower tide made it pretty much impossible to find a line, but it was pretty surreal sitting in that warm ocean, looking back on those massive kites. Sunday saw that morning squall and more southwesterly winds with the surf looking haggard, but there was still a wave to be found if you worked hard enough.

The wind came up hard south again Monday with what used to be Nate, building some south swell, really our first south windswell of the fall (4-foot at seven seconds, thank you). While we were hoping for something a bit better, the wind didn’t ever blow hard enough Monday night to clean it up, leaving Tuesday morning a little shapeless. You really had to wait, but there were some fun rights out there. Look for the surf to come back up yet again late week, although with a whole lot of east wind. It also appears we can expect another week of late summer as we head into mid-October.

The surf temp has dropped, but ever so slightly. I heard some reports of upwelling this weekend, but I’d say it'’ still in the high 60s. Readings up and down New Jersey are crazy high right now for mid-October.

And yeah, some folks are just fiending for Ugg boots and snowfall, but as long as we have waves, I will take trunks and still bursting hibiscus as long as we can get it.

MY 22 CENTS ON LAS VEGAS: Sometimes, especially in the summer, I don’t like to surf with a leash.

I’m not alone here. When the surf is small, it’s kind of fun to ditch the leash, especially on a longboard, where they get in the way and ruin that classic feel and ’60s esthetic. For the record, when there are families and waders on the inside, I usually just take my 10-footer out of the water so as not to hurt anyone.

Now let’s say there are a bunch of surfers not wearing leashes. And they are all protected by a questionable interpretation of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And let’s say a bunch of surfers keep losing their boards. And those boards wash into the shore and hit unsuspecting bathers. Maybe a board gets picked up in the shorebreak and slams into the fragile head of some unsuspecting little kid.

As a community of beachgoers – swimmers, beach patrols and surfers – we would say, “This is insane. Why are we doing this?” The first response would be to ban surfing (that was actually the case in the pre-leash era, before the towns designated surf beaches).

But as those who love to surf, we would likely take it upon ourselves to make sure that surfboards weren’t injuring people.

Right?

Now, let’s say there were 300 million surfboards in the U.S. and pretty much anyone could get one and let it go careening into a group of beachgoers. And then, and this is a stretch but stay with me, the surfboard injuries started killing people.

Now let’s say somehow, errant surfboards killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School, one bounces into a Colorado movie theater and kills a dozen people, then some racist hillbilly lets go of a surfboard that murders a bunch of folks in a black church in South Carolina, another washes through an elementary school in Connecticut and ends the lives of 20 innocent 6-year-olds (let that one sink in) and their teachers. Now imagine that a whole bunch of modified boards get carried through a country music festival in Las Vegas and leave 58 people dead and 500 injured. And on, and on, and on. Like I said, I know it’s a stretch.

But changes would come swiftly. Surfers would make some sacrifices.

I first shot a rifle when I was 10. It was cool, but I never developed a love for firearms. I am well aware that we are one of only a few places in the world where surfers also hunt. That said, mass shooters aren’t toting Remingtons made to shoot buffleheads.

So let’s break it down. In case you don’t follow, the leashless surfboards represent assault weapons. Yet, those of us who have no fascination with owning weaponry do not want to “take your guns,” if you are responsible and smart.

But at the same time, we’re getting pretty tired of seeing innocent people massacred so that some dude can pretend he’s Rambo.

The rest of the developed world has already figured out this nonsense. Maybe instead of hiding behind memes and the lobbyists of a $31 billion industry, you should figure out how to keep really dangerous firearms out of the hands of crazy people? And we will make sure our surfboards don’t smash into anyone on the inside.

CEDARS TALK: Last Friday at the Harvey Cedars commissioners meeting, the town and concerned citizens discussed opening areas outside the flags to surfing. I am told there was a good turnout and all who spoke up were in favor of the policy of surfing outside the flags including presentations from Casey Courts Deacon, who worked to get Surf City to adopt the policy this summer, Harvey Cedars homeowners/surfers Mike Kramer and Jamie Whitesall and Surfrider Foundation’s East Coast Regional Manager John Weber.

The general reasoning is that it works everywhere else on the Island. Harvey Cedars’ commissioners and beach patrol have been urged to simply call Ship Bottom, which has had this policy for over 10 years without incident.

Harvey Cedars borough is apparently going to be sending out a survey to homeowners, asking for input. There is plenty of time until June, but something tells me we will be discussing it until then.

OCTOBER HAPENINGS: Last Friday night, the teams were picked at Old Causeway for the Jetty Clam Jam. Looking at the pairings, there are two things that are very obvious here. One is that no one in the older age group is backing off or retiring from the Clam Jam. In fact, there are a couple of pretty great comebacks. The other is that, man, there are some really talented surfers around here and some fantastic teams. Also, I am very glad I don’t have to face Conor Willem and Billy Webster first round.

The decision was made to not hold the Clam Jam last weekend and that was the right call. Although there was certainly swell, the wind was some form of south all weekend, and not peaky, but just closed out. It’s tough to say exactly what this weekend will hold, but as of now we do seem to have waves in the water and have to see what the wind is going to do. Just a reminder, the Clam Jam will be held on 80th Street in Harvey Cedars. Contact your partner before the event and show up on time so no one gets gipped.

Events and festivals will slow down now, but if you’re still interested in some gatherings, Oct. 20 is an Evening of Music & Good Eats at East in Surf City with food by Sunny Rae’s Kitchen, featuring a collection of artisans and practitioners.

On Oct. 21, Clean Ocean Action will hold its Fall Beach Sweeps starting at 9 a.m. This is happening up and down the New Jersey coast, but you can participate right here on LBI. These annual sweeps are not just about cleaning the beach, but cataloging the findings so we know what’s mucking up our ecosystem and perhaps where it’s coming from. You can get your cleanup gear and file your findings with Alliance for a Living Ocean in Ship Bottom.

So the leaves will start to turn, the air will get crisp and you can go apple picking … eventually. But right now, just keep walking around in bare feet, enjoying the hibiscus blooms and eating ice cream.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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