Liquid Lines

After the Long Fight Through the Cold and Wet, This Is When It Gets Good

Finally Reaching the Pleasant Times, Fun Surf Returns, Plastic Reverb, and Untimely Sands
By JON COEN | May 23, 2018
Photo by: Jon Coen Boards from every period of surfing at Wave Hog Surf Shop's Board Swap last weekend (and a rare blue sky.)

Hey, I think it stopped rain… Oh, wait, never mind.

You know all those sayings we learned growing up about the season? “March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb.” “April showers bring May flowers.”

The great American poet, playwright and author e.e. cummings once wrote, “Sweet spring is your, time is my time, is our time… for springtime is love time and viva sweet love.”

Cummings died in 1962. If he were still alive, he’d be @CummingsInHot on Instagram and I would send him a message telling him he’s an idiot. Winter builds character. Summer fosters romance. Fall is the time of glory. Springtime is a joke. March comes in like a lion. And then that lion moves to Staten Island, takes steroids, gets depressed, starts doing coke, beats his girlfriend, gets some tribal tattoos, and crashes his Hummer into April.

April is only a bit better. For as we’ve recently been reminded, April showers actually bring May showers.

Pardon the weather metaphors and hyperbole here. I try to keep aware of how much of a pathetic whiner I am when it comes to the weather, but I also take a little pride in knowing what folks are talking about ’round here (even when it’s the Eagles or NASCAR, although I have no actual knowledge of those except that the surf was empty and firing the morning after the Super Bowl). And basically every conversation on either side of the bridge of late has involved the atmosphere and what’s pouring out of it.

Hard to believe it’s Memorial Day weekend. First off, much respect to those who gave to protect freedom and democracy. Second, how the heck can it be the “unofficial start” of summer when winter just ended two weeks ago? What kind of place do we live in where we need insulated muck boots and flip-flops in the same weekend?

Internet click bait ads tell us there’s a Beach Haven (or Manahawkin, or wherever you live) start-up company “disrupting a billion-dollar industry.” Is it tourism? Are there tech-savvy millennials somehow directing all the Earth’s worst weather to LBI?

For those of you just back to our Island, I don’t need to tell you that January was outright brutal. While we were dealing with negative wind chills and harsh northwest winds blowing across the frozen bay, you had feet of snow in North Jersey and the suburbs of Philly. While our island flooded, snow fell, and lightning struck a house, setting it ablaze (all in the same day, mind you), you had your own problems.

But since then, while you had this thing called spring, we had myriad conditions that ranged from a blanket of fog to onshore winds and days that barely hit 50 degrees. We’ve had a grand total of 3.5 beach days, and three of those were this past week.

The most recent kick to the ribs was the week of neverending rain. My friend Noah started emailing me plans to build some kind of boat and asking how to decipher between a male and female butterfly. We woke every morning to cold, gray skies and finished every day with a downpour.

And since you were on your way down this weekend, we had a whole lot of prep work to do in the sog. Every deck and dock has been a slip and slide. If you power washed a deck on Thursday, it had mildew on Friday.

As a local, it wears on you. A few evenings to enjoy one of the new fire pits around town or early mornings on the bay before the hectic push of summer are something we look forward to. It’s understandable to be a bit miffed when those get washed down the street and into the storm drain.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. We awoke on Monday morning to the sun shining through the windows. Could this be it? Could the paralyzing cold, the long slog from mid-March to mid-May, and the monsoon season finally be over? I know I sprang out of bed thrilled to start the week. After all, there was a lot to be done.

Let’s forget those terrible spring rhymes we learned as kids, that fat good-for-nothing groundhog and the ’roided-out lion. As Ella Fitzgerald (and then Sam Cook and later Bradley Nowell of Sublime) once sang, “It’s summertime and the living is easy …”

Well, maybe not easy for locals who are about to dive into a 100-day work binge, but it’s certainly more pleasant than what we’ve had.

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE: I’d like to just leave the negative behind us at this point, but the conditions of the past few months will be felt for a while. Imagine how warm the ocean would be if it didn’t have to climb all the way up from 30! We’re all a little behind, and local businesses have to play catch-up after the season of gray.

But moving forward, there are a few stellar times of year around this sandbar, and one of them is this pre-summer season. It’s not an exact time frame, as it starts when Ma Nature says so. It’s a time of mellow weeknights, all your favorite places being open seven days, extended daylight and the awaited return of weather in the 70s and 80s – finally warm enough, but not yet blazing heat.

And it’s here.

I also might mention that it’s a welcomed time for most surfers, who are itching to lay down some rail. No, we haven’t had any monster swells or raging tubes, but these changes are a bit more subtle – specifically, the water temperature and the sandbars.

After several weeks of conditions that were somewhere between weak and downright annoying, we’re settling into a more summerlike situation. The ocean is now in the high 50s and, more importantly, the sandbars are finally set up.

Once we start getting local weather from hurricanes or fall storms, it changes the profile of our beaches. Through the winter, that means the sandbars are decent for bigger swells, but not your everyday, knee- to chest-high conditions. We used to have jetties that helped set up sand for those days, but those get buried now every couple of seasons.

The sand morphs again starting in May, setting up sandbars that are tighter to the beach and more conducive to smaller swells. In other words, when you catch a wave, you don’t immediately hit a big hole of deep water.

After an abysmal Saturday, we had that late-afternoon shower and the winds actually went offshore. I got reports from all over the Island that the surf was fun in the evening and the sandbars were set up to handle peeling waves. The wind did switch back to south for a bit, but not so much that it ruined the night. All in all, the best session we’ve had in some time.

“We had solid shoulder-high sets in Harvey Cedars. It was really fun until sunset with great sandbar set-ups,” reported Brian Farias of Farias Surf and Sport.

I should also add that the ocean was around 58. Sixty degrees is a magic point around here, and we’re getting very close. I have to wonder if some of the northeast winds we’ve had helped early week. Following the crushing cold this winter, 60 degrees for Memorial Day would be the sweetest of treats. You can opt for a 3-mil suit with boots and gloves or go with a bit thicker suit and start to scale down the accessories. Bareback usually doesn’t happen until later in June.

And there was still a smaller easterly version of that wave left on Monday morning. Shaper Greg Melega agreed that the sand was nicely shaped and described the south end as “belly high and running” on Monday morning.

Southern Regional High School Vice Principal Joe Medica was enjoying summer-style sandbars in Ship Bottom with first light at 5 a.m.

All in all, it was a struggle to get to this point in the year, but now we’re here. We’ll be scaling down rubber and sinking bare feet into wax soon enough. Time to get out those fun, fat summertime sticks and old logs.

PLASTIC REVERB: Last week in Liquid Lines, we had a little fun discussing the sweeping movements toward less single-use plastics, and those who are still going about their lives oblivious to any of this. Because for each sensible ordinance, every restaurant that goes over to paper soufflé cups and every turtle that doesn’t get a stupid straw stuck in its nose, there will still be someone bitching about the hardships they are enduring by 10-cent paper bags or a paper straw. And I have to reiterate how much credit local businesses deserve for doing the research to find eco-safe, affordable alternatives.

The point I was making last week is that these are the most simple changes we can possibly make if we’re going to keep future generations from dealing with an insurmountable pile of plastic waste. If a paper straw or local taxes being spent on a few reusable bags is your big issue, humanity is in some real trouble.

But if last week’s column moved the dialogue forward, that’s great. Local restaurants are doubling down on the search for better takeout containers, and the Garden Club of Long Beach Island will be showing the documentary “A Plastic Ocean” six times this summer locally. The first will be showing at the Ocean Acres Community Center on Wednesday, June 6, sponsored by the Sustainable Stafford Green Team, the garden club and the Surfrider Foundation. The ripple is moving outward.

THE UNTIMELY SANDS OF TIME: As reported last week in The SandPaper, Weeks Marine wasn’t starting the next round of beachfill in Harvey Cedars until this week. The bad news is that 1,000 feet of beach will be closed through your holiday weekend around 68th Street They will move south first and then do the northern half of town.

The worse news is that it likely won’t be done by mid-June, when summer really kicks in. The even worst news is for Surf City, which will likely see sand being pumped through the heart of the summer.

Keep in mind that the towns exercise little control over when these projects happen. Surf City Councilman Peter Hartney says the town “admits it’s not ideal.”

No, it’s not. In fact, you probably couldn’t find a less ideal time to pump the City of Surf. And the gear, beach closure and noise are nothing compared to the post-fill beach profile. The only people who will be affected are people who come to LBI to swim, surf, fish, bellyboard and wade out to the sandbar, and no one does those things in the summer.

However, these projects are federally funded, so you take what you can get. Should an errant hurricane wind up in our mug come September, the inconvenience will seem inconsequential.

SURF AND HAPS: Get ready. It’s here.

Wave Hog Surf Shop made a hell of an effort to hold its Board Swap last Saturday between the drizzle and deluge. Despite the weather, folks came out, specifically some local shapers. Shop Manager Max Dimon kept it all together, and there were some really interesting boards from every time in surfing’s history. Dimon brought the boards out again on Sunday, when things dried out.

In the social category, Sink ’R Swim Men’s Shop is having a party on Wednesday night simply to celebrate the start of the season and the return of the sun.

Next Saturday, June 2, is Hop Sauce Fest in Beach Haven. The morning starts with South-End Surf N’ Paddle’s Hop Sauce Tune Up to benefit Alliance for a Living Ocean, at the Taylor Avenue waterfront. This is for both competitive paddlers and folks just having a good time. Registration starts at 8 a.m. The race is $25. And if you go hard at the race in the morning, there’s no guilt in drinking and eating yummy offerings all day.

The Hop Sauce Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The location has moved this year to Veterans Memorial Park, about nine blocks south. It’s a pretty stellar spot to spend the day.

Jetty and Spice It Up went to great lengths this year to nail down over 50 craft beers, the best of the best local food vendors, and over 100 hot sauces. Playing the Barlow Buick GMC stage will be the Pine Barons, the Ill Doots, the Ghost of Paul Revere and Sinkane, all original acts. Info and tickets can be found at hopsaucefest.com.

On June 9, the Tuckerton Seaport will host a Handplane Shaping class with Beach Haven’s Greg Melega. The class starts at 9 a.m. and runs about half a day. You learn the tools and process and walk away with your own handplane to use for the summer. The class is $150 for members/$165 for non. Learn more and sign up at Tuckertonseaport.com. If you can’t make the June class, there are four more through the fall.

Soon proper summer will be upon us and the events will be too numerous to keep track of. This weekend looks like tiny surf, so find those periods of lower tides for small-wave boards when you can. There’s an interesting feature on the map next week that may linger off the Southeast or move off our coast. If it visits our neighborhood, we could have bigger surf than we’ve had in a month.

If this is your first time back to the Island since 2017, welcome back. Please slow down while driving through flooded streets. Here’s hoping for a good-time, good-wave, good-weather summer.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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