Liquid Lines

Besides Waves, the One Great Thing About This Time of Year

Losing Count of These Northeast Swells
By JON COEN | Mar 28, 2018
Photo by: Dan Przygocki Matty Guarino sets himself up for a big March backside barrel amid the stellar run of swell.

If you’ve ever read Liquid Lines before you know I’m not such a big fan of this time of year on LBI. I mean if you’ve read it once, even in November, you’d know my take on it.

The waves have been firing, but other than that, summer and winter both have their share of days where there is nowhere on earth you’d rather be than an 18-mile sandbar just off the coast of the Pine Barrens, even if there’s no Thai food joint.

And fall … well we all know fall is a blessing of waves and fresh fish on your doorstep.

And then there’s March. If you’re the person who still yearns for “spring” to come and save you from winter, then I have a bridge to sell you. Well, you don’t have to buy it; you just have to pay a tax every time you come over it. (Just one way, though.)

Whatever. I’m like a broken record.

But if there’s one thing I do look forward to this time of year it’s the announcements of summer shows and festivals. Something about imagining yourself doing things when the season actually turns (not this March BS) is comforting.

Of course, there are the local ones. Now I’m not talking about the cover bands that bust out Zeppelin and Bruno Mars in the same set. This year’s Hop Sauce Festival will host the Pine Barons, the Philly band, and a hip-hop crew called the Ill Doots, which I am really pumped about. Anytime you bring a hip-hop act to LBI is simply fire.

They’re followed by the twangy Maine folk act, The Ghost of Paul Revere, who played Conan this past winter. Headlining is the uplifting world beats and “millennial Motown” (that’s my term) of Sinkane, from New York.

Usually there are one or two national acts that come through the area to play for the summer crowds. G Love comes to mind. He’s not exactly my thing, but I always get excited for my friends who get to see one of their favs without leaving our sandbar. Then there are the shows at the Lizzie Rose Music Room, which already has a full schedule for summer.

LBI still isn’t real big on hosting original music. I remember when The Quarterdeck Inn had the Toasters, an absolutely legendary NYC ska band, come play the Island back in the day. I was so excited to ride my bike to see a band that I actually listened to. This was going to be the best night of the summer. And there were about 11 people there.

So since we don’t get a lot of bands that don’t work both Neil Diamond and Bieber into the set list, I’m more talking about the events at the outdoor venues in Asbury Park, North Jersey, Philly and New York. The summer headliners all get announced around this time of year, and they’re as much a tradition as bodysurfing Harvey Cedars and sunsets over the bay.

There was something about that magic of the same crew that you surf with, or whatever your summer pursuit, all buying tickets. Of course, there’s always the one guy who’s totally in, and then bails at the last minute, forcing you to have to sell that ticket outside the venue.

Don’t be that guy.

It was an adventure in the making. Plans were made, everyone would pile in the car and head to the show. Back in the day it was the Grateful Dead at Giant’s Stadium. You’d see all sorts of LBI faces at Lollapalooza and later the Warped Tour.

This year, the Stone Pony Summer Stage will host the likes of New Found Glory, Primus, the Dropkick Murphy’s with Flogging Molly, Umphrees McGee, Rebelution and, hell, even Boy George and Culture Club. I’m sure there will be more than a few Island waveriders up there for the rock reggae of Slightly Stoopid.

I’m generally stoked for the Bouncing Souls annual “Stoked for the Summer” show with Titus Andronicus and Against Me! which has become a summer tradition I wouldn’t miss for anything. Going up, seeing friends, eating tacos and busting out the songs we grew up on.

I’m also told the old See. Hear. Now Festival, featuring surf, music and art, is coming back to AP in a bigger way at the end of September with some stellar acts. Have to keep an ear out for that.

The Firefly Fest is June 14-17 this year with its usually eclectic lineup marked by Eminem, The Killers, Kendrick Lamar and Arctic Monkeys. You’ll have plenty of chances to see U2 as they play multiple New York and Philly shows, as well as a Newark stop in June. Weezer and the Pixies co-headline a tour that hits both the PNC Arts Center and Camden.

I know a lot of bigger festivals will be announcing lineups this month as well. Something to do while we sit and wait for the season that never comes.

FOUR FREAKING STORMS: Well, actually from a look outside, it’s five freaking storms. I think the surf might be 10 foot by the time you read this.

What is happening on LBI is certainly pretty novel. We had four nor’easters, all with some manner of snowfall and all with major swell, within a three-week period. Throw in some flooding, power outages, thunder snow and a house fire and it’s been a true bouquet of crap. Kids have been out of school so much, they forget how to read. As my buddy Joe Mangino put it, nor’easter has become a day of the week.

But for surfers, it’s been firing. Make no mistake. For all the hassle and heartache of Winter Storms Quinn, Riley, Skylar and Toby, each one was somehow the swell of the year. I know we covered Riley and Quinn in the last column, but Skylar and Toby were yet again bombing on the South End and then got good mid-Island.

I should also clarify something about these swells. What you see on Instagram is the best of it – the best surfers on the best waves. And make no mistake, it was an epic showing. What you don’t always see is the beatings, the pencil drops, the over-the-falls, and the hold-downs. Hold-downs are fun in 40-degree water. Facebook doesn’t show the shoulder burn, the brutal drift or the pack of 10 dudes from out of state who all paddle out at once. For every long, bending bowl I had, I took a nice trip down to Davey Jones as well.

Speaking of the crowds, thanks to the “New Mibia” sandbar, courtesy of the last beach replenishment in Beach Haven and Holgate, LBI has been the focal point of East Coast surfing for all of March. And that has drawn crowds from everywhere. The other day, I literally encountered several Point Pleasant bodyboarders, a Georgia license plate, frothy Pa. dudes, Ocean City pros and one Massachusetts surfer who is simply out of his mind with enthusiasm.

Yeah, it’s a bummer when it gets crowded. But we all head to Monmouth County, Long Island, Rhody and Cape May when we have to. I do have to say that there were decent waves away from the usual focal points. It just seems that in 2018, no one wants to surf where there aren’t cameras. But there were empty ones to be had.

That $18.4 million sandbar won’t last forever, which is a drag. But if you’re worried that LBI is the new Snapper Rocks, complete with crowds, don’t be. When springtime comes (perhaps mid-May) those southerly winds are going to ruin that long, tapered outside bank. Besides, these crowds are nothing compared to when we have hurricane swell, a hint of north wind, 17.75 miles of closeouts.

As mentioned in my last column, some of that is going to wind up back on the beaches. But the crowds will realize it’s not going to last.

TOBY TUBES: I don’t want last Thursday’s waves to get simply swept up in all of the hype of these swells. We’ve had a historic month and it’s easy for everything to run together. Plus, Toby Sweeney, owner of the Terrace Tavern, was simply tickled to have a storm named after her with the proper spelling.

While all of the attention has been on the South End as of late, most of LBI absolutely lit up last Thursday with huge, groomed barrels. It was a bit too much in the morning, but after the midday high tide drained and the size leveled off, Surf City was ground zero as way-overhead peaks broke. Cedar Bonnet Island’s Matty Guarino came out of a mean one.

“The swell has been unreal this month. It’s one we’ll be telling our groms about for ages – broken boards, broken legs and glorious waves,” said Guarino.

“You really have to want it this time of year, battling against all the harsh elements and heavy surf. It only took me four nor’easters and just before dark to finally get spit out of a gem. I had to claim it. Now I can’t move my arms again, but I can’t wait for another day in the pool with the boys.”

The broken leg reference is to Barnegat Light’s Captain Danny Mears, who snapped his leg at Holgate on Wednesday, when the swell was still very raw. Much luck to a speedy recovery to one of the Island’s hardest chargers.

This latest swell might not produce like the last ones. There’s certainly no lack of swell, but we’ve been blessed with these northwest winds this month to this point.

COMING UP: Springtime usually means a return to local events. It’s not feeling very springlike, hence there’s not much going on still. That extra hour of daylight was such a gift to watch a fourth nor’easter. A messy snowfall on the first day of spring is actually perfectly fitting.

Since yoga and surfing have become so intertwined and no one’s doing yoga on the beach anytime soon, Bendy Jane Yoga is hosting a Yoga Hike at Wells Mills. It’s the first “spring” hike of the year. Starting at 10 a.m., it involves 30 minutes of yoga to warm up the body, a guided meditation halfway through the hike, and 15 minutes of yoga/stretching to end. It’s $10 and a good way to wake up your body for … we’ll call it late winter.

Also, take note, the LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences does not have a Science Saturday this weekend because of the holiday.

If you’re desperate for some signs of spring, there have been a smattering of local joints reopening for 2018, the six- and eight-month season spots. There was no arugula salad with fried calamari, balsamic and goat cheese on the patio when Mud City opened last Thursday, on account of 6 inches of snow, but they are open nonetheless. The Black Whale, Slice of Heaven and others are now open for weekends. Shore Good Donuts did its Free Donut Day on Saturday, so that’s got to count for something.

Here’s something to definitely look forward to that was recently announced. On May 4, Patagonia will host “Swell – A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening” at Farias. Throughout the summer, Farias and other surf shops often host pro surfers, guys and girls who show up, maybe get some waves with the kids and sign autographs. That’s not Patagonia’s style and this is a different type of event.

Captain Liz Clark, an accomplished waverider, set sail from California in 2006 in pursuit of a lifelong dream of surf exploration via sailboat. Ten years and 20,000 miles later of solo sailing aboard 40-foot Swell, her Pacific voyage has presented her with more fantastic friends, waves, adventures and personal growth than she dreamed possible.

Clark will be on hand to talk about her story and read from her new book. All surfers have a desire to surf and explore. She’s been doing it under the power of the wind. We will remind you of it in Liquid Lines as we get closer, but I definitely recommend marking this off on your calendar.

Try to hang in there until actual spring and, in the meantime, check out who’s touring this summer.

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