Liquid Lines

Celebrating Surfing Freedom in Surf City and Little-Wave Love

By JON COEN | Jul 19, 2017
Courtesy of: Deacon As of Monday, you could surf anywhere outside the swim flags in Surf City on a trial basis. Jimi Savianeso, Casey Courts Deacon, lifeguard Patrick Hyland and Sean Deacon celebrate the newfound freedom.

Well, it’s official. As of Monday, Surf City – our Surf City, the one here on LBI in New Jersey – is going to have a trial period to allow surfing outside the flags on all beaches. The borough council vote was unanimous.

If you’re a local and/or a surfer, you know this is pretty big news. If you’re familiar with Surf City and its history of being about as much fun as a keg party in Joseph Stalin’s basement (easy, it’s a joke), you know this is pretty big news.

If you’re a summertime visitor and you don’t surf, nor care about any of this, you probably can’t figure out why this is such a big deal to some people. Well actually, truth is, it won’t have a significant effect on your life. You can swim where you always swam, sit where you always sat, and just go about living your life.

Just to reiterate, Surf City has had a surfing beach at North Second Street since the town fathers agreed to tolerate it decades ago. Today, that break gets crowded. Some days, the sandbar just doesn’t set up. But that’s what Surf City had, take it or leave it. And if you lived on the north end of town, it was easier to just hike into North Beach or drive to Harvey Cedars.

For the most part, the biggest effect will be on the families. Let’s face it, LBI is a family town(s.) Whether local, summerhouse folks or once-a-year visitor, it’s really all about family time. Now, for a family who lives or regularly goes to the beach in Surf City, this is going to be a game changer. No longer will surfing sons and daughters, or the waveriding dad have to leave the rest of the family in Surf City to seek more friendly shores in Ship Bottom or some other break. Now the family can go to the beach together, swimmers can swim, surfers can surf. And everyone can stay at the same spot, getting that much-needed family time. And by Labor Day, you’ll want to disown your family.

Surf City has decided not to allow SUPs, kayaks and kite boards. This is interesting since stand-up paddling has been the récréation du jour on the Island (that’s French for paddling moms in yoga pants) of late. You can actually paddle out on a stand-up board from Ship Bottom and stroke north through all of Surf City, just outside the swimming area, while the folks in Surf City sit next to their beached boards. I am still a firm believer that stand-up boards don’t belong in the water with other surfers, but that’s not the issue here. Perhaps these rules will loosen in time.

Now, here’s the important part. This is just a trial period. Surfers are being given an opportunity to prove that this can work. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t work, as it works in every other town on LBI. The town, the beach patrol and the police are going to be keeping a watchful eye on how these next few weeks go down.

Be smart. Stay out of the swimming areas. If you happen to drift into the swimming area or catch a great left into the flags, catch the next wave in on your stomach. Make a point to stay away from any swimmers. I have found that if you just give the lifeguard a quick wave, acknowledging that you are aware, it goes a long way. Then run back up the beach and paddle out again.

Buy a badge. Yes, you need a badge even if you are just surfing. I know, I know. You think badges are unconstitutional. But do you notice that every evening the beach is dirty and the next morning it’s clean? That’s not the litter fairy. If you are riding, carrying or even looking at a surfboard this summer, someone is going to ask you for a badge, possibly the police. Either buy a badge or go elsewhere. Just don’t make a scene and ruin it for everyone else.

Be courteous. There may be some beachgoers who are still living in the 1950s and don’t want to see surfing anywhere near their swim spots. They may have nothing better to do than watch for reasons to oppose the new policy. Avoid them. Avoid all confrontations. Just go do your thing. Show them how easy it can be.

One homeowner in Surf City announced at the meeting his concern for surfers changing in the street. On the whole, I really have no idea why this upsets people so much.

“But there are children around!”

Kids won’t even notice unless you point it out to them. They’re concerned with ice cream, Fidget Spinners and the next low tide. If some sicko is intentionally exposing himself, go ahead and lock him up. Surfers are changing under a towel, removing a wetsuit so we can drive home or to work without our seats smelling like rancid pee for two months. Maybe stop trying to look up my towel, dude.

But for the sake of being able to surf outside the flags without being hassled, let’s take extra care this summer to make sure no one sees you changing. Hopefully the water stays warm and we won’t need wetsuits. Maybe drive home in trunks or get changed in your car. Just don’t give anyone a reason to bitch.

In fact, that’s a good rule of thumb these next few weeks in Surf City. Don’t give anyone a reason to say this trial is a bad idea. Hundreds of people will be surfing in Surf City this week (kinda wonder what we’re going to do with all those Beater Boards now). Police each other. Help inexperienced groms stay out of the swimming area. Kill ’em with kindness. Don’t let one or two goofballs ruin this for everyone.

In the credit where credit is due department, much respect to Casey Courts Deacon and Frank Troy, who both had excellent presentations about the family, safety and economic benefits of opening all areas outside the flags to surfing.

In the WTF department, even though borough hall was standing room only, there are a lot of Surf City resident surfers who weren’t there. It’s important to have homeowners and taxpayers speak up. And for the other surfers who did speak up, nice work. We just need to be ready to answer questions when someone tries to divert us from our point or discredit us.

That said, thank you to the mayor and council of Surf City. Thank you to the surfing families who presented our tribe in a positive light. Let’s all do our best to make this work.

MO’ SURF: Since the nice run of waves in the early summer, each week the surf has gotten a tiny bit worse, but we’re still enjoying a decent summer overall. You may have also noticed how many of these better days have fallen on weekends, which is fortunate for the working local crew.

The best we had this week was a fun 2-foot swell on Saturday morning, which felt a bit like surfing in a fish bowl. Between the perfect temperature, the low tide, the clear ocean and the lack of moving water, it felt very aquarium-like out there. The waves were fun, too, definitely shortboard size. What it lacked in size it made up for with the general pleasantness. And while it was crowded, there were peaks everywhere.

And at least where I surfed, it was all guys who’ve been surfing full-time for 25 years or more, which served to support the conversation in last week’s column about the lack of teenage kids with any desire to really dive into it. The only kids in the water were those of fathers who were out there surfing. Strange times, but no one seems too upset.

One nice thing about this past weekend’s waves was the lack of wind. The sea breeze kicked in mid-morning on both Saturday and Sunday, but not too bad. It’s those days that it whips up to 20 knots that really crush your whole afternoon for everything on the beach and bay.

What we could really use right now is a decent hurricane swell. The Atlantic Ocean has been relatively sleepy lately with a few tropical waves that haven’t done much. There’s a lot of dry air out there and not a whole lot of thunderstorm activity pushing off the coast of Africa. What we know as the Cape Verde Season, when the volume of storms forming off the coast of Africa tends to pick up, doesn’t really start until mid-August.

While the surf forecast looks pretty minimal for the upcoming week, at least it’s not flat. There should be a tiny trace of a wave almost every day. And now that the water’s warm, you’d be surprised at how much fun you can have. Try to work your schedule around low tide and bring the right board. It’s not epic, but it’s better than not getting out there at all.

All THE SUMMER JAZZ: It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through July. Might want to start making the most of the summer. Stay up later. Wake up earlier. You can sleep in the winter.

Last Friday, the Catch Surf Team came through Farias, Surf City. All the local groms came down to meet Kalani Robb and the rest of the Catch Surf Team. Unfortunately, as it came time to head up Fifth Street for the Beater Board contest, those giant thunderstorms came through. Both Catch Surf and Farias stalled to hold the Expression Session, but the weather just wouldn’t roll through. Everyone still seemed to have a good time at the shop.

Saturday was the LBI Paddle Classic presented by South End Surf N’ Paddle. This is a really well-run event and I have two thoughts on it. The first is that it’s great to see a local event drawing people to the Island. All the top racers in New Jersey were there and I know for a fact that they hung around and spent some money on LBI. However, it would be great to see the locals get back into this race. LBI is known for great prone paddlers, but few of them competed. For whatever reason, we don’t have a lot of serious SUP racers here. Clearly, there’s a ton going on around the Island on a Saturday, but I’m not sure why we don’t have more recreational paddlers just coming out to race for the fun of it like we used to. See Dave Biggy’s full story in this issue.

Now to what’s ahead. Of most relevance to the surfing community is the Jetty Coquina Jam, which is Sunday, July 30. But in keeping with tradition, Jetty will hold a fun party in advance to pick teams on July 20. As always younger surfers are randomly paired with more experienced surfers to bring the community together. The selection night will be held at the Ann Coen Gallery in Surf City starting at 7 p.m., complete with a BBQ and live music. Be there and meet your partner.

The much-anticipated “The Oyster Farmers” film makes its world premiere at the Stafford Township Arts Center this Friday night, July 21. This film is a very important piece, which I believe is documenting a turnaround for Barnegat Bay. Despite the absolute disrespect for all things science and ecology at the highest level of government right now, locally we’re seeing much more consciousness for our local waters. I encourage everyone to get out and see this film.

In other environmental news, several locals are planning to attend the Pinelands Commission public comment meeting on the New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline through the Pinelands on July 26. This is one of those interesting subjects, considering we are almost all NJNG customers. It’s being held at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, likely to accommodate such an expected large turnout.

Do we need to discuss how special the Pinelands are? You have to think that the money and resources that could go toward a pipeline could be spent on renewables rather than more fossil fuels and a pipe that runs through the delicate ecosystem of the Pinelands Preservation Area, land that so many have worked so hard to preserve through the Pinelands Protection Act.

On July 29, Yoga Bohemia will host a community potluck with indigo dye and henna. Funk Shway will perform, and who doesn’t like a good potluck?

Beyond that, the 9th annual Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic registration is now open. The event was held in Ship Bottom last year and was a massive success. This year’s event is Aug. 5. This event requires surfers to ride a vintage board that is at least 3 feet taller than they are with no leashes. You are judged on style, nose rides and “looking like you’re having a good time.” You can sign up at

So go enjoy Surf City this week. Spread yourselves out. Have fun. Be polite.

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