Liquid Lines

Dispelling a Rolling Rumor and Wrapping Up a Great Weekend Swell

The Skatepark Will Not Become a Pickleball Court, But What Does It Take to Get a Decent Skatepark?
By JON COEN | Apr 04, 2017
Photo by: Jon Peterson Not fooling anyone in April. Keith Noonan finds some frontside love on LBI to start the month.

I’m going to start this week by dispelling a rumor. There’s scuttlebutt going around (like that term?)  that Barnegat Light is going to tear out its skatepark to make room for new pickle ball courts. This is not true.

What is true? Pickle popularity is through the roof. On many of the unseasonably warm days this winter, hardcore pickleballers were out in full force. LBI has shown unbridled enthusiasm for the game on the same level as blinking yellow lights and flannel. We’ve not seen this kind of passion for tennis and bocce ball, two sports very popular with pickleball crossover athletes.

The USA Pickleball Association estimates that pickleball courts (and that counts for non-permanent courts in gymnasiums and such) have grown from around 2,500 to 17,000 since 2010. And LBI is kind of a prime market for pickleballing, with a large AARP membership and a half dozen ball fields that haven’t heard the crack of the bat since the pre-Snookie era.

But according to Barnegat Light Borough Hall, the skatepark will not be meeting the wrecking ball – or more appropriately, two guys from public works with screw guns and a saws-all. The park, which was deemed unsafe last year and shut down, will be getting repaired, according to the town, as soon as the weather breaks and public works gets the parts in.

There was no additional info as to what type of materials would be used on the rebuild. If public works is waiting on parts, that would suggest something more than plywood and masonite. Perhaps something more like the Waretown skatepark ramps, which are some kind of composite material that holds up far better to the elements?

Overall, for those of us for whom standing sideways on a board is a full lifestyle, this is good news. There are several BL families that are vocal about wanting the park to stay and far more around the Island, even if they’re not extreme North End taxpayers. Incidentally, Barnegat Light added to the growing national pickleball statistics by adding new courts to the town’s rec area at West 10th Streeet.

And this is not a bomb drop to anyone, but Barnegat Light’s is not a very good skatepark. There’s not a whole lot of flow, and the mini ramp is really small. But we certainly can’t complain to that recreation department, as BL is the only town in a region full of surfers and skaters that even has a skatepark. It never ceases to shock me how other coastal towns have amazing concrete parks, and LBI has one miniature skate facility. And today, we have more families than ever that are fully immersed in the board riding tradition.

I’m not in anyway against pickleball, aka “tiny tennis,” but man, it would be nice to have a place to whip around pockets, grind ledges, and teach our kids to drop in.

APRIL STARTS BIG: I have to assume that if the first two days of the month bring stellar surf, April is going to be a pretty good one. We had a low-pressure system roll in on Friday that generated another combo of both north and southeast swell. And the only April fools were those who missed Saturday’s session. Unfortunately, this wasn’t perfect everywhere, and the South End had to bear the weight of most of the surfing on the Island, but there were several good spots and some were very good, with ruler-edged lefts firing off the jetties. It was in the shoulder to way overhead range with north and northwest winds, and it broke pretty much all day.

“It was perfect for how big it was,” said Morgan Lesser, who spends his time between Pennsylvania and LBI, working at Farias, “and there were only a couple of guys out for the first hour. I saw Conor Willem get so many good ones. It felt really good because winter got a little slow up until about a month ago.”

Lesser claimed he didn’t make any barrels, as you really needed a bigger board. But once he made the switch in the evening, he was able to thread a few. If April’s going to start with big, firing left barrels, you know it’s going to be a good four weeks.

Sunday’s forecast called for northwest winds, which got a bit tricky. Now that we’re in the spring (aka late winter), we can expect this. The surf was solid most of the morning. But the winds went north, then got really light and eventually came around to southwest. Again, the South End was the place to be, but with waves and the sun out, you had plenty of company. A few spots mid-Island and South End were still working with less crowd and, in some cases, barely anyone out. The water color was also notable, the pretty green hues a nice break from winter’s brown.

The surf continued even when the tide and wind deteriorated things with the wind going back straight offshore before dark and a few surfers scoring yet another stellar session. And actually, first thing Monday morning had a nice-shaped small wave with straight offshore winds for any takers.

Nothing could have better exemplified the season better than the weekend we just had. Saturday was gray and chilly, not cold, but definitely a day that had the look of winter. And the wind stayed consistent west/northwest all day.

But then you look at Sunday, when temps got into the high 50s and the wind got dicey. All winter long, offshore winds are pretty dependable. The northwest winds kick in when the front goes offshore. Even if the timing is wrong (i.e. just before dark) ,it’s much more defined. We don’t necessarily get fewer waves in this transitional period than winter – hot and cold air masses colliding are a volatile storm recipe for wave making. But winds are far less reliable, and tides seem to be more of an issue.

I should mention that these are often due to spring tides, but “spring tides” have nothing to do with springtime. Spring tides are the higher high and lower low tides that come after new and full moons. This happens all year ’round, so spring doesn’t refer to the time of year. It just happens that from a surfing perspective, March through May seem to have odd tides. That may also have to do with moving sands and water depth.

MORE ON THE WAY AND WARM UPS: If the surf fell off on Monday, it wasn’t down for long. We had south swell picking up again by evening and sideshore waves on Tuesday that gave way to cleaner lines today. Looking ahead, it also looks like a pretty significant combo swell is on the horizon for late week into the weekend.

For the next four months, we’ll be paying particularly close attention to ocean water temps. I, and a few others that I spoke to this weekend, all surfed in 4-mils, as the ocean took a nice leap the last two weeks. And by nice leap, I mean five degrees.

We no longer have our go-to accurate temperature gauge on LBI and I’m not too confident it will come back thanks to President 45’s significant cuts to the U.S. Geological Service. Collecting water temperature is hard data, and we know how this administration feels about such propaganda. I am working on something to get you accurate water temps for Liquid Lines.

For now, I’m going on NOAA’s Center for Environmental Information (environment … information … such dirty words in 2017) readings up and down the New Jersey coast, which show near 50 in Cape May and 45 at Sandy Hook. Common sense would say we’re about 47.5 degrees, but LBI tends to stay cooler than our neighbors just to the south.

The immediate forecast doesn’t show the air temps going below freezing in the next 10 days, which would put us to mid-April, when spring actually kicks in. That would indicate relatively decent temperatures over the western Atlantic and a good chance that we don’t sink back to that really cold water. Granted, I observed the same in February, and a week later, we had the coldest weather of the year.

Also, you’re probably safe to turn on the outside shower. Woo hoo!

SPRING THINGS HAPPENING: First off, a big congratulations to former Island surfer, paddler and meteorologist, Rob Mitstifer. Mitstifer has been the operations meteorologist for National Weather Forecasting LLC, but recently landed a job as an official Surfline forecaster and will be moving to the Outer Banks. Not a bad place to have a “desk job.” Let’s see how many “code orange” calls he nails or blows in his first few months.

Also, Dylan Wisniewski of Bayville just aced the Shack Board Shop March Radness event presented by Jetty last week by beating out Manahawkin’s Kyle McCormic, who has been a Shack skater since the original Ship Bottom store. The competition has 32 skaters compete against each other in brackets in a game of SKATE, which is much like HORSE in basketball. McCormic and Wisniewski came down to a tight final, and Wisniewski even snapped a truck, having to borrow a board, but still wound up taking his second March Radness title.

This Saturday Greg Melega will hold his monthly surfboard shaping class at Tuckerton Seaport. Each class, students put in two days of learning and work and then leave with a new alaia. For those not aware, an alaia is a solid wooden Polynesian surfboard. They’ll learn the history and the woodworking skills using sanders, jigsaws and handplanes. There is no craftsmanship nor surfing experience needed.

This weekend’s class is full, as these are becoming tremendously popular, but more classes are being added at the Seaport and also on LBI for the summer, including handplane and paipo-building classes.

Science Saturday continues at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Science, this Saturday with the American oyster in Barnegat Bay. Never has this mollusk enjoyed the popularity it does in 2017. Matt Greg of Forty North Oyster Farms will discuss the rise, fall,and hopefully the new resurgence of the oyster colonies in local waters. The presentation starts at 11 a.m. and is free for members, $5 for non.

The Beach House Classic Board Shop, in Bay Head, will have its Spring Board Swap on April 23. Though this isn’t a local event, it’s still a very popular outing for Island surfers looking to trade, sell, or buy vintage surfcraft.

The fourth annual Hop Sauce event is slated for June 3 this year. We’ll get more into the details of that as it approaches, but for now, pencil in the Hop Sauce Tune Up paddle race brought to you by South-End Surf ’N Paddle for that morning. You can get race entry and a ticket to the festival as part of a package deal ,and this race is growing every year.

And yes, while the water is still pretty much at winter temps and there are still some 75 days left until schools get out, South-End Surf ’N Paddle has announced Shape Fest 2017. This now-annual event will combine surfboard shaping, live music and stoke, June 23-25.

That’s about it for this week. Enjoy some of the nice weather, fingers crossed on this swell, and try not to be too frustrated when we descend back to chilly, rainy days. Assuming most of my readership is of the local kind, you’ll be rushing to prepare for summer before you know it.

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