Liquid Lines

Don’t Buy Into the Springtime Fantasy

If You’re Starting to Have Visions of Springtime, Get a Grip
By JON COEN | Feb 28, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

It was a feeling we hadn’t had in a long time, somehow familiar and comforting. Walking across the parking lot, we could feel it pulling us in, dark shirt absorbing the sun on our backs.

We just wanted to give in, let it wash over us and succumb to some flowery springtime fantasy. The warm, fresh air was intoxicating, like inhaling a drug, letting it fill our lungs and causing us to hallucinate about open windows, sweet vegetables growing in the garden, the feel of salt-caked skin as we walk off the beach at 6 p.m. with another three hours of daylight. We imagine ourselves speeding across the bay eyeballing the next channel marker, stroking the longboard out in that early glow right before the sun comes up, using our local status to get around the $20 cover charge and getting just the right toast on that ’mallow around the campfire.

I’m warning you: You have to fight the urge. When the first crocuses burst through in the next few weeks, you have to resist. Because soon after, ice or snow will fall on them. Don’t count down the calendar days until spring because that last week of March tends to be a drunken lion in a wife beater being thrown out of the club at 1:30 a.m.

I’m not saying not to enjoy the little things. Appreciate the birds singing on a warm morning. Shoot hoops between the rain and wind. Start pulling the leaves out of the raised bed garden. Check the calendar for those spring events at the Foundation and St. Francis Center.

But don’t get sucked in. Don’t fall for the idea that “the weather finally broke” or “spring is right around the corner.” Definitely don’t plant anything! Because springtime is a mean bitch. She’ll give you a little bit and get you hooked. She’ll offer up an unexpected taste. But then when you want a little more, she rips it away.

“You like that, my man? That high feels good, don’t it? You want a little more? You wanna go fishing? Dinner on the back porch? Well, here’s five days of rain where the temp barely reaches 38, sucka!”

Resist. Don’t give in to the temptation. She will try all manner of seducing you.

I was talking to some of the guys from public works in town last week, and one of them was lamenting the cold after that sweet sunshine Wednesday.

“Man, I thought it was finally summer again,” he told me.

Summer? It was still February. I’m saying beware of spring. If you’re saying summer, you’re already too far gone.

The convenience stores will start putting out cheapo sun hats and sunscreen where the cheapo gloves and hats have been sitting since November.

In another month, the boardshort buyers guides will come out. They will be full of the raddest new trunks for summer 2018. There will be epic images of short, hip, colorful Visslas and sustainable Patagonias, and retro Billabong boardies that harken back to the days before they went bankrupt. There will be camo, stripes and flannel. There will be ultra tech “hydrophobic” shorts (really? waterproof surf trunks?) with 12-way stretch and fly closures designed by NASA. Hurley will have an athletic crossover short for running marathons, paddling and surfing, all in the same hour … without ball rash. There will be boardies made of coconut husks and recycled coconut husks, and boardies made of recycled coconut husk boardies from 2016.

And you’ll be lured in, imagining those days where you return from the beach in wet trunks, take a quick rinse and hang them on the fence. But it will be April and boardshort time will be about 100 days away, almost one third of the calendar year. If you try to get in the water now in trunks, you won’t live to see summer.

But most of all, be vigilant. No matter where you live, do not get out of work or school on a particularly warm day and think to yourself, “Oh, it’s gorgeous out. Let’s go sit on the beach.” Don’t let the drug of Vitamin D let you to do something foolish.

Call on your support system. Think hard. Take a deep breath. Why do you think Long Beach Island Little League was disbanded?

Because while it may be a beautiful shorts and flip-flop day in Manahawkin, Tuckerton, Cherry Hill or the heart of the Pine Barrens, remember that this warm air is rising. And it’s quickly and violently being replaced by cold water off the ocean. Yep, the ocean is 40 degrees. The warmer the air gets, the angrier that frigid wind gets. I’m not saying not to come to the Island. Sit by the bay. Enjoy your favorite coffeehouse. Just don’t let that voice in your head tell you it’s going to be pleasant on the east side of the dunes.

Be strong. We can do this.

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS: Whilst the weather made my above point for me most of the weekend, there have been some days on the warmer winter side. Also of note, the ocean water has come up a bit, and that simply doesn’t happen in February. Surf temps were down as low at 34 in early January when we had the slush and that interesting “sea snow” in the water following the historic cold snap. It’s rare that it ever gets that low.

Last weekend, I went back to 3-mil gloves for a short session and it wasn’t bad. I’m saying we’re just above 40, which is average. We don’t normally see the temp make a move from its lowest point until mid/late March, but this year was a rarity. Unless we see a five-day stretch of northwest winds, I think we could see the ocean start its painfully slow process of warming.

OIL AND WATER DON’T MIX: For last week’s SandPaper, I wrote up a story on the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management’s required meeting in New Jersey on Trump’s whim to open 90 percent of our U.S. waters to drilling. That was a news piece. Here’s my editorial.

This president is going for his own idea of manifest destiny, using up every resource during his presidency and putting as many critters into extinction as possible.

First off, there was no official public comment portion of the meeting. Folks were invited to log into a computer to give their comments. And that was why the good folks at Clean Ocean Action held the “People’s Hearing” at the same hotel complex. You can literally send your official comments to the same portal online before March 9.

Go to and under the Search tab, in the space provided, type in Docket ID: BOEM-2017-0074. That’s where you can get to submitting.

Or you can snail mail your 2 cents labeled “Comments for the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed National Oil and Gas Leasing Program” to Ms. Kelly Hammerle, Chief, National Oil and Gas Leasing Program Development and Coordination Branch, Leasing Division, Office of Strategic Resources, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (VAM-LD), 45600 Woodland Rd., Sterling, Va. 20166-9216.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think there will be any new drilling off New Jersey. Every elected official seems to be against it, including resolutions from our local municipalities. Even Congressman MacArthur of the 3rd District is against drilling off our coast, and the League of Conservation Voters is gives him a whopping 10 percent rating in voting the environment. I have yet to hear voices of anyone in New Jersey being in favor of drilling offshore.

No “drill, baby, drill” chants? To be fair, Sarah Palin has her hands full keeping her 28-year-old son, who apparently still lives at home and wasn’t allowed to borrow the family car, from attacking her husband again. These fossil fuel types are the best. If we don’t start harnessing more wind energy soon on the coast, we might as well move back into caves. My knuckles hurt.

And in reality, I’m not sure how much the elected decision makers truly care about our ecosystem, but the economic risk that an oil disaster would cause to our coast far outweighs what we might gain. With that kind of staunch opposition and the fact that Florida has already been granted an ecological pardon from more dirty fossil fuels, I don’t see it happening

So in my estimate, the Trump administration had the secretary of the Interior just start prodding all of the U.S. coast to find weak spots. From what I saw at Clean Ocean Action’s “People’s Hearing,” New Jersey will not be a weak spot, and the federal government knows that. But maybe they win one for big oil and find a few chinks in the coastal armor somewhere else so they can crack open the sea floor. Unfortunately, they have far more resources to throw at the effort while eco activists have to spend time and money fighting something that is just ridiculous. Next we have to oppose the idea that teachers should be wielding tommy guns behind their desks. Brilliant …

THE CLIFFS OF MORE (SAND): Lots of ocean-related issues happening right now. The South End of LBI is certainly going through some changes. You think you’ve gained a few inches in the waistline this winter? Go take a look at Beach Haven.

The Army Corps of Engineers is now in its second go-round in replenishment efforts on the South End. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. is the contractor this time around as it moves from Beach Haven to Holgate. What’s different this time is that it is actually pulling the sand out of Little Egg Inlet, dredging that waterway and using it to bolster the beaches to the tune of 700,000-plus cubic yards and $18.4 million. When this project was done the first time, it built massive dunes as per the project blueprints.

There’s not much Great Lakes needs to do to the dunes in Beach Haven, so it’s just widening the beach back to the noted dimensions. In Holgate, however, those dunes have turned into the Cliffs of More (as in more sand just going down into Little Egg Inlet). In all seriousness, my friend and I surfed Holgate a few weeks back and I couldn’t get back up the sheer face on my own, after trying for 15 minutes. (You want a good workout, climb up a steep wall that keeps collapsing under you in a 6 mil wetsuit.) He had to give me a boost, and then I pulled him up after we surfed.

Here’s where I state my disclaimer on the matter: I fully understand the need for beach replenishment. Christ, I feel like a broken record, saying if anyone calls it a repeated waste of money, I just ask what it’s worth to live on LBI. And once wave energy cuts right through spots in Beach Haven or wherever, how long can Tuckerton’s waterfront survive? I just sure wish they had a better process by now.

The problem we get after these projects is that they eradicate the sandbar, the one we all like to stand on when we go swimming, the one that creates breaking waves. You might argue that sandbars are a vital resource to LBI. The saving grace the last few years, after these projects, sandbars have set up much quicker as there is literally more sand in the general littoral system. (See what I did there?) Sadly, since the last pump in 2016, the break at Leeward has been barren of those once-magical lefts, although I have heard little tidbits of info that Beach Haven’s beloved Holyoke had some kind of wave already.

There really is no down side to dredging Little Egg Inlet. Frankly, I don’t know what took so long. My concern going into March is that we need some nor’east action. Storms and current are what equalize the beach shape back to something of a natural slope after the machines are gone. We haven’t had a healthy nor’easter to speak of since January. What we don’t want is for that sand to settle in with no sandbars before the summer.And unfortunately, the longer the pumping takes, the worse off the Wooden Jetty will be.

Once we get into late spring, the ocean tends to calm down. Summer has relatively zero sand-moving ocean motion. Hopefully Great Lakes moves on down the line, picks up anchor and gets out of here well before summer. Ideally, we’d have one or two good deep low-pressure systems come chugging up the coast for the sake of surfing, swimming and other manner of ocean activity before June.

GETTING A LITTLE ACTION: This is not a terribly busy time of year for events around our sandbar. I think folks are pacing themselves for St. Patrick’s Day.

I do recommend Science Saturday this week at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. Amy Williams, post doctoral associate at the Davidson Laboratory of the Stevens Institute of Technology, and New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium’s Coastal Ecosystems Extension Agency will show how scientists throughout New Jersey are working to create more-resilient ecosystems. Coastal erosion doesn’t care where your neighborhood is. Hear about real ideas to create living shorelines that are good for the environment and our overdeveloped shoreline. This starts at 11 a.m. It’s free to members and $5 for non.

As for waves and weather, the surf forecasters are pointing to things getting a little more interesting for the month of March. And that makes sense when compared to long-term weather forecasts, which are calling for mostly chilly weather. As I dramatized in the intro, don’t start thinking spring. If we get nice weather, it will be short lived. While we won’t be going back into the deep freeze like we had in January, or even the horrific March of 2015, it does seem like dynamic weather with a lot of storms. And that means wind, and wind means waves. March is known for very beefy south swells, and most of the time we get at least one very significant northeast swell. Stay limber. The next few weeks could get interesting. Just don’t be lulled into thinking winter is over.

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