Liquid Lines

Feeling Guilty for Scoring Hurricane Waves While Others Got Shelled?

Don’t. But Be Ready to Lend a Hand in Recovery
By JON COEN | Sep 13, 2017
Photo by: Jon Peterson Hurricane Irma swell wasn’t all time, but Sammy Jo Alvarez certainly wasn’t complaining.

Talk about bittersweet.

There is nothing that giveth so much and takes away so much as hurricanes. We have been on the receiving end of the glory for a few weeks now. But sometimes, when we’re paddling out, or we’re checking it, or when we get spit out of a warm water tube, we think about it.

How can we enjoy something so much when it has caused such suffering?

This is purely rhetorical, but how do we appreciate coming up over the dunes, ready to dive into warm water and go do what makes us happier than anything else in life, when our friends and family down in Florida are sitting in boarded-up homes with a few day’s supply of drinking water, waiting for what could be the worst natural disaster to ever hit the U.S.?

Surfers are a pretty connected bunch. We have a vast network of waveriders all over the world who we tap for swell insight, travel info and places to crash. There isn’t a waverider among us who hasn’t stayed with a bud in Florida. And we know all about getting whacked by a storm. Obviously, our benchmark is Sandy, the horrific super-bitch that no one will ever forget, five years ago this October.

Chances are you remember the flood waters, the wet insulation and the long road to recovery. Maybe you still harbor contempt for that crooked contractor who ran off with your deposit, or the insurance company that made getting reimbursement a part-time job for three years of your life. That’s more than fair.

What you may not recall was that Florida had a historic swell from Sandy. Remember those videos of guys towing into Palm Beach Inlet?

Well, it would be completely understandable if you didn’t see them. You had no power and were watching your neighbor’s shed float down the street. But Florida was insane. Slater even scored there.

While we were taking it on the head, Floridians were actually enjoying the storm. But did we get all fired up about it?

No. We would have done the same thing. There certainly wasn’t anyone complaining when Floridians showed up in box trucks with donated items that they had picked up from a surfer network up and down the East Coast. Felt pretty good.

Irma was yet another wake-up call to how powerful these storms are and how susceptible coastal communities are now. And I’m certain a few folks who had overhead barrels last week are going to be stepping up to help our brethren and sistren (first time I’ve ever used that word) to our far south.

Florida, Georgia and South Carolina took a beating this week. It could have been worse. It truly was worse in parts of the Caribbean. The reason I keep mentioning Florida is that LBI has quite a few connections to the Sunshine State ­– a lot of relatives around Boca, buddies in Brevard County and second homes on the Gulf. During the winter the Keys might as well be called Beach Haven South.

But overall, there is no reason to feel guilty for harvesting all that swell, and certainly no cause to have not surfed. But it might be time to pay some of that positivity forward.

WHAT WE GOT: What we got was good. I’m not going to say Hurricane Irma was a fantastic swell. When you’re talking about several days straight of shoulder-high to way-overhead waves, with mostly favorable winds, that should translate to all time. But “all time” it was not.

If your idea of epic swell is stroking into a bomber set, hopping to your feet, dragging your hand across an arcing green face and then pulling into a barrel with zero chance of ever coming out, well then it was Valhalla. Have at it. No crowds, either.

In fact, for most of the Island, it was a bit of a downer, and here’s why. Twenty-second period swells with a hard south angle are never really good for LBI. We pretty much know what to expect from these swells, and that’s closeouts. Last weekend, we saw waves break three blocks at a time.

There are the spots on the Island that handle these swells, those special spots with different angles and bathymetry. And they had their moments, for sure. But even those streets weren’t firing the whole time. On the bright side, there was very little drift. Or maybe you made the drive up to Monmouth County.

The wind was something of an issue. Now that we’re in mid-September, when the local winds blow, they blow pretty good. Most of that had some degree of west in it, but the periods of north/northwest and southwest didn’t help the long-period conditions.

The swell really showed on Thursday with a few head-high sets late. The size and period increased on Friday and there were definitely some gems to be had. It was still mostly walled, but more than a few hairball waves were made.

“Every wave was either a ‘holy s**t, I just made it’ barrel or an ‘I’ll be finding sand from that one a week from now,’” laughed Greg Melega of Beach Haven.

Saturday morning looked huge. I watched a few guys get waves mid-Island that were way overhead, approaching double overhead. It was far from a fantasy session, but I did see a few surfers get a little momentum down the line before straightening out or getting eaten alive. Among the best of those was Russ Griffin, who got in super early on a lightweight longboard and somehow managed to escape the careening lip by inches. He also took plenty of beatings.

The place to be was likely the South End, where I heard mostly mediocre reports. There were great lefts to be had, but not a day of firing sets. It also handled the periods with a hint of north a lot better. The size started to drop on Sunday and the north winds made it look pretty unruly. By evening, it was less than 3-foot and onshore. Monday was smaller but with light winds. I know it wasn’t anything epic, but there were certainly waves. This has been a fantastic September, following a great summer of surf.

Things kicked up again on Tuesday, as swell started to fill in from Hurricane Jose.

AND NOW TO JOSE: Take a look in the mirror. If tracking Irma gave you gray hairs, Hurricane Jose might stop your heart this week. While Jose is setting up to give us an even longer run of swell, his track is nothing short of bewildering, doing a full loop-de-loop out in the ocean, east of the Bahamas.

We have already been enjoying swell from Jose, who got beat up a bit this week by wind sheer and dropped from a major hurricane down to a Cat 1 on Monday. By late week, we will have a better idea of where he’s going. Right now, there are no substantial features on the weather map to move Jose in a definitive direction. Unfortunately, a rendezvous with the Mid-Atlantic or somewhere that just had to deal with Irma is not out of the question. Neither is a regeneration.

In regards to swell production, Jose isn’t as strong as Irma, but he’s closer and shadowed less. If the swell starts to wane by late week, it could fire up again as Jose moves closer. Unfortunately, Tuesday was a case of good swell and no wind with mostly closeouts.

Occasionally, when we have multi-day swells like this (and Jose could be a very long run of waves) we get some kind of local system that interacts with the long-period swell. A short-period swell on top of underlying long-period groundswell can be an awesome combination. I don’t see any hard northeast or south winds this week, and with the erratic nature of this storm, I don’t know that you can gauge the forecast into the weekend.

IN THE WAKE OF IRMA: While Irma didn’t actually cut Florida off from the U.S., it was bad. Areas in the northeast that seemed relatively out of harm’s way took some of the worst of it. Infrastructure in the Keys has been largely destroyed.

And homeland security adviser to our president Orange 45 said on Monday, “We continue to take seriously climate change – not the cause of it, but the things that we observe.” They still don’t take the cause of climate change seriously. He wants to do a “trend analysis.” Brilliant. If humans are helping to make hurricanes a tad more destructive, don’t expect this administration to come up with any antidotes because they won’t even look into what’s causing sickness. And there have been years of “trend analyses” done. They’ve been written, reviewed and published. It’s called accepted science, and this administration has ignored it from day one.

Now, back to Sandy (which, if you remember, Chris Christie refused to talk about climate change after). This week a bunch of locals were contacted by Jon Rose, director of Waves for Water. W4W is the international relief organization run by surfers who are committed to providing clean water in disaster areas. W4W came to New Jersey five years ago, networked with surfers, teamed up with Jetty and helped set a course for middle-term community recovery.  Rose has directed his immediate focus to the Caribbean this week, but he is very interested in having some key folks who stepped up during Sandy start to direct Floridians on how to get through such a disaster. Keep any eye out for opportunities to help, not only with donations but possibly your experience. We learned an awful lot from Sandy and you might be able to guide someone through their own recovery.

THINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HURRICANES: Hurricanes grab headlines. That’s the way it goes. But there are other happenings here on our little sandbar to attend to as well.

Most notably, this Saturday is the Maker’s Fest at Manahawkin Lake Park and it’s looking stellar.

The Maker’s Fest, now in its third year, is a giant celebration of handmade wares of all kind. If you’re someone who believes in quality and originality over big box junk from Asia, this is your gig. There are far too many talented crafters to list, but among the surfers and surf-focused artists are Corey Hudson, Groundswell Prints, Bunkerfish, Sands Point Resin Works, Papa Planes, South End Surf N’ Paddle, Kristin Myers and Reclaimed.

Some of our favorite local musicians will be performing including Sahara Moon, the Dreadful Sea Shanties, and Like Minded. The food looks damn good, too, with fantastic vendors. The event runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and it’s free. Entry to the biergarten is $10, including a mug and one beer. Bring your own bottle or canteen as Alliance for a Living Ocean will have its water-filling station. There are donation yoga classes and workshops all day as well. Chairs and blankets are encouraged.

Beyond this weekend, on Sept. 22, Tuckerton Seaport will host a screening of “The Oyster Farmers,” starting at 5 p.m. with an oyster social. I highly recommend seeing this local doc.

Then Sept. 27, many of the 96 surfers who are registered to surf in the Jetty Clam Jam this fall and their friends will gather at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House at 9 p.m. for the Pre-Party Jam. This is where surfers’ names are picked out of a hat to decide who surfs with who in the 11th annual Clam Jam. The actual contest potentially could run Oct. 7 or 8, waves pending. If not, it would go back to the next weekend.

And just for the sake of planning, Chowderfest weekend is Sept. 30-Oct. 1 in Beach Haven. The LBI International Kite Fest is Oct. 6-9 all around the Island.

I will keep you posted on local efforts to help in the wake of Irma. Enjoy some of this swell and fall weather. Seriously, surfing in trunks by day and sleeping under a warm blanket at night – does it get any better? This is living.



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