Liquid Lines

Founding Fathers’ Post-July 4 Celebrations and Sweet Summer Swell

Did the Signers of the Declaration of Independence Really Know How to Do Summer?
By JON COEN | Jul 04, 2018
Photo by: Jon Peterson Emily Bowker cuts into the best swell we’ve had so far this season.

So America is celebrating its 232nd birthday this year. This is Fourth of July weekend, depending on who you ask. I find that when it falls on a Wednesday, we have a 10-day weekend. Maybe it’s not the full bore we get when the 4th falls on a Friday or Monday, but it makes up for it in longevity. It’s more of a distance race than a sprint.

Either way, it’s all about honoring our founding fathers adopting the Declaration of Independence. It’s a little known fact that the Declaration had to then be rewritten with a little bit of flair, and most of the delegates didn’t sign it for the next few weeks. True story.

But when they did sign it, they were stoked.

Apparently directly after it was signed, Sam Adams cracked a bunch of beers. Back then, cannabis was used in medicines and Benjamin Franklin suggested that they should write something up to keep it legal down the line. But that was hard to hear as the Virginia delegates started to blast off homemade fireworks with leftover gunpowder from the recently fought war.

The rest of the history is spotty, but apparently the summer of 1776 was a scorcher. As one tale goes, they headed for the closest beach. Today, you would say the closest beach to Philly is AC because of the Expressway. Now we can’t be sure, but before the Expressway was built, the best place to get your feet in the Atlantic was probably LBI. New York’s William Lloyd supposedly argued for Seaside, but was voted down. They may very well have come right across the Delaware River (Ben Franklin was all “why don’t we have a bridge here?”) and asked how to get to the beach.

Back then, the folks in the Cherry Hill/Marlton area were big fans of LBI, so it makes sense that they would send them galloping through a maze of colonial mini-malls and condo complexes into the Pines. Although it’s very likely that New Jersey delegate Richard Stockton led the way.

Even though Adams was passing out beers pretty liberally, they may have run dry by the time they came to the giant cleared circle in the woods some 30 miles outside the city. And they would have likely made a stop at Joe Bell’s 4 Mile Tavern (RIP), Mayo’s or the Woodshed. Clearly those three buildings look to be 250 years or older. It’s said that Thomas Jefferson may have chased a bar maid out back and passed out. They tried texting him, but eventually left him in Vincentown. Pennsylvania delegate George Clymber was a sober Quaker, and never let him live it down.

Under the blazing sun, the horses trudged through the sugar sand of the pines. When they arrived in Manahawkin, they noted that the Lenni Lenape had already named it. Historians say the word meant “fertile land, sloping toward the water.” Georgia’s George Walton relieved himself and commented in his loud Southern style that the land did, indeed, slope toward the water.

There was no bridge at this point, nor steam ferry. After a heated argument over whether it was Barnegat, or technically Manahawkin Bay, they found an old bayman named Jebediah Sprague to row them across. Thomas McKean of Delaware fell into the bay while drunkenly mocking George Washington up on the bow. He was such a jerk.

And the rest is history. William Floyd sang karaoke. George Wythe went on a mission for elephant ears. Benjamin Harrison won the mini-golf tournament. William Hopper crafted a rudimentary board and picked off the best wave of the trip. Some things never change. Happy 4th.

SOLID SUMMER SWELL: To my knowledge, the White House didn’t take any major initiatives to gut the protection of our seas this week. I’m sure they’ve just been scheming on how to move a few species from the endangered list to extinct by August. You have to love their commitment. Anyway, that frees me up to write about the surf.

And hallelujah, we had waves. This has not been the best spring and start to summer as far as surf conditions go. We had about one fun day of surf in April and one in May. Keeping with that pathetic pattern, we got our one good day of June surf before the month ended.

We’ve been back in a pretty typical summer scenario the last two weeks. And that scenario includes southeasterly sea breezes, warm west winds, south blows and occasional periods of no wind. Occasionally, when the pressure gradient is high enough, that south blow is a little harder, like it was last week. And that gives us a little more surf to work with. Last week there were some sets that reached head high.

The surf built on Thursday in hard south winds. It wasn’t clean by any means, but when you haven’t had anything over 2-foot in a few weeks you can often find a runner among the junk at the right tide. Thursday night, the wind let up a bit and there were some fun ones to be had.

But everyone was banking on Friday morning. And Friday morning did not disappoint. LBI was blessed with waist- to head-high sets with straight offshore winds and nice running lines.

It has certainly been a while and everyone was out there, chatting, paddling around, picking off peaks, cranking turns and even finding the occasional cover-up section. Early on, the consistency was phenomenal as well.

This was the first decent swell that had all the seasonal components: size, wind direction, summer sandbars and somewhat warm water. Best of all, it was good pretty much everywhere. You could opt to surf a high-profile spot with the shredders or find a less focused peak with just your buds.

Hopefully you got on it early though, as the conditions didn’t last. The wind got a hint of north for a period and then the southeasterly sea breeze picked up. But most apparent was the tide. Last Thursday was a major full moon. And while that may have helped with the swell a tiny bit, it swamped most breaks. Thursday night was a full 5-foot high tide.

The tide was kind of the only bummer of the weekend. If you weren’t on it first thing, most of the day was super deep. And the wind didn’t really let up in the late afternoon when it dropped again.

I’m not expecting a whole lot this week in the way of surf. And when it does build a bit, wind may be an issue. But it’s summer and when you’re light on rubber, any conditions can be worth a surf. The bright spot is that the tides will be a bit more favorable for most. First off, we won’t have those extremes and we’ll have lower tides all morning and again in the evening.

You may have also noticed that the water’s been chilly. That’s pretty common for June and early July. It’s not until later this month that the surf temps fluctuate a little less. It hasn’t been downright freezing as it can be, but it feels pretty cold because we’re surfing during or right after the wind has blown south. The same energy that builds the swell also causes that upwelling of frigid water. And honestly, when we had that intense heat last weekend, it felt pretty good. Plus, it keeps the Island comfy when the nearby cities sit in summer swelter.

The heat has subsided from the weekend, and for that we are grateful. I might remind some beachgoing folks who complain about how hot the street or beach is that there were folks working on roofs, landscaping and sweating it out in 105-degree restaurant kitchens. I might remind everyone also that the bay was frozen for much of last January and no one wanted to go outside for a month. While it’s brutal that New Jersey must endure both extremes, poetically, it makes us who we are.

It also means that summer is finally, finally, finally here. And there is nothing better than seeing our entire state down on the Island, enjoying the beach, ocean and bay. We have 16 hours of daylight and more options than any other time of year.

Yeah, there’s traffic. Yeah, you had to wait for a table on Sunday night. But when you see those little kids riding their first waves, families fishing, moms out paddleboarding and everyone enjoying an LBI summer, you can’t be bitter.

ABOUT THAT SAND: As you may know, there are currently beach replenishment repair projects going on in Harvey Cedars and Surf City. It seems the dredge boat R.S. Weeks was on standby earlier this week, awaiting some repairs. They didn’t stop for the sake of the holiday week, but technical difficulties.

In Cedars, the project is just north of that Passaic Avenue neighborhood.

So far, the project in Surf City has been just south of the midpoint in town. I’d also note that Surf City has a functioning (and good -looking website) now, after I reported last summer that the degree of difficulty in finding online information was almost intentional. The only part of the beach that is closed is where the actual machines are at the moment. Even areas where the lateral pipe has been laid are open.

The stretches of beach around 12th Street that have already been done are certainly not the worst-case scenario. This part of town didn’t need a whole lot of sand to reach the Army Corps of Engineers template profile. There’s a breaking wave and it looks decent for swimming and surfing. When the project gets to the north end of town, it will likely bring more changes, as those beaches are super narrow and the project will be more involved. That stretch was very good on this last swell. Unfortunately, the whole thing, while good for LBI’s shoreline protection, is again burying the jetties. Without jetties, our sandbar formations suffer, especially in the winter and spring.

BEACH ONE BADGES? This will likely be a developing story, but it seems that for the first time, there is a badge checker all the way at the southernmost point of Holgate.

Traditionally, the beach to the south of the swimming area at Beach One (the last beach on the Island) and the area on either side of the Wooden Jetty was a free zone. You could hop in the water, paddle over and surf. Now it appears there is a Long Beach Township badge checker just south of the parking lot. Farther down into the Forsythe Refuge is New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife jurisdiction, but suddenly a badge is required at both sides of the jetty. I am told there may be a meeting in the works and I will have more info next week.

NEWS AND HAPS: In big competition news, Ship Bottom’s Jonny Skolnick won the Prone division of the Cape to Cape Paddle, a 16-mile paddle from Cape Henlopen, Del., to Cape May on Sunday. Skolnick has long been the Island’s top distance racer. He won this event back in 2016, but missed much of last season with a knee injury.

Sunday produced relatively calm conditions. Skolnick prefers to race in heavy seas and wind, but the sun and heat were the real challenge this year. He started the race equal with much of the prone pack for the first few miles and then found another gear, taking first, not just in the prone but all divisions. The entire field took the Cape May-Lewes Ferry across in the morning and then raced back. The race is a fundraiser for the Desatnick Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed to help those living with Spinal Cord Injury in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties.

For those looking to sharpen some competitive skills in the surf, the Eastern Surfing Association’s Central New Jersey District will return to LBI this weekend for Contest #3 of the season. Check their Facebook page at the end of the week for location and which day it will be held.

Next Thursday, Alliance for a Living Ocean, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ and Clean Ocean Action will team up to bring a screening of “A Plastic Ocean” to the High Point Volunteer Fire Co. firehouse in Harvey Cedars.

This feature-length, award-winning environmental documentary brings to light the consequences of our global disposable lifestyle. We thought we could use plastic once and throw it away with negligible impact to humans and animals. That turns out to be untrue.

There’s a good momentum around LBI right now to change the way we see plastics. Of course you want to see this film if you’re in favor of reducing single-use plastics. I would encourage the folks who are opposed to bag bans and such to go. Go see for yourself the effects that our disposable ways are having on the oceans that we all love.

On Saturday, July 14 South End Surf ’N Paddle will hold its annual LBI Paddle Classic at Bayview Park, a fundraiser for ALO. Registration starts at 5. We’ll have more details next week.

Somehow the last decade snuck by without anyone realizing it because Jetty will be holding its 10th Coquina Jam this summer. For all interested ladies, it will be Sunday, July 29 at 68th Street in Brant Beach. In keeping with Jetty’s epic tradition, the teams will be picked at random, matching one veteran surfer with a younger girl. The team selection party will be at on July 16 at Bayview Park with an afterparty at Kubel’s Too.

While you’re in the planning mode, ALO’s LBI Longboard Classic is Aug. 4. Registration will begin in the next two weeks. Vintage ’60s boards only.

Enjoy the extended holiday. And if you’re not flying two flags off the back off your lifted pick-up truck (by the way, guys, you know that hurts your gas mileage, right?), remember that just because someone yells loudly about patriotism, that person doesn’t own or define it. America may be going through a rough patch, but you can still love her.

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