Liquid Lines

Gilman Gets the Nod, the Surf Gets Good for Two Minutes, Tropics Get Going Again

Harvey Cedars’ John Gilman wins Stab x O’Neill Feels Like Freedom Photo Contest
By JON COEN | Sep 26, 2018
Photo by: John Gilman This photo by John Gilman from last April won him the O’Neill x Stab Magazine Feels Like Freedom competition.

Sometimes I think it’s crazy how surf photography has changed since I started writing. Back in the ’90s, a single black and white shot of Justin Citta tearing into a Surf City line running in Eastern Surf Mag was the biggest thing that would happen all year. Today, you take the supercomputer out of your pocket and scroll through thousands of images of New Jersey and LBI waves. And when the surf has been flat (or, ahem, onshore) for a month, the photogs have enough digital savings to keep you reminded of that one special day last March.

We’re now a decade and a half into the digital age, and the quantity and quality of images have become the new normal.

Surf photography has always been a pursuit of passion. Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, young photogs would get into it with dreams of being a staffer at a surf mag or on the payroll of a surf brand that would send them around the world with the team. And if they were from New Jersey, they always wanted to get the goods when our home beaches did their thing because we all have a bit of that “stepchild” syndrome, where we constantly have to prove to the world how heavy and solid our waves get.

Among the shift today is that the making a living as a surf photographer or even garnishing some side freelance income is tougher than ever. Between social media and the shrinking surf industry, there are fewer opportunities. There were traditionally three U.S.-based surf magazines you could submit to. Today it’s primarily Surfer Mag as Surfing, Transworld Surf and even ESM have shut down. In their departure, Surfline and Stab Mag are still writing some checks.

The moral of the story is that if you’re passionately tracking swells and shooting in 2018, you’re doing it because you love it. Sure, there’s the “Insta gratification” of showing your work to all your friends and followers just minutes after it’s shot, but it’s not paying the rent. It might not even pay for your gas money. Hopefully the guy in the photo buys you a taco.

All that said, I want to congratulate Harvey Cedars John Gilman for winning the O’Neill x Stab Magazine Feels Like Freedom competition. For his efforts, O’Neill is throwing a party for Gilly at the Ship Bottom Farias on Thursday at 6 p.m. This should be a damn fine good time.

I’ve gotten to know Gilman a bit as his photos have been popping up for a good eight years now. You may know him as @NJsurfphoto. He’s a dedicated and talented lensman. My words and his photos have been paired up a lot over the years in a few mags, and he’s even given us images to use with Liquid Lines. I’ve always been grateful for that.

Last winter, Gilman and I did a strike mission up to Killington and scored unreal midweek Vermont powder. He’s a funny little man who doesn’t talk much and can live on French fries, but extremely likeable. He’s a solid surfer/skier, always supports his community, great traveler and has become a talented longboarder. (And not for nuthin’, but I honestly think they should see the rest of Gilman’s work because he has stuff that’s even better.)

Gilman’s shot was one of six selected. The photo he won with wasn’t taken on LBI, but in Monmouth County last April on a sandbar created as a combination of a recent dredge and sand moving in a spring storm. He claims it wasn’t that big, but “lined up really nicely to create an afternoon (of) insane slab tubes.”

He also admits there weren’t a lot of waves actually made because it was so steep and round, but that made for interesting shots.

“Honestly, (winning) was a big surprise,” he told me this week. “I had entered that image in April or May and forgotten that I’d entered until they said it had won.”

O’Neill is providing food and beverages. Gilman and Farias will both get autographed boards from Jordy Smith, and Gilman’s shot is being blown up. We might even get a peek at the new Stab film.

“I’m excited to see what the crew at O’Neill put together for the night and seeing that image as a print. I’ve been talking with a couple of the folks at O’Neill, but they’re handling the specifics so it’s a bit of a surprise.”

WHAT WAS THAT WIND?: Something strange happened on Saturday morning. The flags were pointing toward the ocean, and the waves were clean. It almost looked like something we used to know as a west wind, but it couldn’t have been because this is September 2018 and apparently Mother Nature decided we were not to be blessed with such a breeze.

But whatever it was, it made for the first decent surf conditions in a very long time.

After another week of mostly unrideable surf (last Tuesday evening got good for about five minutes at dusk), the wind blew pretty good on Friday.

The wind was still southwest on Saturday at first light, but pretty mininal. The surf looked like junk until just before sunrise, when things started to come together. Harvey Cedars offered death shorebreak even with 3 feet of swell in the water. Surf City was packed with anglers for the LBI fishing tourney. You had to search it out, but the surf did get fun. The south end was definitely working, as were many spots up and down the Island.

The size exceeded most of our expectations with shoulder-high sets, and the wind actually went west for a brief period. Normally I say it’s nice to feel a bit of power behind the wave, or it feels good to do a turn again, but honestly, it just felt good to have a clean wave face and be able to drop in on a wave that wasn’t onshore, sucking up, vomiting onto the sandbar or closing out in some manner. We’ve really lowered our expectations this season, so there’s nowhere to go but up.

The wind came up north, as we knew it would, but mid-day. I’m not going to say the surf was unrideable, but it was garbage compared to the morning. The wind came back onshore and really kicked up by Monday.

I think the key to the sesh was the combo swell. There wasn’t just southeast swell, but some northeast and a bit of southewest wind swell. That’s really what we need these days for rideable waves in the post-jetty LBI era.

But hey, the waves were solid and finally clean. Also, the water is still right around 70. You might need to start wearing a shorty or something just because of the wind and air temp, but  the ocean is plenty warm as we get into October.

NO LACK OF SWELL: When The SandPaper comes out on Wednesday, there should be plenty of swell in the water. There’s a whole lot happening, and not too much in the way of certainty.

I’d like to point out that the system closest to home is located off the Carolinas. This is the reincarnation of Hurricane Florence. Maybe you’ve heard of her?

After beating and drenching the Southeast, she moved inland through places like Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, swinging over New Jersey on Sept. 18. Perhaps you drove through the downpours or got a few little rights out of that system last week. The remnants made another loop and are back where she sat for days in the middle of the month. I don’t think this ragged system has a good chance of becoming a named storm again, but if it did, it would not be renamed Flo, but Tropical Storm Michael. That system could very well move back toward the North Carolina coast with more rain and is definitely going to send some surf to the Outer Banks. We could potentially see some of that as well. We’re also very likely to get long-period swell from Subtropical Storm Leslie.

As I mentioned, there’s a lot that can happen, but as of writing this column, I don’t see any true offshore winds until next week. There are some periods of south and southwest winds that could wind up being offshore for the coast north of LBI, but don’t be surprised if the rest of the month slips away without any northwest and west winds here.

So the short story is we will literally have waves every day. There could be some periods of light wind where it’s ridable, but that has not been the case of late. If you’re really getting antsy, you may be venturing out of Ocean County to score.

NODS AND PROPS: Stafford Residents and Teachers Together collected an entire trailer full of needed items dropped off at Bowker’s Spray Beach Deli and Shore Fire Grille. Last weekend Brian Bowker and Barry Reichert drove down to New Bern, N.C., to deliver the goods to contacts they’d made with local churches and community leaders.

“The people are inspired by the generosity,” said Bowker, who received a hearty welcome at New Bern’s Brewery 99. “One guy said, ‘You make it hard to dislike a Yankee.’ When you strip things down to the core, people are good. They were cooking us grits and shrimp, tapping kegs. The hospitality was reciprocal.

“Responsibility is two words. Do you have the ability? If so, how will you respond? I knew our community had the ability, so I responded.”

HAPPENINGS, CHOWDER AND NON: Well this week the granddaddy of festivals is upon us. If you know a local restaurant owner, don’t bother him or her from Thursday to Saturday of this week. They likely have their hands full slicing potatoes, celery and onions to go in big vats of chowder. We’re likely to see over 15,000 people rolling into town this weekend to suck down white, red and creative. I’m almost hesitant to say this, but the weather might actually be OK. Island businesses need this weekend after so much gloom in May and June … and July … and, well, September, too.

There are a few things going on around Chowderfest as well, the first being the aforementioned Feels Like Freedom Comp at Farias on Thursday evening at 6.

Brighton Beach Surf Shop will have its fall board swap on Saturday starting at 9 a.m., so on your way down to the Merchants Mart, maybe stop by and see what kind of treasures are out for cool trades or buys. Sunday will be an all-day sale.

The Chowder Cook-Off is, of course, on Sunday. The Jetty Clam Jam will not be run this weekend on account of everyone’s involvement with clam-based soup. I had a few folks ask me why Jetty didn’t pull the trigger last Saturday with both good waves and weather, but frankly the first two rounds would have been fun and most of the afternoon terrible in that north wind. Good call. Now we go to potentially Oct. 6 or 7.

Also this weekend is the Sea.Hear.Now Festival in Asbury Park, a massive festival that aims to combine surf, music and art with headliners like Ben Harper, Incubus and Social Distortion all playing right on the beach while a select crew of pro surfers are tearing up whatever swell there happens to be. Surf City’s Randy Townsend will be doing the Expression Session, and Mud City Crab House was asked to be one of the selected food vendors. This should be a really exciting event in Asbury and a first for combining surf and music experience on the East Coast.

The following weekend is the LBT Oyster Shellebration (Bayview Park, Oct. 6 at noon). This first-time event looks to have all the makings of a good time. It’s also the LBI FLY Kite Fest. We’re doing a good job of extending the season here, and I hope the weather holds out for both. After that, everything turns into hayrides, hauntings and pumpkin spice, which is cool, but you’ll want to make the most of the Local Summer events first.

I might also add that Election Day is Nov. 6 this year. Like every election, that falls right in the middle of New Jersey’s school break for the NJEA Teachers Convention. A lot of us, especially those with kids, will be traveling that week. If you go to the state elections page at NJ.Gov, you can download an application to vote by mail or get yourself an absentee ballot. Being away is not a good reason to not vote in the mid-terms. There are some really good local candidates. I’m not telling you who to vote for, just make sure you vote.

And while we’re on the subject of fall, if you still have a sunburn, get that pumpkin off your porch before we have to come smash it.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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