Liquid Lines

How to Not Be Trashy and the Summer Nor’easter Wrap-Up

Banning Balloon Launches Is One Thing, But How About This Bag Ban?
By JON COEN | Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Kyle Gronostajski When the nor’easter finally moved out, it gave us some fun waist- to chest-high waves. And clean! Conor Willem enjoys some summer lines.

For those who didn’t notice, we had a major turn in the weather last week. If you’re a sun worshipper down for a few weekends a year, it hasn’t been exactly epic. But for surfers and those of us who like sleeping with the windows open, well, we can live with it.

Following a flip-flop melting heatwave and a nothing-short-of-pleasant water temp, the weather changed drastically at the end of July, ushering in much cooler temps and last weekend’s summer nor’easter. (But the water temps have remained nice. Bonus points!)

We’ll get to all that below, but I specifically want to note something about when we went from that sultry southerly flow pattern to the northeast wind. The shift happens occasionally in the summertime and you could not only feel it in the air, but you could see it with the piles and piles of eelgrass down by the water.

What you may not have seen was the wrack line (that’s essentially the debris left by each high tide). Most of that is a natural deposit. It’s where you find the best shells, driftwood and sea glass. But mixed in with the natural flotsam and jetsam was a whole lot of human carelessness.

The last few decades have seen the EPA kind of clean up what we’re dumping in the ocean, and while I don’t doubt some of this is coming from poorly managed waste streams, there was an awful lot of junk in there that told a story of a lack of personal responsibility.

There was a good bit of fishing debris, both commercial and recreational. As watermen, we can do better than that. And there are always plastic water bottles – because we are damn good consumers in this country and we’ve bought into the story that water sold to us by Coca Cola must be better than the perfectly fine water that comes out of the tap. Our beaches are gross each night. How do you litter folk live with yourselves?

But back to the waterline.

Most of the washed-up crap was balloons and feminine hygiene applicators.

While there must be a better solution than thousands of “beach whistles” in the sand, we can’t really expect women to halt occurring cycles (although I think Mitch McConnell ran on that platform in his home state of Kentucky). But how long are we going to let balloons muck up the ocean?

Last month, Long Beach Township passed an ordinance that banned balloon “launches,” which are the brilliant intentional release of helium balloons into our ecosystem. Good for Long Beach Township, although this seems akin to banning shooting flaming arrows at porpoise from your paddleboard. Some of those balloons my class launched in 1983 may have been on the beach in Surf City last Wednesday because those things don’t break down.

Clearly, even without these organized balloon launches, they still get into the ocean. Call me a buzzkill, but I think it’s time to stop celebrating every birthday, graduation, anniversary, bat mitzvah and retirement with a latex sea turtle killer. Seriously, half the piles of seaweed had balloon ribbon tied into it.

Of course, among the most vile of pollutants is the single-use plastic bag. There are plenty of those on the beach and in the bay – because there is no way you will be able to hold onto that icy 32-ounce bottle of diabetes on your way out of Wawa with your bare hands. It’s too cold. Perish the thought.

Once again, Long Beach Township is kind of leading the way on this. Mayor Mancini recently pointed out that plastic bags are “out of control.” Banning balloon launches, which there are none of on LBI, is comparatively easy. Banning the use of plastic bags will be something else. Note that the township is home to the Island’s biggest supermarket and one of our Wawas.

For the last 10 years, reusable shopping bags have been easier to pick up than the common cold. I’ve attended probably five events this summer where nice canvas bags are given out as a courtesy for being involved. Or they’re like a dollar at the store. How easy is it to keep one in your car and a few beneath the growing monster of used plastic bags in your kitchen? These bags have been readily available for 10 years and yet most grocery trips seem to end in 10 to 15 new bags.

“Can you double bag that please?”

The township is currently getting input from some businesses as to how this will affect them, and rightfully so. How will we ever survive a plastic bag ban?

I’d say we’ll probably suffer the same way that San Francisco, Austin, Boulder, Portland and the Outer Banks are suffering. I hear those are just awful places to live.

This is also going to require a change in our habits. The EPA, before it was taken over by a guy who has about as much respect for the environment as the Once-ler in The Lorax, estimated that about 12 percent of plastic bags and wraps actually get recycled. And not to sound like I’m pressuring here, but once you realize you can carry far more in a reusable bag than in those plastic ones where the handles break with one half-gallon of sweaty orange juice, you never go back. That’s right. It feels so good, you just want to do it again and again and again.

SUMMER NOR’EASTER: I had a friend post on Facebook last week that summertime folk were going to get a “little taste” of the storms locals deal with year ’round. Granted, the low tracked further away from us than predicted. But yes, it was quite the powerful blow by July standards. It moved in through the night on Friday and Saturday was on the raw side, giving us a considerable period of north and northeast winds.

Most of the year, surfers don’t deal with northeast winds. Putting on all that gear to go surf big chop isn’t all that much fun. Normally we just wait for the cleanup. But when the water’s warm, any head-high swell is more than welcome. We had a few days last week of onshore chop with clean faces.

The weekend’s storm was another story. There were times that it was decent and you could find that lined-up left or against-the-grain righthander. These are some of the more fun days we get in the summer, as it’s usually pretty empty and no one minds fighting a drift when you don’t have to wear a wetsuit. Reports indicated that the getting was good on Sunday in Holgate. But you could just have easily had a session full of wind, closeouts and frustration.

There was some power to this swell. You have to give all the ladies who made it outside at the Jetty Coquina Jam on Saturday a lot of credit. (See full story in this issue.)

The wind, which was forecasted to lighten up by Sunday afternoon, simply did not.

The breeze died Sunday night, and Monday morning was offshore with 2- to 3-foot lines. I have a feeling that some of the sandbars were left a bit misshapen up and down the Island from the storm, but a few spots, particularly in Beach Haven and Surf City, were lined up nicely, with occasional chest-high bowls roping both left and right. These are the spots that favor that swell direction. It shouldn’t take long for the sand to reform elsewhere for the more typical summertime pattern. The wind came onshore, but not terribly hard, making it rideable most of the day.

WHAT ABOUT HARVEY CEDARS?: For the past month, I have covered the movement to get Surf City to open its beaches to surfing outside the flags. The new policy has been working out just fine, and in fact, a lot of great waves were ridden there on Monday that wouldn’t have been just a few weeks ago.

And I have been reporting that now all of Long Beach Island allows surfing outside of the flags. This is not entirely true. One surfer/homeowner from Harvey Cedars emailed to let me know that Cedars still only allows surfing at designated beaches.

I had spoken with some folks in Cedars when Surf City first made the announcement and was told that Harvey Cedars pretty much allows surfing through most of the town during guarded hours when there are waves. I’ve seen this on good swells. On days of significant waves, the beach patrol will either minimize the swimming area or do without it and allow surfing everywhere.

Hudson Avenue is one of the longest running, guarded surf beaches in the state and there have traditionally been a few spots where the beach patrol has been flexible. It’s also worth noting that Commissioner Mike Garofalo was the first elected official on LBI to discuss alternate beach replenishment profiles with the Army Corps of Engineers to effectively protect the town from storms without ruining the sandbar for all manner of family fun.

But the surfer who wrote me said that last Monday, July 24, he politely asked the HCBP guard if they could paddle out outside the swimming area (where three people were in the water) and was denied. There was a decent bump of swell and the wind was offshore.

We’re not talking about kids running in from other towns and making problems for the beach patrol. We’re talking about a Harvey Cedars taxpayer asking for permission to surf the beach where he lives instead of getting in the car and driving to another town. This policy is no longer an experiment. It’s working in every other town on LBI without incident or injury.

It has also come to our attention that there is no official ordinance in Harvey Cedars that states that surfing outside the flags is illegal. There is talk that some folks in Cedars might organize and ask the town what they might do to open waveriding outside the flags or perhaps start a petition. It all sounds very polite and I will keep you updated to any developments.

NEWS FROM THE EQUATOR: OK. It’s August and there’s finally some action down on the equator. This most recent development came in hot, as in there was no talk of tropical development and then suddenly Tropical Storm Emily was hitting Tampa Monday morning.

Emily wasn’t a really big deal, but she is of interest because she formed and intensified to a named storm so quickly. We have to keep in mind that even when things are quiet, something can flare up at any minute. She gave Florida a soaking and crossed into the Atlantic.

Emily is supposed to regain tropical storm status. She won’t be all that powerful, but a few drops of her energy could certainly help the smallish windswell we have in the water.

AUGUST HEAT: I don’t think any August comes or goes without most of us saying, “Wait, August? But it seems like I just turned on the outside shower!”

Preach on, brothers and sisters. If we actually studied the time continuum in the Long Beach Island area, we would discover that February, March and April feel like 16 weeks, while June, July and August feel like about 25 days. That’s how quick summer goes. It’s kind of like the wind chill factor or heat index. And that’s even for the folks who work every day, making that summa loot.

Since time is flying, I am suggesting that you make the most out of Summer 2017. There is absolutely no time to waste. I’ve never watched a single second of “Game of Thrones,” but I have no doubt that you can watch it on demand in October. In six months you’ll be wishing for a reason to hang out on the beach with your friends and eat cold clams. Make the most of it.

There’s not much time to waste with the events coming fast and furious this week.

This Friday, Aug. 4, Sink R’ Swim Gallery hosts Stories from the Sea, recent works by Surf City waverider Kristin Myers.

Myers’ work seemed to take a really fun direction the last two years. She was always extremely talented, but even she feels her recent work has taken a more tangible direction as of late. Furthermore, Sink or Swim has plunged headfirst into the local events game, hosting some really cool stuff for various Island creative communities. The courtyard setup is ideal for such gatherings.

On Saturday, Aug. 5 is the Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic. This has become a very important event for a few reasons. First off, I shouldn’t need to tell most about the importance of ALO, the environmental group that is focused on our local issues. This is ALO’s biggest fundraiser. It’s one of the major sources that keeps them going financially all year. They will be critical in a bag ban, should any of the Island towns pursue it.

Second, during our busy season, how many times do we just kick back and chill with friends for a whole day on the beach and in the water? I know a lot of us have a laundry list of tourism-related chores to do, but it’s still something we should take advantage of. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to get out and ride those old dogs. There are still a few slots. You can register at livingocean.org/eco-events/alo-lbi-longboard-classic/.

Fewer balloons in the ocean. More fun summertime waves. Let’s have it.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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