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If Airbnb Is Going to Offer ‘Experiences,’ Some Authentic Ideas for LBI

Authentic LBI ‘Experiences’ and a Lot of Waves for July
By JON COEN | Jul 11, 2018
Ryan Johnson Authentic experiences via the sharing economy? We can do that.

By now, we’re all familiar with, if not part of, the “sharing economy.” It’s where a service connects us directly with a “peer” who has a good or service we need, or vice versa. It’s sites and services like GoFundMe, Uber, Facebook Marketplace or Home Away, where we can quickly connect with someone who can give us a ride or rent us their home. LBI takes a little longer to catch on to new-fangled ideas like these, but right now all of these service-based apps are a big part of summer on LBI. We have friends renting homes through VRBO and others driving for Lyft.

If you look at it, the number of strangers sleeping in our homes or folks looking to make a little extra scratch late night is pretty ideal for LBI. And does anyone else remember trying to contact a traditional taxi on LBI by phone? Folks weren’t just legally sober by the time the cab arrived, they were on their way to getting wasted again.

The whole idea isn’t as new as we think it is. The predecessors to Uber and the rest were Craigslist, web-based sites that connected folks before there were such easy to use apps that kept your credit card on file. Prior to that there were internet message boards. And really the sharing economy is just a digital version of the classified page, or the corkboard that still exists in some places of business. You don’t have to be that old to remember pulling a tab off a card advertising a used bike at the supermarket. I paid for the ferry ride from the North Island of New Zealand to the South by putting up flyer cards in hostels and sharing the cost with passengers in my van.

You can assume there are nightmare stories, but you can have a bad experience through any service. Hey, for every Craigstlist killer, there are a thousand people who got a deal on a used lawnmower. You just have to be smart.

Surfers have been big fans of the sharing economy in any form, basically because it’s less formal, less expensive. We’re always looking for experience, not luxury. It’s been a way of life – thumbing to the supermercado in Central America, picking up a flyer at the “backpackers” in Australia, even buying boards at surfcycler.com. I’ve definitely always opted for meeting someone and negotiating a price over traditional transportation, lodging or retail. It’s all about stretching that dollar. Not only are you finding a place to sleep or a way to get up the coast, but you’re connecting with someone, often a local, who can offer information in addition to a couch or a ride in the back of a pickup. It’s cheaper because there’s little to no overhead, and you’re actually making a human connection.

This year it seems the shared economy has gone to the next level with “Airbnb Experiences” – not only can you rent someone’s guest bedroom, but you can actually rent a friend for the night (but not in a creepy, real estate mogul and pornstar kinda way.)

As Airbnb describes them, these experiences are “activities designed and led by inspiring locals. They go beyond typical tours or classes by immersing guests in each host’s unique world. It’s an opportunity for anyone to share their hobbies, skills, or expertise.”

The first I’d heard of it was Hawaiian surfers, particularly the ones not making a lot of money in the shrinking surf industry. It was a chance to surf with a real Hawaiian in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong; the jokes were easy. I mean, it was virtually a Rent-a-Brah type of situation.

“Oh, cuz, you paddle out wit me. Nobody give you da stink eye. Sit in da channel an don’t drop in. Then we get da good poi, on me… broke da mout. One aftanoon just $90. Hey, you got a sista, brah?”

Surfing seems to be one of the activities that is being pushed the most. That’s likely for three reasons. The first is that the surfing scene seems intimidating from the outside. Paying a few dollars to be “down” with a local is worth it for adults who are learning to surf. Second, surfing imagery is an easy sell. Third is that many surfers don’t have consistent employment schedules; a lot of us are hustlers. If there’s a legal way to hustle money from tourists, and a website that specifically facilitates it, we’re all over that. In a way, many LBI locals have already been doing a version of this for years, just through word of mouth instead of an international website.

I took a look around the experiences at Airbnb and I have to say, it’s not all that ridiculous. DJ Jigüe is an Afro-Cuban DJ and producer with a passion for music who will show you around Havana. Toby is a San Fran artists who has rented a room for years and now does art classes in her studio. It’s not a bad way to get a New York City street art tour or go fishing in Philly.

And I even found a guy who’s offering surf lessons in Beach Haven. He’ll come to your beach or take you to one of his favorite spots (but might want to avoid Holyoke on crowded days, pal). He does individual or group lessons and offers soft top boards. He provides water and the price is fair, although he might be able to expand on the package by cracking a few Ship Bottom Brewery “Shack” IPAs after the session or taking his guest to the Holiday Snack Bar afterward for a slice of pecan pie.

And that got me thinking of all the other possible “experiences” that folks might pay for on LBI. Because whether they’ve been “coming down to my grandma’s house in Haven Beach every summer for my whole life” or this is their first time, everyone whose primary residence isn’t Southern Ocean County wants to have some connection with the place. They all want to feel like more than just another tourist.

So perhaps we could start some Airbnb accounts and start marketing other authentic LBI experiences. How about the “Chegg Experience”? Everyone loves the Chicken or the Egg! For $55 you can work the fryer at 2 a.m., making wings for folks who’ve been out at the bars all night.

Or how about an “LBI Winter Experience”? Live life like a year-round local. We’ll drive you around in a truck (that might not start), stopping at seven restaurants that are all closed, and finish off the night playing pool at the Port Hole. With any luck, there will be 40-knot northwest winds blowing across the bay. At only $70, it includes pool, five songs on the jukebox and Mac-n-Chees bites. We can’t guarantee you’ll meet a local with an eye patch, but we promise there will be no traffic.

I’m thinking I might try to put together the “LBI Rock Star Experience.” For $180, you get picked up in a van by your favorite cover band. You get to help the band pack in, drink unlimited draft beer for the night, and when they play “Sweet Caroline,” they’ll even pass you the mic to sing the “Whoa oh oh!” part. What could be more authentically summer LBI than screaming Neil Diamond?

Hit me up on Airbnb.

SO MUCH SURFING AND OCEAN LIFE: After a really dull start to summer 2018, there’s a bit more energy now in the ocean and among surfers. It’s that feeling of anticipation when we slide into a nice pattern – we’ve had a few waves, and there are more on the way.

The conditions we’ve had of late have been a mixed bag – longboard waves, shortboard waves, bathtub warm water, frigid upwelling, some northeast wind swell, summertime south swell and now even some tropical swell.

Last Thursday was seriously about the clearest and bluest I have ever seen our ocean. From atop a paddleboard, you could see the bottom in 8 or 10 feet of water. There were acre-sized lazy bunker pods and armies of giant rays. Some were accompanied by (what I identified to the best of my abilities as) pilot fish, which are a generally warm or even tropical water species. They are found swimming with sharks, turtles and rays and eat leftovers around the host species. Guys I know have seen plenty offshore, but being just off the beach seems to be something different. Either way, really cool. Some days every wave was like a trip to the aquarium.

By Friday, the wind went south and we had the exact opposite conditions – cold, murky water with building swell. That was also the day that several cars were lost and first floors swamped due to flash flooding on the Island. Friday night, the wind went offshore, and there was a firing little wave to match an amazing summer sunset. Not only was the surf fun, but it brought an end to the heat wave. The blow turned northeast by Saturday and put some small waves in the water that held through a pretty much gorgeous weekend. Monday morning’s wind was offshore with a 2-foot-plus wave, more clear water and fun conditions overall. The rest of the start of the week was smallish with varying winds, but certainly longboardable.

Now things could get exciting. I’m not talking about overhead and barreling exciting, but by the time The SandPaper hits the yellow boxes, Tropical Storm (or Hurricane) Chris could be just a few hundred miles offshore. Now I don’t think we’re going to see anything major or historic out of this, but we could have several days of hurricane swell right amid some local windswell, which would simply mean waves for days. And when you start getting up early every morning, scoring a session or two and falling asleep at 9 p.m., that’s about as good as it gets in the summer.

Chris sat in the same spot just southeast of the Outer Banks for a few days, churning up some surf, and became a tropical storm on Sunday. He’s been following the Gulf Stream and is expected to become extratropical somewhere off our coast. Again, I don’t see giant Cedars peaks or Barnegat Light breaking out by the South Jetty, but we could get a few days of consistent surf out of it as he passes.

Then there’s Tropical Depression Two, which was formerly Tropical Storm Beryl. She got downgraded about the same time Chris got the nod. Beryl saturated the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico. This storm could send some waves if it becomes a tropical storm again. She’s worth keeping an eye on. I don’t think either storm is much of a threat to New Jersey, just wavemakers in warm water. Look for at least a small wave through the weekend with pretty normal seasonal winds. All in all, a good amount of motion in the ocean.

REPEAL OF THE NATIONAL OCEAN POLICY: Two weeks ago I mentioned that in his push to move the U.S. backward, one Fox News talking point at a time, our 45th president repealed the National Ocean Policy and issued his own executive order that was basically a kick in the teeth to anyone concerned about the health of our oceans. And somehow people on barrier islands and bayfront communities are flying flags in his name. If you have such disrespect for our waterways, why live here? You can read the full story by Juliet Kazsa-Hoch in the June 27 issue.

The Surfrider Foundation released an initial statement, but it’s staying vigilant on this. Surfrider was part of many groups that provided input into Obama’s ocean policy. This week they further laid out that the ocean economy is an economic powerhouse, supporting more than 3 million jobs and contributing $320 to the GDP each year. The majority of those jobs rely on clean coastal waters with healthy and abundant fish and wildlife.

The organization also noted that the findings of the grassroots stakeholders, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Bodies, were already being implemented. No one is sure what’s going to happen, but the Surfrider Foundation will continue to support the former policy’s ideas. Surfrider isn’t the only group. If you’ve let your membership lapse, now is when these groups need you more than ever.

JUMPING RIGHT INTO IT: This Friday, check out some of the unreal images captured by Barnegat Light lensman Chris Pfeil at the Ann Coen Gallery. The show is a collaboration between the two and will feature some of what they documented last winter when LBI had five nor’easters in a row and fired for a month straight. The show is from 6 to 9 p.m. and offers music and light refreshments.

Also Friday night are the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame Surfer Awards at the Tuckerton Seaport. This is not an induction, as that happens on odd years, but honors for Male and Female Surfer of the Year, Young Guns, Shaper of the Year, Environmental Steward, the Cecil Lear Legacy Award, etc. Inquire about tickets at NJSurfingHallofFame.com

The sixth annual LBI Paddle Classic is Saturday night, so get your board ready. The race is at 6 at Bayview Park in Brant Beach. Registration begins at 5. If you want to skip the lines, register ahead of time at https://paddleguru.com/races/LBIPaddleClassic2018 (pay at the event). The net proceeds go to Alliance for a Living Ocean.

I think this is one of the more fun races of the year. The Barnegat Bay Challenge, in late August, is a fantastic race as well, but it’s pretty grueling when the wind is up. This race, even the longer course, is more of a sprint. Even for those who aren’t serious racers, get out there on your surf-style board and compete against other novices and fun for kids. This one is a good time and a great cause.

Jetty will run its 10th annual Coquina Jam on July 29. Registration is open, and the teams will be picked on July 16 at Bayview Park from 6 to 8 p.m. Everyone is invited to the selection, which features music by The Double Negatives and an afterparty at Kubel’s Too. The actual event will be held on East Dayton Avenue in Brant Beach. Cold clams on the half are a tradition here.

Registration also just opened for the Alliance for a Living Ocean Longboard Classic, also celebrating its 10th year, on Aug. 4, on 17th Street in Ship Bottom. Everyone rides classic log, which brings the ’60s gems out of the woodwork for the day, not mention there is some really good noserideing and cross-stepping from start to finish.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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