Liquid Lines

If Getting Excited and Claiming Your Waves Is Wrong, We Don’t Want to Be Right

Breaking Down the Big Nor’easter and Swell
By JON COEN | Oct 31, 2018
Photo by: Dan Przygocki The fruits of last weekend’s nor’easter at the Jetty Clam Jam on Sunday.

There’s a lot of talk in surfing about claims.

For those who don’t know, a claim is the little celebration at the end of a good wave. For instance, if you pump down the line, do a huge backside hit and throw your hands in the air, that’s a claim.

It’s kind of like an endzone dance or sliding across the ice on one knee after a goal. Or that ridiculous thing that soccer players do where they rip their shirts off after a goal. Except those are all well-accepted actions in those sports. Even the celebration is celebrated. It’s emulated by kids across the world.

In surfing, it might get you ridiculed. But it might not. You never know.

Surfing is “cool” (in quotation marks), therefore we have a certain code of conduct that doesn’t exist on the field, the rink or the pitch. I’ll try to explain it, but the very nature of this “cool” (in quotation marks) does its best to defy explanation.

We’re not supposed to get too excited about a good wave sometimes. This is surfing. We’re surfers. We’re supposed to be cool, too cool, in fact, to show the emotion of getting a good wave.

The whole conversation started years ago at the pro surfing level among the very “cool” folks who comment on what’s going on front of the judges, the crowds and the thousands of dudes watching heats from the comfort of their own beach town. At some point, these opinion leaders decided that expressing joy at something that accomplishes nothing besides bringing joy was faux pas.

There was a bit of conjecture a few years ago that excessive celebration of a wave in competition was an attempt to make the judges more excited about it. It was said to be a way of “selling them” the performance of the wave to elicit a higher score. But somehow, I think that the judges are better than that. These are guys who have dedicated their lives to sitting in a booth and watching surfing, often when the waves are firing, instead of surfing themselves. I personally would rather be groveling tiny LBI waves on a summer day with two friends than watching the Teahupoo event from the channel. So I assume the judges have a level of professionalism that would keep them from falling for such a stunt.

The conversation then expanded to competitive surfing at other levels and eventually to every free surf session. No one wanted to even crack a smile after a great wave, for fear of bad style.

Like I mentioned earlier, claims can be loved as well as hated. Suddenly there were certain pro contests where the claims start to be more creative than the riding of waves. After a good one, surfers would be raising fists, pointing at judges, pumping and shooting imaginary shot guns and bowing to the crowd. I can’t be sure why these claims are tolerated, but I assume it has something to do with the surfer and how surfing’s social influencers feel about him or her at the moment. If a certain Instagram account likes a certain surfer, he could claim every time he flushed a urinal and everyone would go crazy for it.

Granted, there are some claims that do seem to communicate something more than a feeling of joy. One particular world champ landed an absolutely mental full rotation air a few years back and ruined it by arrogantly putting his hands on his hips. Dude, you get paid to travel the world and surf. You will never work on a roof in Beach Haven Crest in January or have to repeat the beers on tap 11 times to a drunken tourist. Get excited, but don’t be a douche.

But if your idea of a dream session is 4-foot Holyoke, I say, claim whatever the hell you want. For those of us with jobs and families who work to get in the water, we deserve to celebrate the thrill of a ride on Mother Nature’s back. When you’re excited about a wave, let it out. Why the hell are you acting in accordance with what some Instagrammer has to say about Mick Fanning’s passion?

I know that the few times of year that I make a late drop, do an off-balance bottom turn into a draining tube, assume a crouch completely devoid of all style and somehow come out onto the shoulder, I’m ecstatic. I’m throwing both arms in the air and yelling like a madman. It takes me 30 minutes to get back to the line-up because I’m so busy celebrating. I start high-fiving complete strangers and drive home with my fist raised out the window on the coldest winter day. I hop in the tub and stand under the showerhead as if it’s the lip of the wave, reliving my delusional glory. And I fall asleep with a big smile on my face.

If you’re stoked, claim it.

NO JOKE NOR’EASTER: The absolute headline news this week for our region had to be that very serious nor’easter that came crushing through on Friday night. I think we were all affected to some extent, whether we were detoured around flood waters, searching out giant waves or throwing a cast net into our driveway.

I should note that this storm was the remnants of Pacific Hurricane Willa, a once Cat 5 hurricane that hit the coast of mainland Mexico, moved across Mex and became a low off the southeast coast. That’s mostly a footnote for the weather geeks among us, but I think it’s fascinating the way weather energy moves around the world.

It was also very interesting to see how quick the weather turned here. On late Friday afternoon, the weather was beyond calm with no wind on the Island. But by 5 pm, the winds instantly started howling from the northeast. Friday night was certainly one of the loudest, angriest periods of weather we’ve had this year.

This one brought some serious flooding, more significant than anyone had thought. This wasn’t a rain flooding event but a bay flooding. All the water pushing into the inlet found its way into every neighborhood on or near the water as it hit at a full moon. Fortunately, this was a fast and furious burst and not a several-day event or we would have had even more water piling up.

The wind had eased by mid-morning Saturday when the flooding peaked and the surf was just massive. I heard stories of a few takers who paddled out, but I didn’t hear of anyone having any luck late Saturday even though the wind was fairly calm.

Sunday was the stuff New Jersey surf dreams are made of. The wind had blown light offshore all night, making it perfectly clean by daybreak. And the west to west south/west winds stayed light all day, which happens pretty much … never. The surf was about 3 to 6 foot with plenty of juice and barrels. We can never have enough barrels.

High tide was right in the middle of the day, which was pretty much ideal for maximizing surf time. There were a few directions to the swell, which made for nice peaks and a minimum of closeouts. If you were looking for tubes or turns, Sunday really had it all. Hopefully you claimed all of your best waves.

The only time the surf really suffered was when the tide full drained out late Sunday. And even then, it was still rideable. If we could get conditions like that more often, this would be a much different place to live.

We had another front move through on Sunday night, with no rain but wind. Early in the day saw a decent swell, but the wind went hard southwest most of the morning. Once the system was through, the breeze went northwest, making the surf as clean as it gets around here. After such a horrible September and much of October for winds, it was a treat to get two clean days in a row. The Monday afternoon session had very clean, defined rights with some barrels until the tide got too low in most places. The South End still had decent ones going into the evening.

The storm certainly changed a lot of the sand configurations on the Island. Places like Ship Bottom that had a really good sandbar for this late into the season had it erased. Harvey Cedars is worth checking again after being pretty much unrideable since the start of the last beach replenishment project. The South End is looking decent and much the same as it was previously. And 68th Street in Brant Beach, which has never been a go-to, was fantastic all day for the Jetty Clam Jam.

SURF ON TAP: There’s also no lack of waves on the horizon with both groundswell and windswell in the forecast. It appears that hurricane season isn’t over yet as Tropical Storm Oscar became Hurricane Oscar on Sunday night.

Oscar is headed to the North Atlantic, but began sending us swell on Tuesday that we should have for the rest of the work week. Winds look to be southwest, which isn’t ideal for LBI. By Thursday we may be getting weather from the next system, which is forecasted to give us some new windswell. There’s a good chance for winds to go offshore either Friday afternoon or Saturday, so keep an eye on that.

Thankfully, the ocean is still hovering right below 60 degrees, but I expect that to drop a bit by next week. If you haven’t yet, maybe go find those three-mil boots.

AND UP IN THE HILLS: While temps here have been pretty damn October idyllic this week, New England has been getting snow already. Many of the resorts in the Northeast took advantage of the mid-October weather to start making snow, and some of the hills got 10 inches of natural before the nor’easter delivered another round.

Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire, Sunday River in Maine and Killington, Vt., all opened this past weekend and the nor’easter provided even more white for skiers and riders. I will keep Liquid Lines readers updated as the season starts to unfold up there.

CLOSER TO HOME: We’ll see our beloved October give way to November, which is really a fantastic month here as well. Hell, I love December, too. January isn’t even that bad. It’s just the six months of winter after that gets us.

This Sunday, Nov. 4, you can support the Carolinas, which are still reeling from the direct hit by Hurricane Florence. The Paddle for NC is a 4-mile race on the Seaside Heights bayfront. It already looks like there are some locals signed up. The proceeds will benefit about 600 North Carolina families by delivering gift cards to some trusted folks.

I want to remind everyone about the informational SALT (Surfers as Life Savers) event on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Barnegat Light firehouse. The new program would school potential lifesavers on safe driving to a scene, liability vs. risk, and water rescue skills. It would also have them CPR certified. Surfers are prime candidates as we’re already equipped with water skills.

Also, Nov. 24 (Small Business Saturday) the Lighthouse International Film Festival and South End Surf N’ Paddle will present a screening of “Andy Irons: Kissed by God” at South End in Beach Haven. This is a phenomenal documentary that I recommend any surfer see, but there’s also a huge social perspective with Irons’ biopolarity, drug use and the opioid epidemic. This will sell out and $5 tickets are available at BrownPaperTickets.com.

Have you ever noticed that when you go back through photos, all of the guys in the November shots holding big striped bass or carving turkeys always have obnoxious mustaches?

November starts this week, and plenty of local men will be growing their facial hair for the sake of cancer awareness. David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation has partnered with Swing Graphics to support men battling cancer with "Shave the Date” 2018. Ambassadors will take pledges and grow their facial hair in the name. Jetty team rider James Contreras is leading a Jetty team and Jesse Westmacott at Farias is putting together a shop team.

The whole thing culminates in a pop-up barbershop at the Arlington on Nov. 30, when faces will be shaved clean and hair will be cut. You needn’t be an ambassador to donate for a charity haircut, nor do you have to get your new ’stache chopped at the end of the month (but please do, you’re creeping us all out).

It seems we’re in a nice pattern for waves. Let’s hope we can stave off winter for a bit and enjoy it. And then claim it.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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