Liquid Lines

If the Holidays Have Become a Competition, It’s Already Been Won

String of Swells, Storm on the Way and Farewell to 2018
By JON COEN | Dec 12, 2018
Photo by: Peter Gordon/Flickr The holiday season has become a competition and some seem to think that he who starts earliest wins.

I’ll just come out and say it: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is an annoying song. If that chick was from LBI, she would have a fleece-lined flannel, a good Patagonia jacket and some solid boots. When she decided it was time to go, she would have bundled up and hit the pavement.

The guy would do well to lighten up and stop being creepy.

If Zoey Deschanel hadn’t sung it in the shower in 2003, no one would even care. People who chose this silly song as a battle in the war against sexism back in early December might be more annoying than the actual song.

However, the obnoxious folks who decided in November to blow up the controversy over “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” claiming it’s ruining their rights to celebrate their version of Christmas, are clearly the most annoying.

But it doesn’t matter. I just want to let everyone know that I already won Christmas this year. Pack up your stockings, take the elf off the shelf and save yourself that awful candy cane cocktail hangover.

I’ve beat everyone!

The big annual challenge seems to be lengthening the holiday season as much as possible. The Ship Bottom Public Works Department had the snowflakes and anchors up on the light poles the first week of November. I guess you have to when your Christmas parade is Dec. 1. But I would say that’s better than Surf City, which currently looks like Whoville right after the Grinch ransacked it. (Seriously guys, not a single bulb?)

Each year we outdo ourselves in a commercially-based rush to see how early we can start. It’s become a competition. And if you don’t show that Christmas spirit the day after Halloween, you must be some kind of heathen.

Am I wrong? These days you see people starting to train and shadow box in August to prepare for Black Friday brawls. We hadn’t even put on wetsuit boots yet when that obnoxious Amazon Christmas commercial started running on TV. And not to be outdone, Hebrews decided to fire up the menorahs on Dec. 2 this year. They roamed the desert for 40 years, but when Christmas starts earlier and earlier, even they get impatient.

After that phenomenal post-Thanksgiving swell, I visited two friends who were already knee-deep in tinsel. But I just want to let everyone know that I took the gold medal this year. I went out and preordered a Playstation 5 in July. No, it doesn’t exist yet, but I’m ahead of the game. I made snowman sugar cookies through October, started eating chocolate every morning, stopped exercising and put on my nine pounds weeks before the Ship Bottom Christmas Parade.

On a warm day in early fall, I donned my Santa cap, cut down my own tree from the Forsythe Refuge and hauled it home in the bed of my truck. Blaring my favorite holiday song, “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight” by the Ramones, I stepped my bare feet right over my pumpkin, carrying it into the house. I set it up and made my kid decorate it (while his friends were up on the beach). I have to say, it looked pretty good, although the trick-or-treaters were somewhat perplexed. We spent Veterans Day wrapping gifts.

Things were feeling rather festive on Thanksgiving, what with that bitter cold and all, so after dinner at my sister’s house, I invited my entire family back to my place and made them start caroling. (Side note: Mom, your harmonizing on “Hark the Herald” was lackluster at best.)

They did seem a little confused as I forced all their presents upon them. And then, in one swift motion, I picked up my tree, shook off all the ornaments and chucked it back into my truck.

I screamed, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good …”  But they didn’t even hear me finish as I drove into the night.

I hit 85 mph going west over the bridge, pulling off at the Route 9 jughandle. Then I made a quick left at the light and careened into the parking lot at Manahawkin Lake. I slammed on the brakes, got out of the car and tossed my early evergreen off into the grass.

It was the first discarded tree of the year! I suspect by a lot.

I started early and was done with Christmas before December. If you need me, I’ll be cutting pink construction paper into Valentines.

I win.

MORE SWELLS: Before I get into the waves and weather of late, I’d like to point out that it snowed last Wednesday. It was our first snowfall of the season. As usual, kids went through the roof. But make no mistake, their grownups were jazzed, too. Do we ever outgrow that wonder at the first snowfall of the season?

I do have to point out that the first snowfall of the year gets a much better reception than the last snowfall of the year. I mean, here we are, posting photos, trying to catch a flake or two on our tongues and whistling favorite holiday tunes. There’s certainly something to be said for snow when our homes, schools and towns are all lit up.

It’s not quite the same when flakes start blowing in a cold wind in April after a good five months of winter, when everyone is broke and all we want is a beach day.

But one thing we certainly have going for us is the surf. My last Liquid Lines was a rundown of three great swells in a row. Last Monday added a fourth to that as yet another south swell lined up for us.

Again, I’m amazed at how well things have been lining up for us. We have so many swells where the wind goes offshore right before dark in the winter and it’s flat as toast by morning. Or we have just enough south in the wind to make it weird and sideshore. Or it’s simply closing out for no good reason.

But this season has continued to produce, even if it’s short swell events. Last Monday didn’t come with any kind of raging storm (for a change). In fact, the wind only hit moderate gusts on Sunday night.

Dawn patrol didn’t show much. The wind was south and that annoying fog was still hanging around. But a few hours later things were looking better. And by late morning, when the tide was starting to come back in, it was downright firing. The sets were only chest to maybe head high, but the wind was straight offshore and the angle was ideal. It was a regularfoot’s dream with long, peeling rights and a few tubes to be had. We were also stoked by the fact that the highs got into the 50s that day. It stayed good for hours, but by later afternoon, the consistency had dropped off and the tide had gobbled it up.

There was a tiny bit of residual swell the next morning, but the wind was north and when it straightened out, that was it for the swell. It stayed down pretty much the whole week. We’re hitting that point in the year when it takes a little swell to want to put on the full gear, so I’m not sure there was anyone getting after the 1-footers.

The downside lately has been poor conditions between the swells. Once that swell was over we had a full 10 days of minimal to flat conditions.

The wind picked up northeast on Monday, rebuilding some swell. A few surfers caught some unexpectedly clean conditions. We saw the surf build further on Tuesday from a low off the Carolina coast. Because the low moved out to sea and not into our neighborhood, we didn’t get a ton of swell. But we didn’t have a ton of wind on Tuesday associated with the storm. If all goes as planned, we should have a decent wave on Wednesday, falling off but still fun as The SandPaper hits the yellow boxes.

AND MORE SWELL: A more powerful low should slide off the Carolina coast on Friday, but this one will have a little more local effect.

As of now, it seems we will have serious winds to contend with on Saturday and Sunday, getting above that 50 mph range before turning more northeast

As significant as this storm looks, it should be a quick mover. If we do have some coastal flooding, it should be short, and the full moon isn’t until Dec 22, so we’re safe there. Our beaches are in mostly good shape as we head into winter as well.

It’s a bit early to make this call, but the models seem to now indicate that Monday will be the day to surf.

Keep in mind the wind is going to be howling on this one. The last few swells have been pleasant because the wind hasn’t been honking offshore. As of now, it seems there will still be some energy in the ocean on Tuesday morning with more favorable wind direction and a little less aggressive in the afternoon. Welcome to winter.

DEAF DOLPHINS: Let’s add another environmental failure to the current administration’s greatest hits.

In the stop-at-nothing quest to collect and use more natural resources than ever before, Orange 45 and his team recently gave the green light to seismic surveys of the ocean floor from Delaware to Florida. The previous administration had protected the Mid-Atlantic from drilling and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had denied permits for testing. Not long after taking office, Trump opened 90 percent of federal waters to potential drilling, a practice that we know can open the door to devastating ecological disaster. Fortunately, all of our elected state officials on both sides are in agreement that this is a dangerous idea. We tend to make a lot of money on this thing called tourism, which depends on a healthy ocean and beaches.

There’s no effort from the top to curb the amount of fossil fuels we use (at rates exponential to most of the world) and certainly no lack of effort to keep us economically dependent on fossil fuels. And all this as we see the signs of climate change starting to affect us. You seeing how this works?

Now the aim is to find the oil they hope to drill from the ocean floor. And the immediate effects will show the blatant disregard for ocean life, particularly dolphins and whales, very close relatives of humans, speaking in terms of evolution. Seismic air guns set off continuous underwater blasts that are so intense they can deafen marine mammals, who depend on their sense of hearing for pretty much every facet of life. Fortunately, the blasting will be curbed during times of migration, but we have mammals here most of the year.

“Seismic blasting is a violent, destructive precursor to unnecessary offshore oil drilling,” said Angela Howe, the Surfrider Foundation’s legal director. “According to estimates from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the seismic exploration projects could directly harm tens of thousands of whales and dolphins, in addition to thousands of manatees, seals, and sea turtles. This type of damage to our coastal resources is unacceptable. The Surfrider Foundation and our strong coalition of allies will stand up to protect our ocean, waves and beaches for the future.”

Deaf dolphins ... awesome. Every month this administration finds a new way to assault the natural world. The GOP wasn’t always the party of ecological destruction, but congratulations.

A FANTASTIC HOLIDAY AND WAVE FILLED NEW YEAR: The way the calendar falls, next week is the last SandPaper of the year. Hence, this is my last Liquid Lines of 2018. We’ll get to that in a minute.

This year certainly tested our resolve. Just look at what you paid to heat your house last winter and cool it last summer. I think we had a total of three days that were comfortable and in the 70s. The surf was a mixed bag, but it’s finishing strong.

I don’t know of any events to keep you apprised of in terms of the usual surf community. It would seem everyone has shifted into ugly sweater gear already.

Dec. 25 usually produces enough of a wave that most surfers wind up abandoning some family festivities for a few lines. Try not to be too obnoxious about it. Hopefully, we get some surf the week after Christmas. And here’s hoping we get some decent weather that week for those who are off to enjoy time with their families. Note that New Jersey’s firearm hunting season ended last week so you can hike freely again. A nice walk in Barnegat Light or Holgate is fantastic. But if the wind is an issue, Wells Mills and Stafford Forge are local gems, especially with a few inches of snow. In that same spirit, let’s hope the bay doesn’t freeze. That just makes life miserable around here.

That’s a wrap for me this year. It’s been a pleasure. I want to thank so many of you who come to read my nonsense every week. I try to keep you abreast of things that happen within the world of water folk on this sandbar. But as much as we would like to, our community doesn’t exist inside of a vacuum. Things that happen out in the world affect us. And to some extent, we affect the world. So thanks for always allowing me to engage in the bigger picture conversations.

I’d like to thank our publishers. The SandPaper continues to be cherished in a time when print publications are dying. Our staff works to bring all the news, not just the salacious stuff that sells. I want to thank them for allowing me such wide boundaries. I really do appreciate it.

My friends and family are always super supportive and I am very grateful. But mostly I want to thank you all for reading Liquid Lines in both print and online and sharing on social media. It really means a lot to have a voice in this community because this is a special place to live.

Now, go out there and enjoy the hell out of whatever holiday you want. Pour your grandmother a little extra Baily’s Irish Cream. Just take care of each other and try to have a little respect for our land, air and water.

Happy New Year.

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