Liquid Lines

Is there Some Sort of Sporting Event This Weekend?

The Birds in the Bowl, State of Surf Business, and Some Upcoming Events on LBI
By JON COEN | Jan 31, 2018
Photo by: Greg Malega What’s this game everyone's talking about on Sunday? Tucker McGrath is snow tubing, which is more fun to watch than football.

I’m probably going to get beat up for this or at the very least, be scraping egg off my windows. But I am going to go ahead and say it: I can’t stand the fact that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl.

Now before you start tying nooses, let me be clear. I don’t like the Patriots, either. I’m not a Jets fan. And for that matter, I could care less about the Devils, Giants, Phillies, Manchester United, all of NASCAR, the Durham Bulls, Chuck Lidell or the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.

I was a diehard Yankees fan in the 1980s, when they didn’t win anything. We took every loss and drama to heart, and I am convinced it was unhealthy for 7-year-olds to be stressed out, walking around growling, “Steinbrenner! He’s ruining the franchise!”

I was a decent shortstop, but once I got the surf bug, it was over. My last season was torturous while my friends headed to the beach. I quit playing at age 15, abhorred everything about baseball and haven’t watched a single pitch since.

I haven’t watched a game in about 20 years. The last of sports that I watched on TV was NCAA basketball, but lost interest in that, too. Hey, if there was any open gym time on this forsaken tundra of a sandbar in the winter, I’d gladly sacrifice a sore back to some play pick-up games. But I don’t think I can name three NBA players outside the ones who turned down an invite to the White House last year. To be honest, there’s only a handful of surf contest webcasts I watch.

The whole Sunday pigskin worship ritual is weird to me. Exxon could put an oil rig in Little Egg Inlet and build a refinery in the middle of Beach Haven and no one would say a word if the Giants and Eagles had a 1 p.m. game that day.

But it’s a matter of taste. And when folks are throwing on their green jerseys and Ugg boots to tailgate on weekends, it just makes beaches, trails, waves, ski hills, etc. more wide open for the minuscule portion of the population that couldn’t care less. I actually wish games started earlier. Hawaiians go out for breakfast to root for the Chargers. Not a bad time to get those reefs uncrowded ...

Guess there’s no real harm in the way we idolize these men and teams. Fortunately, this is a free country. If you’re not interested, you just don’t watch. Totally fair.

Well, that used to be the case. Now that the Birds are going to the big game while that guy from the obnoxious ’90s boy band lip-synchs the halftime show, it’s all anyone is talking about. Giants fans are distraught by ethical dilemmas, my kid’s school is sending home green notices about team spirit ... E-A-G…. uugh.

How many times am I going to see that ridiculous video of the Viking girl walking through the drunken Philly crowd? And then the moral high ground about how their behavior is soooo appalling and the response about the backstory, and how she was asking for it, followed by the inane “there are good fans and bad fans for every team” debate.

On the flipside, the fact that the Eagles have done so well is definitely helping the local economy. It’s great for bar biz. Folks tend to spend money when the home team is on top. And if your team’s (funny term by the way – people talk like they actually played in the NFC Championship) winning, helped to buoy your spirits through those weeks of frozen hell, well, your happiness is something I can root for.

As everyone is ramping up for the Nick Foles conversation, “buying boxes,” and  some $7.7 million Budweiser commercial that will be analyzed like it’s War and Peace. I just hope there are waves next Sunday evening.

WINTER OF OUR MALCONTENT: We can’t really say “discontent” as we’re back to just winter and not the “subwinter” temps that crushed us in early January. I know that’s starting to seem a distant memory right now, but the legacy of that frigid snap is going to be felt long into the springtime, so we’re certainly not done talking about it. And we’ll be lucky to get above freezing today (Wednesday).

It’s not just the cold that has made this winter tough for surfing, but everything that comes with it. The same January conditions that occasionally create great swell also make things really tough for day-to-day sessions. The surf hasn’t been flat, but the swells we’ve had have been marred by those winter extremes – really low tides at bad times, brutally hard offshore winds and different degrees of closing-out waves. And as I’ve been reporting, the lack of jetties doesn’t let the sand line up like it used to.

Specifically, we had a moderate combo swell on Jan. 17 that was best down at the South End, where we still have jetties. It was followed by a few days of smaller peeling waves through the week. Last week, we had building surf on Tuesday with the wind going offshore right before dark, winter’s greatest curse that often happens when we have shortened daylight. Wednesday morning had that drained low tide, but I did hear reports of some fun, smaller surf later in the day. Sunday gave us some clean little waves that were pretty rare for winter, with almost no measurable wind. Surf wasn’t that big, but good to get out on a day that felt a little warmer.

But the gist has generally been this: The days that we anticipate good surf tend to be too unruly, while some in-between days wind up being fun. The result is that if you check on the smaller days, you can find those fun waves up to chest high. But we certainly haven’t had too many great days of head-high waves or bigger.

CUE THE REPLENISHMENT: Winter surf is now about to get a bit tougher as the South End is seeing the beach replenishment machine cranking up again. And once again, everyone has an opinion. Hey, for years I asked for better beach replenishment. But I’m convinced that without the projects, some of LBI wouldn’t be here and life on the sandbar would be far different. And so, beachfill, with all its black sand, jetty burying ugliness, is a necessary evil.

The upside is that LBI won’t go down to the forces of geology for another year or so. The downside is that those ever-important jetties are going to be buried, along with our sandbars. I have no doubt that a couple of good winter storms will move sand around and those breaks will rebound by spring, but they are a tough temporary loss when the rest of the Island is so prone to close-outs without jetties. Just have to see what we get and hope it’s done by summer.

THE BUSINESS OF LOCAL SURF BUSINESS: In local business news, you may have noticed that Island Surf and Sail is a bit higher than it was. The shop, which is prone to flooding in even simple rain events, is now raised. Work will continue at the shop, and they will be re-opening in June.

ISS didn’t stock too much snow gear this season. But it does have the Lib Tech waterboards, Body Glove Red Cell winter suits and Body Glove Solite boots, all of which have become pretty popular the last few years around here. If you’re in need, you can still call Terry at 609-494-5553 and arrange for pickup.

Last weekend was Surf Expo in Orlando, Fla. I will admit this is only the second time I missed Expo since 2005 (skipped it in 2013 after Sandy). And the trade show is a shell of what it once was.

I was never one for those big late nights out, but it really was a three-day party. It expanded with the growth of SUP, and even when the economy crashed, the surf industry held on for a while. And while Expo was no longer the giant party, there were bikini-clad girls offering up energy drinks around every corner, and Volcom actually got kicked out for its loud ragers. But the general consensus was that when you cut out the fat, or what some considered the fun, more work got done.

There are myriad reasons that the surf industry and Surf Expo have fallen off in general, but it’s now a much smaller event. The last few years have been consistently scaled back. The big brands – Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Volcom and Billabong – weren’t even there.

Cory Higgins, who directs sales for Jetty, just returned from his twice-yearly pilgrimage and report it was “considerably smaller” than even last year. That indicates it was a very abbreviated show. The failing of the big brands (Quiksilver bought the bankrupt Billabong in early January) means that things open up for smaller brands like Jetty. And for surf shops owners, the brands that are still in the game are paying more attention. Brian Farias said it was a good show because he got face time with some of the big dogs in the industry.

Brighton Beach Surf Shop owner Mike Lisiewski told me: “It was much like the recent shows, definitely not a party atmosphere. Things were much more down to business. Things were optimistic with most businesses and corporations I spoke to feeling very optimistic with the way things are going. You could see money being spent and invested a little more freely through the show. In the hunt for new and exciting things, I didn’t really see much that was new. Lots of the merchandise is just a copy of something from a time gone by.”

Ken Gallant of South-End Surf ’N Paddle didn’t really see a dip, as he’s mostly involved in the stand up paddle sector as a retailer and rep for Riviera SUPs. That market may not be growing as it was four years ago, but it remains steady.

COMING UP: This Saturday is South-End Surf ’N Paddle Polar Paddle in Beach Haven to benefit Alliance for a Living Ocean. I love the idea of this event, but I think as long as we have winter events like this, conditions are going to be a big factor. The race water east of Mordecai Island was frozen with the rest of the bay in early January. While most of that ice is gone, Saturday is looking to be below freezing again. Now, a cold day for the race is one thing, but the X factor will be the wind. If we get a calm day, racers can certainly soldier through. Freezing temps with howling winds will be a different story.

Science Saturdays at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences is in full swing. As always, these are free for members and $5 otherwise. This Saturday, Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science’s John Wnek, also director of Project Terrapin, will offer a chance to meet local turtle species up close. Wnek has broken this up into two parts. Families are invited to the first part, starting at 10 a.m. He has an adult program starting at 11 a.m. that deals more with efforts to retrieve derelict fishing gear from the bay that winds up endangering our shelled friends.

If you’re hungry come Feb. 10, Viking Village, the Puskas Fisheries Partnership and the Ocean County Vocational Technical School will host a bay-to-table conversation about harvesting local seafood and then cooking demonstrations. … Yes, you get to sample. The Feb.17 presentation will focus on tracking migratory birds via “citizen science.”

And keep February 24 open, as it’s the third annual Eskimo Outreach at Mud City Crab House, hosted by the Old Causeway and the Jetty Rock Foundation. Once again, this fantastic winter-style carnival will feature music, games, craft beer, spiked hot beverages, cider, a hot chocolate igloo, little Eskimo activities, and auctions. Our local businesses go big for this event, to help area families in need. This has been a rough winter, and I’m sure some folks could use some help after those December and January heating bills.

The surf forecast is looking pretty optimistic at the moment, with several quick swells on the horizon. I think a lot of us would be just fine with a handful of thigh- to head-high days in the coming week, rather than one big, massive swell followed by a week of flat and offshore waves. Friday and Sunday both look to have a window of clean surf, although don’t be surprised if we see something cold and rugged for February. Friday is Groundhog Day, and it’s supposed to be a chilly one. If I were that fat little furball, I’d just stay in my hole.

And that brings us to Sunday, when we might actually have a rideable wave. I couldn’t care less who wins the Super Bowl, I just hope all you Birds fans enjoy your day and then we can move on.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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