Local, Benny, or Shoob ... No Avoiding Summer Congestion

When you stop traffic to cross the street, you have to wave. It’s the rule.
By JON COEN | Aug 01, 2018
Artwork by: Mary Tantillo Glass artist Mary Tantillo of SwellColors in Surf City will unveil her latest body of work, a unique collection called Ripple and Ray, on Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m.

Being a local at any seasonal place is a funny thing. From Hawaii to Cape Cod to Lake Tahoe, locals love to bitch about the folks who come to wherever it is they live. LBI, with its split of New York and Philly influence, gets both “Bennies” and “Shoobies.”

I’m not sure why summer people get offended by those names. On their own, they don’t signify any degradation. They are merely a nickname for folks from North Jersey and New York who come down in the summer, or those from the western part of the state and Pennsylvania who traditionally brought their lunch in a shoebox. (According to some, the origin of Shoobie comes from visitors who bought train tickets to beach towns in the 1800s that included lunch in a shoebox.) Igloo coolers didn’t come around until 1947; what did locals expect them to bring their lunch in?

But every local comes to the understanding that without the influx each summer, we wouldn’t have a community here at all. Take out the summer cash injection and there’s no money for municipalities, schools or businesses. Unless we were able to grow enough beach plums and survive on horseshoe crabs, it just wouldn’t be possible. You’d have to be pretty self-sufficient, and even then, after a hard day of foraging for razor clams you’d come home and be like,Honey, what’s for dinner? Ugh, sea gull casserole again!”

I know a lot of people from North Jersey and Pennsylvania. I often call them “friends.” And while I enjoy the relief of September when society turns its focus from white sandy beaches to the green fields of competitive sports, I generally love seeing everyone in the summer. But there are three basic things that seem to bother even the most laid back of locals in the summer –  seasonal workloads, rude tourists and traffic. (If we’re strictly talking about surfers, you could add the lack of barrels to that list.)

Now, summer workloads are part of living here. Gotta make hay while the sun shines, and that means long hours on the jobsite, double shifts in restaurants, paddle tours, late nights in the ER, rental unit turnovers and then a few side hustles on top of that.

When it comes to folks who don’t know how to be polite, ask any local and they will tell you that August is hostility month. Perhaps people with bad manners like to take their vacation time in August. It could also be a bit of fatigue and whittled patience in the service industry. You have to figure that in any group of people, there are about 2 percent that are total douche nozzles. I guess when we have some 250,000 people vying for the same parking spots and ice cream cones on LBI, about 5,000 of them are the type to throw litter in the bay, scream at 15-year-old badge checkers or threaten to leave bad reviews on Yelp. It’s simple math.

Then there’s traffic.

What can you do? I saw someone who had recently moved to the area ask an honest question in a social media group about alternate routes to avoid traffic when coming home from work on weekends. Someone suggested they use the app “Waze,” which gauges traffic and then sets your route accordingly. But you have to imagine Waze is pretty useless when every car has to eventually wind up in the same two lanes. Only true locals know this, but there’s actually a tunnel that runs from Brant Beach to Ocean Acres. The toll is 50 cents, but we don’t tell anyone about it.

But local or visitor, eventually it’s going to happen. You’re sitting in your car, and even if you have air conditioning, it just doesn’t work the same when you’re crawling along the Boulevard. Now everything is starting to get to you. And what the hell is this guy doing? “That’s what the turning lane is for, jackhole!”

So you shift over to the right lane and find yourself behind a Spandex-clad road biker who decided that noon on a Saturday was the optimum time to exercise on a choked-up barrier island. And you can’t pass him because he’s a good 4 feet in your lane. “Come on, Lance, get out of the way!” When you finally pass him, you get stuck at the next red light. And then he passes you and the whole thing starts again.

And then you see a couple standing in the crosswalk, so you do the right thing and stop for them to cross. But when they’re about halfway through the intersection, they have yet to wave. Not so much as lipping a thank you or a nod. And just for a brief second you imagine mowing them down. “But, your honor, they didn’t wave. They’re supposed to wave!”

And then when you’re just about at the end of your rope, when you’ve run out of curse words and sworn vengeance on the next driver or pedestrian to slight you, you notice two skinny kids on the side of the road. Tan and scrawny, they can’t weigh 140 pounds between them. And they have no concept of traffic or selfish yuppies on road bikes or vehicular manslaughter. Wearing nothing but trunks and goofy grins, they’re doing some ridiculous dance from a video game. And that buys you just enough sanity to get where you’re going.

YOUR WEEKLY SANDING: This has become a regular part of Liquid Lines this summer, where I give updates on the big changes to our beaches. It’s kind of like if this were a column in a free weekly paper in a mountain town and in addition to giving the snow report or forecast, I was also giving sections of the hill that the resort is opening and closing. In our case, however, there is little chance of an avalanche.

First, the good news. Weeks Marine and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have reached the northern portion of Surf City, a very highly surfed zone of LBI. It seems there is still a wave there post-replenishment. What often happens is the project reaches out to or past the existing sandbar and buries it, creating nothing but a wide beach to a steep drop off – no “terrace” for wading, bodysurfing, swimming, surfing, etc.

The northern section of Surf City was an area that really did need the sand. We had a swell in June where the high tide line was about 20 feet from the dune fence. But somehow, there is still a wave off the beach there.

Weeks Marine started in the middle of town and worked north. This was a pretty slow-moving project that had to halt several times. I have to wonder if that gave some of the sand from the 14th Street neighborhood time to get out and set up. But as of now, there does seem to be some kind of wave there.

Now the not-so-good news. While the project was moving north, it became apparent that the southern portion of town didn’t really need a whole lot of sand. I heard some conjecture around the City of Surf that they might not need to do it all the way to the border of Ship Bottom. But as of Monday morning, the project was in full swing at about 10th Street, and it seems they are moving south. There was not looking like much of a wave out there.

The south end of Surf City’s sandbars has been a bit weird this summer, farther out than usual. Hence, a few more feet of beach could actually help it. While it doesn’t look too good at the moment, we have to see how it pans out.

Meanwhile, Weeks is back up and running in Harvey Cedars as well. The area around Cape May Avenue was closed early this week. The project has moved south, and things are looking pretty bleak now from the middle of town to North Beach. Again, this is another traditionally high-profile surf spot that gets very good.

Cedars is using a hydraulic pump, which I am told is fast, but can be used only when the surf is less than 3 feet. And since we’ve had so much swell, it’s been slow going. Once they finish at the southern border, they move from the middle of town to the north and will be pumping right through the fall. In all cases, we miss our jetties. The chocolate-milk surf ain’t all that appealing, either.

And yes, as I have repeated to infinity, I am well aware that beach replenishment has already saved us from a few neighborhoods becoming inlets. But they continue to change our beach profiles (many times for the worse), so I need to keep folks updated.

WAVE QUANTITY: As we slide into August, I have to say we’ve had no lack of surf this summer. What it’s lacked in quality, it’s made up for in quantity. 

We’ve had an interesting weather pattern at play the last few weeks. Our waves always come from low pressure, but high pressure has been the story this summer. It’s called the Bermuda High, and every summer it sets up well to the southeast of us and pretty much dominates our weather. (Think 1024 millibars if you’re a weather nerd.)

So the waves haven’t exactly been coming from the Bermuda High, but from interactions with the lows that have been going off the East Coast. Surfline does a really good job of breaking this down, but it’s pretty common sense. Winds move clockwise around the high and counterclockwise around the lows. When they butt up against each other, there’s a pressure gradient that creates more wind over the Atlantic, which equals fetch, which equals waves. We’ve been living on that steady diet of southeasterly windswell.

Last week, the swell and winds actually got a little obnoxious as we had days and days of south blow, but nothing in between to groom it. Still, when you have head-high waves in July, you don’t ask questions. Last Wednesday through Friday saw more of that; then the wind finally chilled out a bit on Friday for some glassy bumps. The surf got really clean on Saturday evening, but we had thunderstorms at the same time. One of the greatest treats of summer is passing thunderstorms that switch the wind to offshore. However, as edgy as surfers might be, you can’t mess with lightning. Electricity doesn’t care how strong or tough you are. Stay out until it has passed.

Sunday was a fine day full of sunshine and waves. It wasn’t until afternoon that the wind really got on it. There was even a little clean leftover on Monday morning. All in all, not bad.

We’re going to see that southerly pattern kick in again this week with surf getting back up to chest and shoulder high, but those winds are going to be relentless through late week. We have to see when the pattern eases and the winds get more favorable, although I’m sure we’ll still surf some southerly chunk just because it’s summer. Look for a cleanup by the weekend.

I should also note that the Bermuda High stifles hurricane formation. Right now the tropical Atlantic sea surface temps are too low and winds too high for anything to get spinning. It’s very odd to be going into August without some kind of tropical system brewing.

OUT AND ABOUT: We need to send a huge congratulations to Jonny Skolnick of the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol, who completed the Molokai 2 Oahu paddle race last Sunday. This grueling 32-mile paddle goes literally from the island of Molokai across what is known as the Channel of Bones and finishes in Oahu. Skolnick qualified last year but was injured. He flew out to Hawaii last week and checked this accomplishment off his bucket list, finishing in fifth place for the Men’s Prone 30-39 division. This marks a stellar season for Skolnick, who already won the Dean Randazzo Paddle for A Cause and the Cape 2 Cape Paddle.

Jetty held its 10th annual Coquina Jam last Sunday, and it was a banger of a day. Not only did it not rain or blow south, which is a rarity in 2018, but there was a little wave, and it was clean most of the day. Best of all, it was about the biggest turnout to date and raised a good chunk for David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation. See the full story in this issue.

Here’s an interesting event on Friday night. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, surf movies used to show at the local firehouses. Waveriders would pack the place. Compared to today’s media overload, imagine how stoked they were to see those new films. Oak Leaf Media will be showing a test screening of a work-in-progress LBI surf documentary at the Surf City Firehouse starting at 3:30 and screening at 5:30. The screening will actually be filmed to re-create the spirit of those early film premieres. The idea is to weave the footage into the actual documentary and get feedback from the people who have lived it.

The big event for this weekend is the Alliance for a Living Ocean Long Beach Island Longboard Classic. The competition is slated for Saturday, but event director Kyle Gronostajski will look at both Saturday and Sunday for options. Whichever day has better winds will likely be the pick. He will make the call by Thursday via the event Facebook page. I really like the fact that some original ’60s surfers still come out to this event and ride with the kids who are learning the art of classic log riding. It’s also a great day even if you’re just hanging out.

Saturday night Farias and Jetty will host the 10th annual Full Moon Fashion Show at the Sea Shell in Beach Haven. (What? Ten years?) This is a late one if you can hang.

August is here. Try to keep your cool and remember that 245,000 people who are on the Island at the peak of the season just want to have fun, sip a mojito, drive the speed limit and maybe catch some snapper blues off the dock. Eventually the traffic will loosen up. So, local or not, let’s all be cool.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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