Liquid Lines

Local Eateries Could Use Bodies, Heat and Body Heat; Plus a Winter Roller Coaster of Conditions

Chilled-Out Restaurants, Loss of a Legend, Wooden Jetty, and Full Smoking Ban on Beaches
By JON COEN | Feb 06, 2019
Photo by: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Work continues reinforcing the Wooden Jetty this week in Holgate. The work must by done by the end of the month. We’re hoping it holds sand in place and keeps the historic surf break.

I’m curious if anyone else has seen the conundrum that many of our local businesses face in these frosty months.

The last few weeks, I’ve gone into several restaurants that were pretty much freezing. The one waitress is wearing thermals and the chef is staying close to the grill. The dining room is 59 with the windchill coming through poorly insulated walls and windows.

But I would never in a million years complain.

Why don’t they just turn up the heat?

Well, I’ll tell you why.

They’re likely a family business trying to stay open year ’round on a seasonal barrier island. There are two tables in the whole place because those million people who come rushing down each summer for sand and sun want nothing to do with our sandbar when it’s frozen and wind blasted. The “late rush” of the night is when a party of two arrives at the same time someone comes in for takeout. Chances are they know each other. (Small town stuff.)

And so it’s cold. And without bodies, there’s no body heat.

I mean, I surfed a day last week where I had to chip the wax out of a frozen puddle in the bed of my truck, yet I can’t sit by the door of a restaurant because some jamoke always has to hold it open to the elements for 45 seconds longer than necessary. We live in a place where we actually track down our neighbor and say, “Hey, Tom, some siding blew into my yard. Is it yours?” And when you bring it back, he hands you your garbage can.

I can not even imagine what it was like for construction workers who had to be outside through that horrendous chill, but I have to imagine when they take a lunch break, they don’t want to see their breath.

Probably the folks working in that restaurant are the family that owns the place. And after they’ve paid the rent, wholesalers, payroll, marketing, insurance, etc. they’re lucky to break even with those three tables on given weeknight.

I’m sure they would love to turn up the heat. But heat costs money. And they’re not making any. The colder it gets, the more they pay for heat and the less profit.

Hell of a situation, I tell ya.

LOSS OF A LEGEND: Before we get into anything else, I am sad to announce that surfing lost one of its pioneers last week. Richard Lisiewski, founder of Matador Surfboards and Brighton Beach Surf Shop, has passed. He spent most of his life on LBI.

Lisiewski built his own wooden board in the 1930s and was the first surfer in the Northeast. He was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2008, which made him an automatic member of the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame when it began three years ago. You can read the full story in this issue of The SandPaper.

BIG NEWS DOWN SOUTH: The biggest news around LBI surfing of late has been the reconstruction of the Wooden Jetty, although at this point, I’m not sure what we’re going to call it now that it’s being reinforced with steel. Should it create a wave of equal or greater value, then maybe we call it the Bionic Jetty.

As we all know, this is one of the most iconic breaks on the East Coast. On the right swells, it creates an absolutely reeling left hander. And the jetties just to its north are damn fine as well. It has become an even more valued gem the last few years since beach replenishment has covered most of the jetties north of Beach Haven.

But this is also a red hot spot for accelerated beach erosion between Holgate and the Forsythe Refuge and worries that the neighborhood could start falling into the Atlantic. And the millions of dollars of sand that has replenished the south end has washed away faster than any other project on the Island.

Long Beach Township wanted to replace the Wooden Jetty with a much larger terminal jetty and commissioned studies to determine the feasibility. But many of us, this reporter included, worried of the effect that would have on the wave in the long run, and the breaks just to the north. The federal government (specifically U.S. Fish and Wildlife) wouldn’t sign off on the massive 100-foot-wide project. However, the town and the state Department of Environmental Protection did manage to secure permits to essentially rebuild the Wooden.

Construction began in January and steel sheets are being driven parallel to the existing jetty. Stones have been temporarily moved about 25 feet to the north of the structure to provide something of a breakwater while the work is in progress.

When completed, the first 160 feet, from the toe of the dunes, will have a top elevation about the height of the current bulkheading, which is much higher than the pilings and rocks in the water. As it goes seaward, the design elevation drops 2 feet, so from what I am told, the jetty will be about 5 feet higher than the current pilings on the east end.

I don’t necessarily think this will create a better wave, but I’m hopeful that it won’t destroy the quality of the break we all know and love.

Presently, the entire parking lot is closed off so it’s not really accessible. You might be able to park on a street to the north of the lot and walk or paddle there from Harding or Washington Avenue. I’m not sure if the authorities will kick you out or not. Fortunately, all of our swells have been south and southeast, so there hasn’t been a real need for everyone to head down there for swell and wind angle.

Permits will only allow work up until later this month. Then they run into conflict with nesting birds in the refuge. Hopefully the reinforced jetty does its job of protecting those Holgate properties and maintaining the natural and cultural resource that is that special wave. Additionally, it could create better structure for marine life and anglers.

The town and DEP will monitor it for the next few years. Hopefully, they won’t need to build the huge east/west seawall they had plans for.

THE RUNDOWN: I’ll take whatever Feb. 2 news that comes out of Punxsutawney with a grain of salt, thank you very much. In fact, I’ll take it with a whole shaker. It’s possible that the Phil and all the good people of Gobbler’s Knob have a different idea of spring than we do here on the coast. Shadows or not, I can predict that the folks in Central PA will be out hiking in short sleeves and smiling at outdoor happy hours while the Island and mainland will be sitting in a cold, damp fog through early May.

The surf and weather have been a roller coaster of late and it’s playing with my emotions and likely everyone else’s. We’ve had waves, flat spells, absolutely frigid weather and some fine springlike conditions all in a matter of a week. There’s been a certain amount of brutality, but thankfully some moments of joy.

While early winter was marked with a lot of good waves and good fortune, January turned on us a little. Specifically, a lot of those bigger storms went offshore right at low tide. And even though we have about an hour more light than we did at the solstice, it hasn’t been enough daylight for the timing. And then by morning, either the swell is gone or the period is too long and we get closeouts.

Last week was dreadfully cold, but we did have something of a surprise south swell on Wednesday. The morning revealed a waist- to shoulder-high bump with nice shape and perfectly light offshore winds. The water color was fairly magic and the gettin’ was good if you had the fortitude for the water temp. You could have picked a spot all to yourself as well. And some of the spots that we traditionally overlook in the winter actually have some decent sandbars right now, instead of way out to sea.

The wind came up from the south and it started to snow. But to the few waveriders who were paying attention, the wind went hard northwest again, making for some exceptional barrels and peeling rights in the blowing snow. We endure a lot through winter, but those moments make it worth it.

Then we had to endure the below-zero wind chills of the Polar Vortex. The fun never ends.

South End Surf N’ Paddle made the decision to postpone the Polar Paddle in Beach Haven last Saturday because the bay was a frozen slate.

The surf went flat for nearly a week after that, but Friday’s snowfall was pretty if nothing else. Sunday’s highs in the 40s felt like June following the arctic blast. The ocean was as still and flat as it gets in the winter.

Hopefully, the south swell in the water now hangs around for the middle of the week. The wind direction forecasts don’t look perfect, but they will be light. We could see a more sizable swell by the end of the week and perhaps even better news: Low temps won’t be dipping into the teens again for the foreseeable future. We don’t need any more whopper electric and gas bills.

SMOKED OUT: I’d like to say smokers get a bad rap, but who really smokes anymore?

There was a time when smoking was considered dangerous and cool. Now, we all know it was terrible for your health and causes lung cancer. It’s dirty and makes your home, car and clothes reek. But when I look at anyone with a vape pen today, I can’t help but think, “Wow, smoking really was cool.”

As of January, smoking is now banned on all New Jersey beaches and in all public parks. We’ve had plenty of time to get used to this, as most local municipalities banned cigs before the statewide mandate (which, by the way, carries a $500 fine for a second offense).

And yet despite the local ordinances, there are still an unbelievable number of cigarette butts on the beach. And that’s really what got the smokers. It’s still hard for me to imagine secondhand smoke being that much of an annoyance when you’re outside, and at a windy place like the beach, nonetheless. My friends and I spent most of our young adulthood working in bars and restaurants before the smoking ban. Compared to that, I hardly smell a cig anymore.

For whatever reason, a good number of smokers chose and still choose to toss them wherever they like. I’m not sure why they felt that cellulose acetate was OK to litter the earth with. But now it’s officially a state law.

LOCAL AND FUN: As mentioned above, South End’s Polar Paddle was canceled on Saturday and has been rescheduled for March 30. The chance of the bay being frozen by late March is much less, but it will likely still be plenty cold to fit the theme of the event.

Science Saturdays rolls on this winter with “Commercial Fishing and Catching Fresh Seafood” at the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences. Karter Larsen and Ian Smith of Viking Village and Larson Puskas Fisheries Partnership will show how amazing local seafood can be cooked in your home. Up next week is Ben Wurst of Conserve Wildlife NJ and Jim Verhagen, wildlife photographer and blogger, showing off their work with local wildlife. As always, these are free for members and $5 for non. They start at 11 am.

The “Wild_Life Photography” exhibit is hanging at the Foundation through March. If you haven’t checked it out, make sure to make the time. The only thing as impressive than the animals we share this Island ecosystem with is the patience and skill these lensmen and women have in getting those shots. On Feb 15, the Foundation is hosting a Community Potluck around the art show. Bring a dish and enjoy.

After that is the Arctic Outreach in loving memory of Mallory McBrien on Feb. 23 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. This is the fourth annual and hopefully we won’t have any of that Polar Vortexy nonsense. The day will be filled with live music, craft beer, spiked hot bevvies, cider, a hot chocolate igloo, Little Eskimo activities and auctions. This is one of the best goodwill local events we have here, specifically because it’s in the off-season, so it’s all the people who have the most interest in our community.

The next week or so is predicted to be seasonally average to warm for February. We’ve got a very, very long way to go until the calendar says spring and an even longer way to go until the weather says spring, so get out and enjoy it.

Make sure to patronize the local mom and pop restaurants that stay open for you all year. Just maybe wear a good insulation layer when you go out for dinner.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

 

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