Liquid Lines

News Flash: Racism Exists Here, Plus New Bridge Misinformation and Dad’s Day Swell

By JON COEN | Jun 24, 2015
Photo by: Colleen Panetta ‘DAD SWELL’: Ron Panetta enjoys a little Father’s Day tube with his kids last Sunday.

It was a banger! And if the first weekend of summer is any indication, it would seem that every bit of misery we endured last winter is going to be well worth it this season. Before I get into all the sun fun, blowfish catchin,’ Dad surf sessions of last weekend, though, I have to address a social issue. It’s going to make some people uncomfortable, but I will keep it brief.

As it has so many times in the past few years, an act of violence has sparked a national dialogue about race. Southern Ocean County isn’t exactly a bastion of multiculturalism, especially by New Jersey standards. And for the record, I feel political correctness sometimes misses the point, and I have no patience for over-sensitivity. You don’t have to like hip-hop, support the president, or excuse anyone for milking the system. Everyone has the right to make fair assessments on situations. But I do have a giant axe with an increasingly aggressive blade to grind when it comes to intolerance around here.

Sorry to air out our local dirty laundry in June, with all the summer folks down, but racism is real – and it exists in our communities. Since we’re somewhere around 95 percent white and less than 1 percent black, our problem doesn’t tend to boil over too often.

Usually, ours is the kind of racism that quietly simmers: use of the n-word on job sites, subtle racial innuendos dropped in a bar or remarks made by some small-minded folks over the age of 70 who we excuse because “oh, that’s just how they talked in that generation.”

It’s an environment where prejudice is safe because no one gets fired up about it.

Eff that.

There are dirty racists right here, folks who have never left this little white pocket of the world and believe they are part of a master race. But the real problem is the rest of us, those of us who believe in equality, who don’t speak up when prejudice presents itself because of the established climate. Every time we look away after a racist joke, fail to call out ignorant stereotypical comments or don’t delete a “friend” for unethical Facebook posts, we perpetuate the problem of racism in this country. We’re selling out all of our black friends every time we allow it because we’re afraid of the awkwardness. I’ve got no problem making racists uncomfortable.

Now back to the fun stuff.

OUR FIRST TROPICAL SWELL AND DAD DAY WRAP-UP: We just had our first tropical swell of the 2015 season. What, you missed it? More likely you didn’t know it was a tropical swell because there was no hype and hoopla.

Tropical Storm Bill, our second named storm of the season, probably had something to do with the fun surf we had last weekend. The first was Ana, which was barely a blip on the tropical radar, back in early May. Then, two weeks back, a disturbance appeared in the Gulf of Mexico. By Tuesday, June 16, that little storm surprised meteorologists when sustained winds reached tropical storm strength and it officially got a name.

The big news with Bill was the rain it brought to Texas. There was a mandatory evacuation of the Bolivar Peninsula, but the storm surge wasn’t as big a deal as the recorded 11 inches of rain Bill brought to Ganado, Texas. Bill then brought flooding to Oklahoma and Ohio, as rivers became swollen with rains. Perhaps you caught some of the local downpours on Sunday morning? That was courtesy of Bill.

Bill also had something to do with the swell. We had a general area of low pressure move through. Bill contributed to a little bit lower pressure and some harder winds offshore, which is probably what helped turn rather unexciting windswell into thigh- to chest-high bowls and lines. Something of a “backdoor” swell that has nothing to do with the North Shore of Oahu.

The swell was supposed to come up Saturday with harder onshore winds, but neither really developed. Sunday morning’s surf check revealed little to get excited about. The onshore wind was making mushy, little waves crumble onto the bar. But then, at about 9 a.m., the wind went northwest, shaping that little swell into 2-to-3-foot peaks. The tide was coming up and the better waves were shaping into fun, little bowls; short rides, but a quick drop and a fun, little pocket, maybe even a cover-up to be had.

The tide came in and rest of the day seemed slower, until about the time the lifeguards went off duty. The tide had receded again and the surf had even more juice, perfectly clean with bowling rights and lefts. And this time, there were some legit barrels to be had. Those hard offshore winds with hot weather, kind of reminiscent of California’s Santa Anas, are rare until summer sets in.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and swell for a few reasons. No. 1, there were all sorts of community events on Saturday, from the LBI Surf Swap at Brighton Beach Surf Shop to Jetty showing the film at Ron Jon’s, the Run for Hope 5K, the International Surfing Day cleanups, and Chris Pfeil’s solo show, but no one had to miss any of these. Sunday was pretty wide open and everyone could just enjoy the waves.

No. 2, it has not been a great spring for waves. There weren’t many days that were sizable. Even when there were small, rideable waves, the water was as cold as the 40s. Now that we are spiking into the high 60s, waves and warmth just feel great.

No. 3, the icing on the cake was that this was Father’s Day. As surfers, we’re always trying to sneak out for a session on holidays, to varying degrees of grief from spouses and family members. But for waveriding dads, this was a special day. And for the dads who got to enjoy waves with their kids, it was the best way to spend a Father’s Day.

Each week since the replenishment, me and the crew continue to watch the surf in hopes that the sandbars are still alive and well. Sunday absolutely proved that we should be in good shape. Sections were forming nearly everywhere with perfect drops and little barrels,” said Ron Panetta of Ship Bottom, who surfed with his son and daughter. “I’m grateful to our mayor and all the folks that worked so hard to drive an initiative with the Army Corps to deliver an effective slope ratio to this project. It truly appears like our beaches in Ship Bottom will serve as an optimal model for future projects.

And if dad happened to not have to be at work first thing on Monday morning and hadn’t downed the entire case of IPA he received, there was a leftover treat the next day. Although it was a bit shallow with that 6 a.m. low tide, there were still some really fun, waist-plus waves out there, even bigger at places like Harvey Cedars, with an offshore wind that just wouldn’t quit. Even throughout the day on Monday, the swell waned but remained clean.

On Tuesday, the swell jumped back up, thanks to some hard southwest winds. This was a more immediate south windswell, but kept waves in the water right into the morning.

Also, the local affiliate news crews were in Harvey Cedars on Monday, reporting on the man o’ war jellyfish that washed up. It’s the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol’s job to report on such things to keep people safe. It’s the local affiliate news crews’ job to come down and blow a jellyfish like the kind Floridians call “blue bottles” out of proportion. From the way they reported it, going for a swim was taking your life in your hands. You have to respect the beach-going public, however. Each person interviewed basically shrugged it off. Summer is here.

BRIDGING THE GAP: So the new bridge is coming along. Have you seen it? It’s actually starting to look like something. If you haven’t noticed them yet, there have been huge concrete sections of bridge being shipped down Route 72. The drivers pull over on the side of the road with the 80-foot pieces on their flatbeds.

You ever wonder if they’re double-checking their maps? Or maybe calling for directions?

“Yeah boss, I’m here on Route 72 in Mana … MahanawkinManahawkin? I don’t know how the hell you pronounce it. What? Oh, that bridge? Oh. OK, now I see it.”

I have to admit that the bridge being finished is something of an abstract idea. After a few years of work, we’ve all gotten used to the traffic patterns. The construction crews seem like a regular fixture. I drive my kid to daycare over that bridge a few days a week and I just assumed they will still be working on it when he goes to college. But now there’s something next to it, that kind of looks like … well, a bridge.

Being as I contribute to The SandPaper, folks always ask me what’s up with the bridge. Or they want to know what’s happening with that quartered-off section of wetlands on Bonnet Island.

The truth is – I don’t know. I don’t have the faintest idea of anything involving that bridge. If you told me they were building a terrapin-powered monorail across the bay, I’d just be like, “Oh yeah? Cool.”

My fellow writers at The SandPaper have done those stories and Ryan Morrill has captured some epic aerial photos. I tell people to read the paper or check the website. And yet, folks have continued to ask me what I know about the bridge. So here goes. Here’s what I have been making up:

I’m hearing plans of a bike lane. Yep. For years, riding your bike over the bridge was left to the truly adventurous (a.k.a. migrant workers who have to get to their jobs). On the current bridge, there is an 18-inch wide concrete platform you have to balance on with whipping winds and vehicles flying by at 70 mph.

Other than that, the only bike riders you see on the bridge are generally the spandex and aerodynamic helmet types, the ones who obnoxiously ride halfway into the right lane, causing the rest of the world to have to figure a way around them. The new bridge will have a huge lane, wide enough for a surrey. If you can pedal one from Mud City to Ship Bottom Shellfish, you get free oyster crackers.

There will also be a restaurant and bar on the first span of the bridge. It was determined that Southern Ocean County has 75 miles of bay and ocean coastline, of which 74.75 of those miles are private property with a few parks and some protected areas. Since there are only six places to eat on the water, and only on a dock, this will give us yet another option.

From the very top of the bridge, there is a waterslide planned. You have your choice of a soft mat or tube. Bring your own dish detergent for a faster ride. The slide will be a full mile long with a couple loop-de-loops and a six-story vertical drop. It will dump you into the bay, near the channel, for safety reasons. Once you’re in the water, fend for yourself.

I’m told that since the bridge has gotten so expensive, several segments have already been sold to sponsors. One of the sponsors is reportedly Tekton, which makes and distributes bungee cords. They felt it was a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever walked or pedaled the bridge knows there is nothing but bungee cords on the shoulder of the road.

Another is Wawa. I’m told there will also be a Super Wawa on the bridge, just in case you can’t make it those three miles without “110+ drink choices” on a hot summer day. And if all that isn’t enough, you can take a ferry over from Tuckerton.

COMING UP: There looks to be some kind of motion in the ocean for the rest of the week and possibly a northeast swell for the weekend. It’s hard to say this far out, but some of the models are showing an overhead northeast windowsill. This would be the biggest surf we’ve seen since possibly April, with a possible cleanup on Monday as the size drops.

That will mean not only more waves but even more warmth. I don’t see any extended periods of south wind to put the ocean back in the freezer in our immediate future. And nothing as hot as Sunday and Monday either. Sweet livin’.

This Saturday and Sunday is the LBI Artists Open Studio Tour. Many of these crafters, painters and photographers are surfers, or are generally inspired by the oceangoing existence, so maybe check some of them out in their studios. This year’s participants stretch from North End Trilogy in Barnegat Light to LBI Creative Minds in Beach Haven and 20 stops in between. A lot of them are really working to make their stops something special, which makes for a better tour overall.

The weekend after that is July 4, if you can believe that. Funny how the “preseason” and prep for summer is nine long weeks and then – boom, it just hits.

Don’t miss the first Surf City Farmers Market of the season at the Surf City Firehouse this and every Monday through Sept. 14. Folks in Ship Bottom and north are always bemoaning the lack of grocery choices. Thankfully, we still have Anchor Produce as the others fall to real estate developers. But the Surf City Farmers Market is a chance to support something that is needed.

Shapefest at South End Surf N’ Paddle is set for the entire July 4th weekend. There’s also an art show coming up at Gallery Bohemia (Yoga Bohemia, North Beach Haven) on July 3. More on those next week.

And if you have any questions about the bridge, I have no idea …

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