Liquid Lines

One Fantastic String of Waves and One Scary Storm Coming Across the Atlantic

One Way or Another, We’re Going to Feel Irma
By JON COEN | Sep 06, 2017
Photo by: J Peterson No name needed: Tropical Cyclone Number Ten was plenty good to LBI, and surfers like Timmy Raimo knew just what to do.

I have some beach badges for sale. I’ll throw in a really nice pair of solar eclipse glasses.

The season is over and I think it’s safe to say we won’t see another Vineyard Vines shirt around here for eight months. We can be pretty certain that we won’t encounter that SUV poking out from behind the parked cars on the Boulevard just enough to where you have to stop and let it in, despite every bit of traffic common sense that you have the right of way. And hopefully the overheated 16-hour workdays will be fewer and far between until June.

On the other hand, we certainly won’t be buying that big carton of fresh blueberries for 99 cents. We won’t be greeted with idyllic 72-degree mornings on the beach for sunrise. Late night trips to the ice cream parlor, treading for clams, cruising a longboard in a pair of trunks and weekends spent with the family that has the summer bungalow across the street will soon be a thing of the past.

Happy local summer. Yes, September and October (plus key days in November and December for the hearty water folk) will always be that coveted time on our sandbar, but once summer is gone, so too are its pleasantries.

But here we go, headlong into the offseason. It seems the tropics have heated up more than anyone suspected. Then comes the beloved autumn and the wicked winter, where we never quite know what to expect. Except those Vinyard Vines shirts. Don’t expect to see those, unless they start making flannels.

I did face a bit of a quandary about what the week ahead might bring. Would it be a gorgeous first week of the off-season that we all dream about with abundant sunshine, waves, zero traffic, warm water and flittering monarch butterflies, or would we get punched with something to make Sandy look like sponge bath?

The time between writing this column and when it lands in the yellow boxes will be crucial to forecasting exactly where Hurricane Irma is going, but right up until landfall, it’s hard to say what we’re going to get. As of press time, she was making a track for Cuba and Miami for this weekend with a strike somewhere in the Gulf. Unfortunately, there will be a good amount of human suffering while most aid and resources are still in Texas.

What we do know is that both Hurricane Harvey, which did a number on Louisiana over the weekend, and Hurricane Irma, underwent intensification the likes of which science has rarely seen. One went from tropical storm to Cat 3 in about 30 hours. You know the story of the guy who works his way up from the mailroom to CEO? Well imagine if he did that in a week.

MAN, THAT WAS A LOT OF SURF: The other thing we are certain of is that the waves were absolutely firing this week with two separate swells that had nothing to do with either Irma or Harvey. I know we romanticize a lot about late August and September, but we really are in a fantastic pattern.

The first story was simply known as Tropical Cyclone 10, which behaved far more like a wintertime nor’easter than anything tropical in nature. It was like the ultimate hybrid storm, bringing the noise last Tuesday in the form of wind and rain. I’m not sure that I ever remember a summertime maelstrom of that level. A few of New Jersey’s best pros paddled out in Surf City that morning and even they had a hard time.

Winds on Wednesday swung between north and north/northwest most of the day. I have no doubt that someone had some bombs somewhere mid-Island, but the South End was pretty much the place to be. And from the look of the crowd, most of the state knew it. Our southern points were pretty much off the charts by summertime standards. Beach Haven and Holgate were both rocking. There was one spot that was about as heavy as it gets year ’round and the lefts were running off like freight trains with some tubes to be had.

This one came complete with a hell of a lot of drift. Anyone who got waves on Wednesday did so with a whole lot of paddling. And while fighting that drift was a lot less brutal than when we’re wearing five-mil wetsuits, you still had to really work and hope you were in the spot when the sets came through. But overall, it was a fantastic day of waves in warm water. Unfortunately, the wind came straight onshore by late afternoon.

The swell decided to stick around on Thursday. Some spots had morning sickness and the wind started out with a whole lot of southwest in it. But eventually, it did go west and there were a lot more rideable options than Wednesday. There was even a wave on Friday, although not the excitement of the previous days and there was virtually zero wind.

By Saturday, the wind and rain were back upon us with a local low-pressure system. Contrary to what some folks thought, this was not remnants of Hurricane Harvey. The weather forecast called for snot and we certainly got it, making for one of the quieter Labor Day weekends we’ve had.

Sunday started a little ragged. The surf was a solid 2-to-4-feet, but the wind was southwest, which is never ideal on LBI. But as the tide was coming up, the wind straightened out a bit more and we had yet another stellar day of waves. This one was good up and down the Island, with bowly peaks wherever you looked. Meanwhile, it’s trunks and flannel weather, which we love. There’s really not much else you can ask for this time of year.

WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEK: The ocean temp is holding in the high 70s. Keep in mind that those cooler days we’ve had have been a result of east and northeast winds, which keep the ocean temp nice and toasty. Wetsuits have been purely for air temps this week.

While Tropical Depression Ten was fantastic for waves, it did move around some sand. This happens every year with a passing tropical storm or late summer nor'easter. That sandbar you longboarded all summer and the little terrace/tide pool system on the inside may not be there. The sandbars are still there, but many places will see a deeper trough between the beach and the bar, just meaning shorter rides on smaller days.

The surf for the rest of the week, as with everything, is going to depend on Hurricane Irma. We should be seeing advance swell as you read this. Even if she makes the hit in the Southeast that seemed probable, we will see waves right through next week. These long-period swells are never all that good here, but as this local front passes through midweek, we will likely see windswell mix in with the long period, breaking up the energy and giving us more rideable surf. Again, it all depends on the track, but this week could feel like a surf trip.

Now for the messy bits. There had been a point last weekend when the models had Irma coming directly up the East Coast and throttling the Garden State. And it was a relief to not see LBI in the crosshairs, but any other scenario besides taking that sexy curve out to the North Atlantic, someone is going to get thrashed. And we know first hand what that feels like. Just this week, the crew at Stafford Teachers And Residents Together (START) did a donation collection and drove it down to Texas. The feel of wet Sheetrock doesn’t escape anyone’s memory. The struggle for those poor folks has just begun.

The bad news is that Irma could be a major hurricane with winds over 110 mph. One hundred and fifty mph gusts are absolutely devastating. As of Sunday, at least Irma was a compact storm, which would mean the damage would be at least concentrated. That doesn’t matter much if your house is in that cone of probability, but it will when resources get stretched thin between Harvey and Irma relief.

There was also some conjecture this week about whether it’s proper to talk about the effects of climate change that we are seeing happening right in front of our eyes while so many suffer. Granted, hurricanes hit long before humans started mucking up the atmosphere. But if you deny the ferocity and speed at which these storms are growing over warmer than average sea surface temps, you’re following an emperor who thinks he’s wearing an invisible robe. And note that the denial thing is a uniquely American phenomenon.

It’s sad that this has become a bipartisan issue. For those of us who believe in human-affected climate change, we don’t really care how Texas voted in the last election. We want them to get help. And while I cringe at pretty much every word that comes out of the mouth of our orange trust fund kid-turned rich celeb-turned reality TV star-turned president, I don’t care what kind of shoes his wife wore. And of all the moves he made this week, his response to Texas has been far from the worst.

Folks are saying this isn’t the time to question our leaders on climate change. But with an estimated 100,000 homes flooded in Texas and a meteorological circular saw cutting across the Atlantic Ocean, when should we talk about it?

THINGS TO REMEMBER IN SEPTEMBER: Obviously, the local haps will slow down a bit into September, but what we may lack in quantity we make up for in quality. Keep in mind, all of the events this week will depend on what Irma does.

This Friday night, the Save the Waves Film Fest is back in town. Farias in Ship Bottom will be the first stop on the tour, which includes world premieres of surf, adventure and documentary films. The festival tour is a fundraiser for the Save The Waves Coalition and World Surfing Reserves. All proceeds support their international coastal conservation programs.

They will come through with a cash bar for the 21-plus crowd. What I like about this event is that it has some of the same aims that we have in our event here as far as eco-responsibility. They’ve eliminated single-use plastic cups at the bars, instead selling Klean Kanteen pint cups for $10. You get a free cocktail with a purchase or you can bring your own reusable cup.

As I noted in last week’s column, this Sunday is the Paddle Out Memorial for Mallory McBrien, the local friend, mother and surfer who was taken from us far too soon. This is something Mallory wanted. Friends and family will gather at Sussex Avenue in Harvey Cedars at 9 a.m. to paddle out and share in this celebration of her life and children. Clearly, this will be conditions permitting.

For those who tune in to pro surfing event webcasts around the world, Sept. 8-10 is a great chance to see top competitive surfing in Belmar. The Monster Energy Belmar Invitational will host the Fin’s Mens Open, the Playa Bowls Womens Open, as well as the Junior, Longboard and Legends. There is still opportunity to register, or head up there and watch the best do their thing.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, the Lighthouse International Film Festival and Clean Ocean Action will have a screening of “A Plastic Ocean” at the Ship Bottom firehouse on Saturday, Sept. 23. The film shows at 6:30 and will be followed by a Q&A. It’s $5, but free to first responders, film fest members, students and teachers.

Then of course, there’s the 11th annual Jetty Clam Jam lined up for October. As always, the event will be run “on call,” meaning that it could run any Saturday or Sunday after Chowderfest. The first potential dates would be Oct. 7 or 8. Each week, the crew at Jetty assesses the swell situation and makes a call. The contest goes down at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars.

This year, the Clam Jam has its own mini-site where you can get all the details on surfing, sponsoring and spectating. Prior to that, Jetty will host its annual team selection party at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House on Wednesday night, Sept. 27.

If you’re reading this online from someplace out on the Mainline or above the Raritan River, thanks for spending your summer with us. I truly mean that. If you’re still around our little sandbar, take a deep breath and go to your favorite restaurant. There’s no wait. And if you’re in Miami, you’re going to want to cut that Sheetrock 48 inches up from the floor, not just the base molding.

Also, we’re pulling for you.



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