Liquid Lines

Packing for a Trip to LBI Might Make You Crazy in April

April Waves, Shifting Sandbars, Earth Day Events and Getting Your ‘Kit’ Dialed
By JON COEN | Apr 19, 2017
Photo by: Jon Coen The springtime migration of sand is already under way, and the beaches are looking pretty interesting.

There’s this common image that adventure sports marketing has used over the last 10 years commonly referred to as the “kit.” Essentially, before a trip, a surfer lays out all the things that he or she will pack and snaps a photo. The idea is kind of like “These are the things I will be using on my trip because this is the kind of trip I am planning,” and more basically “these are items I have chosen that define who I am.”

You’ve seen it. There’s always a passport, trunks and some kind of outerwear. They vary from there, depending on the surfer. The hardcore surfer has his wallets of performance skegs, multiple leashes, a GoPro and some kind of watch that tells him or her how many waves he or she caught and how many miles per hour they went.

The soul searcher-type has a different kit altogether: a pair of swim fins, perhaps a vintage camera, a book dealing with some sort of Eastern philosophy, art supplies and a single fin.

They all have different variations of outerwear, hydration and accessories. Some surfers want to rub it in your face that they’re headed to equatorial climates and do so with sunscreen and trunks. Other surfers indicate how hardcore their cold water destination is with wetsuit gloves and long johns.

Sometimes they feature gear like spear guns, knives, fishing tackle, tent and a mess kit to signify a more serious level of self-sufficiency. How does anyone do a surf trip without a hatchet and compass?

It’s often just commercialism, either a brand’s attempts to align itself with a talented surfer by filling the frame with products to sell, or an average surfer’s attempts to align himself/herself with a brand by filling the frame with products bought at a friends and family discount.

You could look at it cynically, as just another move to sell more widgets, or see it as a fun way for a surfer to express him or herself. It’s pretty benign and not really worth putting a lot of thought into.

This week’s spring weather saw a lot of visitors to LBI. I don’t mean a lot compared to July, but a lot compared to the first week of April. It was mostly families coming to enjoy a weekend at their beach house. Nice to have those folks around.

I realized that I’m not a very good local. I mean, I know I’m supposed to puff my chest out at those who have the audacity to come down to our little sandbar and support our very existence before “the season.” But I didn’t even sit on my front porch and throw anyone the drive-by stink eye. Truth is, I really like my summertime neighbors and if that makes me a lame local, so be it.

But back to the point about the kits: I started thinking about just how hard it would be to pack for a trip to LBI in April. I mean, if you were staying on the ocean block or by the bay, you’d literally have to pack for two different trips.

Let’s say you’re coming down to stay at your grandparents’ old place one house off the bay, that beloved little cottage you spent every summer in as a kid. Well, if you’re visiting this month, make sure to pick up a good hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. Full brim straw hats are hot this year, but not as hot as you might be when the wind goes southwest.

The bay isn’t quite warm enough for a swim, but that shouldn’t stop you from paddling around on a kayak or the standup board that’s been under the house all winter. So make sure to bring trunks or a bikini.

Your kit should also include sunscreen and a tank top. Also, you’re never really sure what condition the appliances are going to be in, so make sure to bring a blender. You’re going to want a cold drink on those warm spring afternoons. And just to be safe for cool nights, pack a flannel.

Now, let’s say you’re heading down to a condo rental or a hotel right on the beach. You’re going to want to pack a different kit altogether.

If you recently did some spring skiing or snowboarding, don’t put away the hat, gloves and jacket. In fact, might as well just take out the skis or board and bring down the whole damn bag. Don’t worry about the blender. Bring down a coffee pot for good measure. When the wind comes up off the ocean in the afternoon, the ocean block can feel like March, while the bayside does its best impression of May. And just in case it gets nice enough to lose the jacket, pack a flannel. Always go with flannel on LBI.

APRILNESS: April is one of those transition months, and this April is playing that role quite well. For the most part, the number and severity of storms drop off, which means fewer swells and smaller surf overall. But in a lot of ways, especially surfwise, summer is a long way off.

We’ve had a few swells that perfectly exemplify April, going back to April 7 with a passing front and a south swell in the waist- to head-high range. The wind went mostly offshore in the afternoon with the incoming tide. There were a few short barrels to be had, but just when conditions should have all started to get epic, it just got weird, breaking really tight and tough to get into.

It was also as cold as most of the days this winter. I made the mistake of wearing a 4-mil with a beenie. With the chilly air temps and offshore winds, I was frozen in 45 minutes. Never said I was the smartest of surf writers.

Following that swell, we had a stretch of pretty high pressure, which is nice for weather, but not so much for waves. The wind went southwest and then south last Sunday to provide a nice little 2- to 3-foot line on Monday morning. It would have been really clean if the wind had gone straight offshore as it was forecasted to in the morning, but even with super light southwest winds, it was still pretty fun. Monday had just the right period and angle to make for peeling rights. It also felt a good bit warmer than that swell just 10 days earlier. Eventually the wind did go northwest, and very light, making for a pretty decent day of surf with chest-high waves still coming through in the afternoon.

This is generally a weird time of year to be a surfer. We’re not getting those bigger days we enjoy in the winter. We expect that, and we trade some warmer water and weather to make up for it. So when we get those gorgeous afternoons, we start to drop our expectations. Smaller waves? Longboards? No problem!

But there is a problem. It’s not summertime yet. We’re still wearing much the same regalia that we wore all winter. It’s just harder to get the motivation to get out there on your groveler quad or twin fin when you have to put on boots and gloves.

That said, Sunday was about the nicest Easter Day anyone can ever remember. The Island, which has that tendency to remain chilled on those banger spring days, was simply basking in it on Sunday. Even the beach was gorgeous in the morning. As the wind clocked from southwest to south/southwest, it cooled down considerably. Still, nice to get a bit of color, let those psycho kids play by the waterline and feel your feet in the sand.

99 PROBLEMS BUT MY BEACH AIN’T ONE OF THEM: When you live on a sandbar, the temperature of the water around you is pretty important. The ocean temp is creeping close to 50, which is above average. Don't get too excited, though. One or two hard south blows can push it right back down.

In addition to our earlyish spring weather, we’ve also seen the beaches start doing their springtime metamorphosis. Overall, I would say that most beaches are in fantastic shape right now, even if there are a few skinny ones.

Fortunately, we didn’t have too many of those four-day nor’easter erosion events this year, nor any  of the Army Corps of Engineers beachfill projects. You generally can’t have one without the other, but the best-case scenario is to have neither and still have healthy beaches.

Every fall, depending on the weather patterns, we see the sandbars move offshore with a big hole (or trough) between the beach and bar. But in the spring, we have a cyclical return of sand to the beaches, and the sandbars migrate inward. That tends to set up better surf and alleviate those long paddles to nowhere. Note: This is especially evident in places such as Ship Bottom, which aren’t surfed too regularly in the winter.

The sand has been moving back early this year, and you can see where the beach has that scalloped look. That seems to be mimicked offshore by irregular-shaped sandbars. As the sand continues to migrate, we normally get that nice bar just offshore for not only summer surfing, but wading and swimming with little kids.

HAPS HAPPENIN’: Since this Saturday is Earth Day, I would like to quote one of the great thinkers of our time.

“… We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can't destroy businesses."

Yes, folks, no reason to worry. We’ll be fine with the environment, according to President 45.

And then we elected him and he has made every attempt to reverse any kind of ecological progress the Earth has made since the Industrial Revolution. I kind of worry that those of us who want to celebrate Earth Day will have to do it in secrecy this year, as if the idea that we can do better than “leaving a little bit” of nature were some kind of pagan ritual. So, just in case you’re skeptical of the environment being fine despite this guy wanting to leave it looking like a frat house after the national beer pong championships, maybe take special note this Earth Day.

First and foremost for Earth Day, Clean Ocean Action Spring Beach Sweeps are this Saturday. Alliance for a Living Ocean will be the local host. You can stop by ALO at 1101 Central Ave. in Ship Bottom to pick up your supplies. But the festivities don’t end there. At 7 p.m., the Lighthouse International Film Festival presents Ocean Frontiers III at the Ship Bottom firehouse. The film deals with leaders in ocean stewardship and the new blue economy. You’ve got eco action and education all in one day. Don’t miss out.

For those looking for that perfect vintage fish for the man cave or old log for gliding this summer, check out the Spring Boardswap at the Beach House Classic Boardshop in Bay Head on Sunday. Yeah, it’s a bit of a drive up to northern Ocean County, but this event is known for being the perfect place to pick up a new (to you) stick or offload something that’s been taking up room in your house. And think how happy the wife will be.

The breaking weather has allowed a lot of folks to get out on the water and start training for the season. If you’re itching to get into some racing this summer, you can start with the Treasure Island Pirate Paddle on May 20. This one is up at Riverfront Park in Point Pleasant. Could be a gorgeous day in May; could be the ugliest snot you’ve ever seen.

The local races go into effect on June 3 with the Hop Sauce Tune Up Paddle presented by South End Surf N’ Paddle. South End will also host the 5th Annual LBI Paddle Classic on July 15. We’ll keep you abreast of these races as they come up.

In closing, give a little thought to the whole Earth Day thing. We literally have one planet, and humans have a pretty horrendous record of taking care of it.

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