Liquid Lines

Planning for Spring Travel While Boomers Talk Bag Ban

Getting Antsy for Travel, Bag Ban and Better Weather Patterns
By JON COEN | Feb 14, 2018
Photo by: Alliance for a Living Ocean The South-End Surf ’N Paddle Polar Paddle lived up to its name a couple of weeks back. Overall, winter has gotten more bearable, but a nice trip away from the ice sounds good, too.

The last few weeks, I’ve had an ongoing conversation with someone who recently moved to LBI. She was quick to adapt to local life, enjoyed the summer, appreciated the fall, and when winter hit, she took it in stride. She’s also been trying to understand how a whole hell of a lot of locals simply pull up stakes and fly to somewhere warmer for an extended period in the off-season.

Many locals have ditched LBI this month for Puerto Rico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, the Florida Keys, Hawaii and Costa Rica. There must be a dozen Island families buzzing about Nosara right now.

Gradually she’s understanding that when you own a local business or you have a job that goes nonstop from May to Chowderfest with a couple of side hustles, this is your time to get away. And if things are slow on the sandbar, there’s really no reason to be here, unless you want to sit around and talk about Nick Foles, which I am sure everyone will do until well into the summer.

But it’s a little different this year. Once the holidays hit, we got smacked with a historic cold spell. Sure, the whole East Coast felt it, but folks on the Island take it a little harder. We’re outdoor people. That’s why we’re here. We put up with a seasonal economy, whipping northwest winds, constant flooding and the lack of a Thai restaurant because there is nothing greater than heavy swells, bluefish runs and sunsets over the bay. It’s a give and take, and we’re willing to take the risk because we’re so passionate about the rewards. We need our Vitamin D more than most. So when winter gets as ugly as it has this year (and though we’re not setting records in February, it’s been quietly cold), we start to freak out.

And so she has developed an impression of local folk. With crazed eyes she grits her teeth: “I have to get the hell out of here,” she mocks, “I can’t take another minute.”

It’s pretty spot on.

As she reasons, it’s cold everywhere. People deal with it. Normal people get a little down during the cold months, but they don’t start twitching and run to to start looking for the first flight to the equator.

And the impression continues. “Everything here sucks! I can’t go outside. The water’s freezing!”

I take the impression to heart because although she’s observed this erratic behavior in a lot of Island folk, I’m pretty sure she’s imitating me.

And that’s fair. I had some deep bouts with the winter blues, particularly after the big bomb cyclone when we went below zero and there was no surf for two weeks.

“Bunch of crybabies.” OK, I admit it. She’s right. Back at the start of January, I was a crybaby.

Cold we can deal with. We’re used to that. But when it’s arctic, all recreation gets put on hold and some new incarnation of the bubonic plague grips the state of New Jersey, we all get a little nuts. Add in the fact that there was no surf in the forecast and/or you have a kid who you just want to take outside, and it does mess with your mind.

So to my friends who are reading this from a computer in a villa, rancho, apartment or palapa right now, good for you.

And for the rest of us, a good impression can really lighten a bad situation.

THE EXIT STRATEGY: Clearly not everyone can just close up shop and head out for a few months, yet there are plenty of folks putting in for time off, pulling the kids out of school and leaving the cold and gray behind.

Puerto Rico has always been a favorite spot for LBI surfers and families. They took a major hit from Hurricane Maria last September, but things are slowly coming back to life. If you haven’t been back to Rincon or Aguadilla in a while, this might be a good winter to go. There are some great deals to be had. Spending money down there is also a great way to help support those communities. I was down there in October with Waves for Water, not so long after Maria. It was certainly habitable. Folks who have been more recently had a fantastic time.

Everyone wants to get out. If you have flexibility, you’re going to want to start booking soon to avoid traveling at the peak season around Easter.

It’s a little tougher for those with kids and/or locked into the school and activities calendar, especially this year with Easter falling on April 1. I know there are teachers who take a gamble that the weather will be nice around LBI and they stay home. They’re always sorry they did. If I can give you any practical advice, it’s that the first week of April on LBI will feel more like February than May. The ocean is around 36 degrees now. Figure by Easter, it will be 45 … if we’re lucky. You’re not going to sneak in a beach day here.

But here’s the deal: Thousands of families travel from the tri-state area at Easter; hence you’re always going to be with crowds. Furthermore, costs for flights and accommodations all go through the roof the week before and after the holiday. One of my buddies who is a teacher and has two girls in school is as anxious to get out as anyone else, but he reported that flights to pretty much anywhere are $1,000 roundtrip. Multiply that by the number of people in your family and it’s pretty cost prohibitive.

One solid option for Easter for our area locals has always been the Outer Banks. You can drive there, rent a big house for cheap, catch red or black drum, businesses are open, and there always tend to be waves. Best of all, the air and water temp are far nicer than here. But again, with the combination of hell freezing over in January and the timing of Easter, you really can’t count on decent weather for places like Nags Head, Buxton and Ocracoke this year.

If there was ever a year to think about heading north instead of south, this is it. There’s a good chance that the hills of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will have decent conditions at Easter while the beaches of the Southeast are chilly.

Then there’s always the old stand-by. You can always drive to Florida. It will be expensive and crowded, but it’s cheaper than flying if you don’t want to sit here in the late-winter fog.

BABY BOOMERS AND BAG BANS: The plastic bag ban trend that has been sweeping Southern Ocean County continues as Harvey Cedars just brought down the hammer on businesses using plastic bags (well, not really. They’ve just politely asked them to stop and will enforce it by summer). Stafford is on its way, and there’s a nice groundswell moving through the municipalities. This is all good.

As I’ve followed and advocated for alternatives to single-use bags forever in Liquid Lines, I do have some commentary. That’s why you’re here, right?

It seems to me that the opposition to these bag bans seem to come from a certain demographic, that being baby boomers or older, armed with thin arguments provided by plastic industry lobbyists read on those oversized phones with the giant letters. I will be quick to note that most of the progress in getting these bags banned has been by baby boomers as well. But if I may, I’d like to pose a question to those who oppose it. And to those of that generation who are leading the charge, peace and respect to my brothers and sisters bringing back that revolutionary 1960s spirit.

To those opposed: Plastic bags first made their way into grocery checkouts in the early ’70s. By the ’80s, paper bags were mostly done away with in favor of plastic. So, if you are a person born in the years after World War II, it means you got by much of your life without plastic bags. You’re the generation raised on Gary Cooper and John Wayne. You gave us Neil Young and the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers. You created the internet and the artificial heart. You walked through a raging river to school every day. Surely you can manage switching back to life without 39 plastic bags every time you leave the supermarket, right?

FOR BETTER OR WORSE: This winter has gotten decidedly better the last few weeks. Mostly I attribute that to the fact that there’s less chance of hypothermia. Thus far, February has been cold outside, which is a relief, because January was cold inside, too, even with the fireplace roaring.

We’re also in a decent pattern for waves. We haven’t had any knock-down storms for the past few weeks, but in the winter, each passing front has the ability to kick up a chest to head-high swell. And while I love a day of death-or-glory beatings as much as anyone, when the ocean is this cold, I’m very happy with those rippable 3- to 5-foot sessions.

Just looking back the last few weeks, we had a very healthy north swell on Jan. 30, well overhead with northwest winds, and a more civil version with lighter winds the next morning, really working on the South End. It took a bit of motivation get yourself out there first thing in those 16-degree temps, but well worth it.

South-End Surf ’N Paddle ran a very successful Polar Paddle on Feb 3. Forty racers showed up from several states, despite the fact that we had to break through the Pearl Street ice to get started. This race is becoming a fantastic tradition.

Feb. 5 produced a healthy south swell. Anyone on it early had it all to themselves as the whole Island nursed their Eagles/Super Bowl hangover. There were some pretty decent sized sets on offer, and though it got smaller, it stayed fun most of the day. We had another, smaller, south swell mid-week. Then last weekend’s rainy low pressure set us up yet another healthy south swell for last Monday. The winds were offshore first thing, but got some hints of north. If you could time those “ribs” in the face, there were some phenomenal right bowls to be had. Even the afternoon looked decent. Also, we got so acclimated to arctic weather that a 33-degree afternoon feels like a picnic. So all in all, a handful of swells, more-human air temps, and snow in the mountains that locals have been chasing have made the last few weeks a decent little patch of winter. It would seem that the next week is looking downright balmy for February.

If you’ve been missing swells or sitting them out, waiting for more-manageable air temps, Friday could pose a decent opportunity to get wet with a modest southeast swell on the horizon and potential for offshore winds. The tide is high early, and while that’s not ideal for smaller swells, high tide is better than low this winter for sure.

There could be a little longboard wave on Saturday morning if you’re restricted to weekends. Also, you may have noticed that we’re getting a little more sunlight. That makes all the difference in the world for the 9-to-5 crew. First light will be before 6 a.m., and Nautical Twilight is about 6:30 p.m. That’s a big difference from the start of the year and means more water time for everyone.

Plus, we turn the clocks forward in another month, which will mean even more light in the evening (although a bit less in the morning). To some folks, that means spring is right around the corner. Spring is not right around the corner, so get that out of your head. It’s just more light. You’ll be wearing those 5 or 7 mil boots for another 90 days or so.

HAPPENING ’ROUND HERE: Speaking of boots, or wetsuits and accessories in general, the surf shops will start to get spring gear soon. That means there could be some deals to be had on boots and gloves. Maybe jump on that if you’re still rocking those leaky lobster claw gloves from ’09.

Science Saturdays at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences continue, and this Saturday, they will host Jenny Uehling, a Ph.D. student at the Cornell University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. That’s a serious title, so I am assuming she knows a good bit about migratory birds.

Using citizen science and tracking technologies, she will explain bird migration, discussing the different species of shorebirds that use our coastline, as well as her work tracking their movement and migration. She’ll present the different ways we can track  movements, from eBird and flag resighting to solar-powered radio tags. As always, it’s $5 admission but free to members.

The biggest of winter events is now less than two weeks away. The third annual Eskimo Outreach is Feb. 24, a community clambake of arctic proportions to benefit the Jetty Rock Foundation. This really is a feel-good event to warm you through the rough months of winter, featuring your favorite craft beer, spiked hot beverages, live music, cider, the hot chocolate igloo, auction and activities for the Little Eskimos.

Looking forward to seeing everyone there.

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