Liquid Lines

Semi-Annual Rotating of the Gear, Holiday Wave Wrap and New Holgate Jetty

Nice to Take Out the Snowboard, But It Will Be Some Time Before You Wear That Short Sleeve Fullsuit Again
By JON COEN | Nov 29, 2017
Photo by: Matt Reitinger/@StayAbovetheWeather Once again, Thanksgiving weekend produced.

I have found that the key is saying no to leftovers.

OK. That’s not entirely true. My grandmother sent me home with mashed potatoes and clam stuffing. I couldn’t say no to that. There was enough on that table to feed all of Parliament Funkadelic.

But I did put my foot down to leftover desserts. That’s where you have to draw the line. My belly was still full from Thanksgiving on Sunday (although that may have had something to do with it being full of striped bass) so I am certainly glad I didn’t take home the three-quarters of a delicious pumpkin pie she was pushing on me.

Don’t be fooled into thinking I have some level of self-discipline. Do you know what a “Brookie” is? It’s the delicious 22-grams-of-fat brownie/cookie hybrid they sell at the register at 7-Eleven. I know what Brookie is, hence no self-discipline. And I would have been eating the six pieces of that pie in my truck on the way to surf on Friday.

Fall problems are good problems to have. Autumn is a time of perpetual transition, and time that wasn’t spent with family, on a boat, or surfing this weekend was spent doing the bi-annual rearranging of my shed.

You see, I don’t have a garage. And there are very few basements on Long Beach Island. In fact, when you find a house with a basement it’s pretty novel, kind of like a nice leafy tree. You just want to hang out in it and wonder “am I actually below sea level?”

All I have for storage is a crawlspace and my shed. The crawlspace is perpetually dark and damp. It’s decent for storing a few longboards, but even things like beach chairs and crab traps get gross down there. The shed was custom built to store as much stuff as possible, but it requires a good bit of planning and strategy. Twice a year, I do a massive rotation from the shed to my small attic. The whole process is as symbolic as it is necessary. Winter is here.

All the surfboards come out of my shed to vacuum the old rugs. Before I installed chicken wire in the eves I had a real squirrel problem. They’d collect things from my yard to build a nest. Or sometimes they’d just chew through whatever was in there. They gnawed right through the handle of wooden tool box and made themselves a warm little abode. And while I am a fan of my sustainable hemp boardbag, little furry critters found it agreeable for munching on as well. No matter how many times I’ve cleaned it since, there are still bits of wood and pine cones from that whole episode. They have since inhabited my neighbors’ garage. Sorry about that, Todd. The boards don’t require too much rotating, although the step-up is easier to get to now than the grovelers.

There’s always a mix of emotions when doing this swap.

It’s a cool feeling to bring our snowboard gear down from the attic. Not only are Burton socks needed under fishing boots, but this is the time that many of us start thinking about the hills. Killington’s got a 14-inch base right now. Hunter Mountain opened a week ago. Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania and Mountain Creek both open this weekend (early season ticket deals as well). I love getting down that sled, goggles and warm gloves.

However, I’m not as fond of taking down the winter wetsuit. To this point, I’ve gotten by with a 4-mil, but I was admittedly chilly after 90 minutes in the water on Thursday with light gloves and boots. We had a good run of unseasonably warm water this fall, but the gig is up. Both the ocean and air are cold and the rubber is out. I did hang a new Body Glove Red Cell 6/5/4 and a 4/3 in my shed, which was uplifting. The 2017 suits take soft and warm to a new level, making the thought of winter a little less daunting.

That also means I have to put away the 3/2 and that wonderfully comfortable short-sleeve full. Sadly, those won’t come out again until April when I’m throwing the heavy rubber and snowboard bag back in the attic. And realistically, we won’t be wearing that short-sleeve full again for seven months. Man, a short sleeve full sounds so good right now.

There’s more stuff to rotate now that I’m a parent, too. I stashed away the blowfish rigs, clamming basket, bodyboards, life vest and all the other gear that I use with my 5-year old from May to October. We certainly look forward to summer for all those waterborne options, and this year we extended the season like never before. Aside from a possible Caribbean trip and practice diving to the bottom of the pool at St. Francis, we’ll be on dry land.

Kids roll with the seasons better than adults. Fortunately, he has about the cutest little 100-cm snowboard that I propped up in his room to keep him (or more so me) stoked for winter. Now I just have to navigate that attic to find the Christmas lights in another week.

TURKEYS AND LEFTOVERS: I stand by my assertion that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the very best times of the year on LBI, a great mix of everything we love to do. It seemed a success on all fronts, from swell to shopping.

The swell was certainly a unique one. A low pressure system formed off the Southeast and passed offshore. We didn’t get any of the weather, as last Wednesday was clear and blue with offshore winds. But the swell certainly showed up on Thursday morning with head-high sets and perfect offshore wind.

And while I’d love to romanticize this swell as one of those magical events where there were great waves up and down the Island, it was a pretty straight-on, mid-period swell at 10 seconds, which LBI has a hard time handling. It’s a mix of straight swell direction and our lack of jetties/sandbars. There were waves everywhere, but only spots on the south end were working, and even most of those were closed out.

At its best, it was head high with roping lefts and a few rights. The wind was northwest the whole time and if you hit it right, it was a fantastic start to the holiday. I am told that while everyone was knee deep in turnips and creamed corn, Holgate fired in the afternoon at 3-foot with no one out.

Friday was still seeing waist- to shoulder-high waves with an incoming tide and favorable winds all morning. This should have meant fantastic waves from inlet to inlet, but every report I heard save for one beach was frustrating waves as the storm was even farther away and the swell period was higher. How nice would it have been to get a few days of sunny, light-wind days and rideable waves up and down the Island for the extended weekend?  The long period swells just didn’t pan out.

The wind came up from the southwest and eventually south on Friday. Saturday had a little remnant but was mostly sideshore. As a cold front came through on Saturday night and the wind went back offshore on Sunday, making for tiny offshore peelers on Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday were mostly flat, conditions we haven’t seen much of this fall. Look for a tiny wave on Wednesday, about the time you’re picking up this issue of The SandPaper.

As I alluded to in the lead, temps are back to seasonal. Many of us wore 3-mils without gloves at the Clam Jam on Nov. 19. But from here on out, expect to wear your winter suit. Maybe there will be a few more weeks of the 4/3 with a beanie or hood for those who like a bit of freedom. Even if the ocean is a tad warmer than where it should be at the start of December, ice on the puddles means you better rubber up.

The weekend was also a soaring success in terms of bringing people back to the Island. We’re in the midst of a handmade renaissance of sorts and everywhere was hopping with local commerce. From the folks flooding the local surf shops to people sipping hot drinks by The Local’s fire pit to the Union Market in Tuckerton and everywhere in between. Down in Beach Haven on Saturday night, South End Surf ’N Paddle was standing room only for the screening of “Under an Arctic Sky” with some 95 folks packing the shop for the film and ukulele singalongs.

Individual businesses have always made attempts to draw folks down for off-season. But you have to give credit to the Island business community, which has really given people a reason to come over the bridge and second homeowners a reason to come back for these holiday weekends. Shop Small Saturday has been building momentum, but this year it seemed like a three-day thing. Clear skies certainly helped, but we’re really doing it now with great marketing and, more importantly, fantastic goods, food, drink and experience that actually give us a sense of place. You can keep your electronics from the big boxes. We nailed it this weekend.

HYPEREXTENDING OUR GROIN: Last year, I wrote about Long Beach Township’s move to rebuild the Wooden Jetty as a terminal groin. I bring it up again because Juliet Kaszas-Hoch’s recent article has brought the topic into light. The idea is to bolster the current structure to keep all that beach from constantly eroding south.

As far as sand migration, Holgate is a historical “hot spot,” evident from Sandy to the rate at which replenished beaches wear down. And that’s sand paid for with federal dollars.

Now keep in mind, the sand doesn’t go away. It stays in the system, continuing to slow down LBI’s certain geological fate, but as far as protecting the neighborhoods, which are as vital as any for our local economy, the sand is no longer in front of those houses.

The township hired the Stockton University Coastal Research Center to draw up plans for a new structure. Those plans have now been submitted to the Stevens Institute for review. Mayor Mancini is charging full speed ahead with this project, but the DEP doesn’t seem as ready to announce any breaking of ground.

I am not a coastal scientist, so all of my opinions on the matter are just that. It would seem that any hard structure engineering is going to result in a very different shape to the coastline. I have to wonder if it will work. I have to wonder if it will starve the Forsythe Refuge of sand, leaving it vulnerable to new inlets. And I have to ask, on behalf of many surfers, what about the waves?

The Wooden Jetty has some of the best waves on the East Coast. Of course, it’s a peeling left point, which is rare anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic, but it also provides one of the few places that doesn’t close out.

Here’s my big concern: Most of the recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects on LBI have made our surf worse. Granted, they have saved our barrier island, and the mainland, from the whims of the Atlantic, but they have not helped the surf. Case in point: Last Thursday and Friday’s swell was 95 percent closeouts all over the Island aside from the Wooden Jetty and Beach One. Before beach replenishment covered our jetties, we would have had sandbars that might have set up far better waves. There are times that the southern portion of Holgate is the only decent wave on the Island. It gets frustratingly crowded, but at least we have something.

The thought of losing this break is terrifying. Now, there’s also the possibility that the new jetty might set up a new, good wave, or perhaps a better wave. I’m not holding my breath. Chances are much greater that it would destroy the last reliable break on LBI.

You also have to wonder what consequences this will have on other areas of LBI. Might it accelerate erosion somewhere else? Might it deposit sand somewhere else?

I have yet to see the plans. I would like to hear someone from Stevens Institute, the DEP, Stockton or the township address what it would do to the wave, although I have low confidence that it was ever brought into the equation. We’ll keep you posted on this.

DECEMBER EVENTS (AND VENTS): So if progressives are waging a war on Christmas, they’re losing.

I have a hard time believing there weren’t any leftists sipping warm drinks wearing new scarves while perusing handmade jewelry on the Island this weekend. Maybe the War on Christmas is really just a BS talking point by evangelical pundits and politicians to convince bitter voters that they’re being persecuted.

Our president has announced we will once again say “Merry Christmas,” which is great, although it was never actually banned. But hey, if acting like your holiday is the only thing that happens in December is what’s gonna make America great again …

From the look of things, Christmas is doing just fine. Most of the events coming up the next few weeks will feature cookies, which is OK by me. Although what’s with that standard Italian assorted holiday cookie pack – those tasteless green trees and sad little thumbprints of jelly? Can those things finally go the way of the fruitcake? Just get some damn chocolate chips, oatmeal scotchies or sugar cookies with red icing!

The first one up is the annual Ship Bottom Christmas Parade, which is Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. The theme this year is “Deck the Hulls” so expect a lot of the boats you see at the Ship Bottom sandbar in August to be covered with tinsel, making their way down the Boulevard. Look for candy at this one, as cookies tossed from firetrucks have a much higher mortality rate.

The following weekend keeps the cheer going with the Holly Jolly Holiday Market at Five O’ Six Surf Boutique. And pretty much everywhere you look, there will be a “pop up” shop featuring local artisans. Literally.

Less Amazon. More local.

If you’re among the storage-challenged, I also want to wish you the best of luck in getting down your snowshoes out for the season. Hopefully, you can use them a few times. And hopefully it won’t feel like too long until you wear your swim fins again.

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