Liquid Lines

Some Beach Gear Recommendations Short of the Kitchen Sink, Adjusting Expectations for Summer and ‘Oh, That Warm Water’

Minimalist Beach Essentials
By JON COEN | Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: Coen ‘Surfer Dudes’ surf by themselves. Watching these things in the waves is oddly fascinating.

There’s a lot you learn when you have a kid. You learn patience. You learn about yourself. And eventually, you learn that you need to bring a whole lot more crap with you to the beach.

We live two blocks from the beach, but that doesn’t really matter. I have a specific backpack for our beach and bay adventures. In addition to the standard surf and beach necessities, it’s got all the parental junk I need to keep him happy. Then we lug up the softtop board and occasionally one of my surfboards. Most of our trips are just to jump in the water at low tide. Somehow, we manage to get all that gear and ourselves on one beach cruiser for our daily missions.

But we’re minimalists compared to the folks we saw on the beach last week. They had a small city set up not far behind us – chairs, food and music. They had a whole cart of fishing gear that would have made Jeremy Wade envious. They had tents and umbrellas, and more electronics than I have in my house. There was Wi-Fi for their Wi-Fi.

There were whiffleball, paddleball, spikeball and some kind of Velcro ball game. There were bodyboards and fins. I can’t be sure, but I am pretty sure they had a full Encyclopedia Britannica set, which is really crazy because those things are fairly obsolete. At one point, a dude pulled out a suckling pig and put it on a spit. I left the beach just as they were setting up a stage and I passed the entire cast of “Hamilton” walking across the dunes. (For the record, they all had badges.)

Anyway, back to gear. Every once in a while I come across something that I think folks around here should know about, and the first has to do with the continued explosion of stand up paddle boards. They continue to be a fantastic workout on the ocean or bay, and being upright affords you a nice perspective.

The last two weeks have seen a ton of cow-nosed rays and other sealife in our waters. My first recommendation is a good pair of polarized sunglasses that let you see into the water.

Fishermen have the polarized lenses down to a science. You don’t need the latest $250 optics, but a decent pair of polarized glasses gives you a great view of swimming critters. Many companies make glasses that float now, or maybe invest in a strap. They make paddling far more interesting. Pretty simple. I’d list the places you can find them, but pretty much every surf retailer, bait and tackle stores, and many beach sundry shops carry them to varying degrees of quality.

Another item I might suggest is the Surfer Dudes Wave Powered Mini-Surfer toy. You think I’m messing with you, but these things are nothing short of awesome.

Due to not wanting to bring half our house to the beach, we keep beach toys to a minimum. We don’t lug a lot of play stuff with us. There tend to be sand toys already at the beach, and my kid and the other little monkeys wind up playing on the unused lifeguard stand anyway. But the Surfers Dudes, well, I might have one of these even if I didn’t have a kid.

It’s essentially a line of floating toys, each one a character – “Costa Rica” Rick from Pavones, “Hossegor” Hank from France, “Sumatra” Sam, “Aussie” Alice, etc. We have “Donegan” Doolin from Bundoran, Ireland, on account of our ancestry. They feature a surfer on a floating board with a big foil that keeps it right side up. You toss Surfer Dude into the water and the oncoming wave picks it up and gives the little ripper or wahine a ride until it hits the beach. The way it’s weighted always brings the surfer to the top, even through the soup, and it rides until there is literally nothing left of the wave. I’m not sure what it is, but watching this little character bob along ahead of the whitewater is incredibly satisfying. You can find the Surfer Dudes at Surf City 5 &10, the Hand Store in North Beach Haven and all of the Farias locations.

The third item I will recommend is Aquaphor. If you can find Aquaphor For Babies, even better. Vaseline, A&D Ointment, or even generic versions are great for preventing what we call “yarpel rash” around our house. I even see Belly Jelly in surf shops, a similar product that came out in the ’80s specifically for surf rash.

I'm not sure how much a lady’s bits and pieces are affected by humidity and wet swimwear or wetsuits, but for dudes of any age, it can be murder. The same goes for lying on a waxed surfboard or the irritating surface of a bodyboard. Applying some kind of petroleum-based ointment to those sensitive areas before the beach and after is highly recommended.

HOW’S THE SURF?: Summer is a time of adjusted expectations. You can either mope and complain about weak surf or you can embrace the fact that the ocean is warm and there’s enough motion to get out and play.

There was nothing significant about the surf this week, but I have seen far flatter conditions in the summertime. It’s also notable that during the winter when we have much bigger surf overall, the ocean can still go flat with those weeklong stretches of howling northwest winds.

Speaking of wind, we certainly had a lack thereof this past weekend, which is pretty cool when you live in a place that makes a Chicago street feel like a room with no air flow. While the surf wasn’t all that big, we had a few days there where it was rideable on one craft or another all day long. That rarely happens on the Island, even in the summer when afternoon sea breezes can blow the surf out pretty quickly.

Also in the “Hey, the surf’s not that good, but ...” department was the temperature. Hey, the surf wasn’t that good, but when the air gets that hot, an 18-inch wave looks pretty damn fun. There are different definitions of heat waves that are usually based on x number of days at x temperature. I don’t think we hit those, but we certainly reached that “it’s damn hot” point for a week there. You could actually lose 6 pounds walking to get ice cream.

The ocean temps have been even more interesting than the surf. In last week’s “Fish Story” column, Jay Mann offered some thoughts that the surf temps might hit the actual 80-degree point this summer. Being as we’re still in July and upwelling in August is rare, that’s a good possibility. Jay has been using an infrared digital thermometer, but you can get a pretty good reading from a standard plastic and mercury jobber commonly found at the store. Taking ocean readings is kind of a fun thing to do, especially if you have kids. And it’s really difficult to get a dependable reading online.

We had a considerable pattern shift on Sunday with much cooler air temps and east/northeast winds. The winds may have blown up the surf a bit, but the really high tides and overall lack of power made it pretty junky. And onshore conditions are never too much fun on a longboard.

Then, of course, there was Sunday night’s deluge that no one really saw coming. This was purely a rain flooding event, but those high tides certainly didn’t help. Several people lost their cars to this one as the lowest spots on the Island were knee-deep.

This is when we start to hope for some kind of tropical system to bring us back to respectable wave heights, but there is absolutely nothing going on down in the equatorial Atlantic right now.

KELLY’S BUSTED WHEEL: As I’ve said many times in Liquid Lines, there is rare occasion for me to mention global professional surfing. On occasion, like when Mick Fanning punches a great white, it’s notable here. Or generally, news around Kelly Slater, as he is the best there ever was, the 11-time champ, the only East Coaster on tour, and still competing at age 45, although that last bit has recently come into question.

The entire second half of Slater’s long and storied career (easily the longest and storiedest in surfing), there has been a question of when he would retire. And, in fact, he came out of retirement several times. The last few years, he has stayed at a level that no one has come close to in his mid-40s, only making him that much more interesting. In fact, earlier this year, I wondered in this column if his recent back injury would sideline him and eventually be the beginning of the end after several years chasing his elusive 12th title.

Well, last week, Slater broke his foot at J-Bay and is out of the water for four to eight months. Currently in the No. 20 slot, even four months puts him out of the title race and likely out of qualifying for 2018. This, more than anything else, looks like the end of his chance of winning another season.

Of course, there is the injury wildcard, which he could very well get. So does he make another run in 2018? Hell, I sure hope so. That would be some story.

LOOKING GOOD IN THE CITY OF SURF: It’s now been a full week since Surf City opened its beaches to a trial for surfing outside the flags and apparently, so far, so good.  Granted, we haven’t had a hurricane swell that’s going to bring in masses of waveriders to LBI, but we did have some kind of consistent wave all week. And to my knowledge all has gone smoothly.

I visited my sisters’ family and friends on Saturday afternoon there, and for the first time, my nephews and I were able to share waves without leaving Surf City. The lifeguards didn’t seem just OK with the new situation, but genuinely happy about it. I saw surfers of all ages riding waves while literally hundreds of people were enjoying swimming on the other side of the flag.

There has been one new development, however. Last week I reported that stand up paddle boards would not be permitted in the water from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside the flags.

Side note: After sharing the line-up with these boards (and by “sharing,” I mean, they took all the waves) in places like Hawaii and California, I was fearful that LBI’s breaks would someday get overrun by them. I was very vocal in Liquid Lines about surfers converting to SUPs and people who had never surfed before coming out on these generally easy-to-ride craft. And most of us were not so subtle in the line-up when they came around. But 10 years in, I have to say that we’re just not seeing as many as other places. Moreover, most of the surfers who ride them here are pretty considerate.

But still, the most people that this would affect are those who like to paddle out past the break and stroke north or south. There seem to be a lot of families in Surf City that enjoy this in the morning and evenings.

Well, this week, Surf City announced that SUP boards will be allowed as part of the trial, provided that the board has a leash and the paddler, like any surfer, swimmer, etc. in Surf City, has a beach badge.

Again, this whole trial shows progressive thinking on the part of Surf City, and surfers are grateful. Take extra care to follow the rules for the rest of the summer and don’t give them any reason to reconsider.

COMING IN HOT: The next two weekends have more events than eight months of the year combined on LBI with some of the coolest surf happenings of the year.

Last weekend was “The Oyster Farmers” film at the Stafford Township Arts Center, which was about as red carpet as we get around here. Congratulations to Corinne G. Ruff, Angela Andersen and Oak Leaf Media for a job very well done. If you missed it, you can see the feature film this Saturday night at South-End Surf ’N Paddle, complete with clams and oysters on the half shell.

You’ll want to be up early this Sunday, July 30, for the Jetty Coquina Jam, the local apparel company’s ninth annual all-female surf event. Hard to believe that next year will be 10 summers since that first girls’ event on that warm, windless weeknight in Harvey Cedars.

Last week, the teams were picked by random at a BBQ provided by Jetty. The teams show some great surfers of all ages, and the names reflect a new generation of LBI’s surfing families. This year, the event is at 70th Street in Brant Beach. Registration starts at 8 a.m. The tides are ideal this year, and we should have the same kind of southeasterly windswell in the water that we’ve had the past few weeks.

This year, clams will be donated by Parker’s Garage and pizza will be courtesy of Panzone’s and Speakeasy. As always, the money will go to local females battling cancer.

The following Saturday, Aug. 5, is the Alliance for A Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic, which has also become a much-looked-forward-to event for our area, bringing out a handful of guys who rode these boards in the 1960s as well as the kids who are reviving the art of riding them. Get online and secure your spot at This year, ALO is making a push to combine membership with your entry fee. Email for a code and instructions. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded of the importance of being a member.

Then all you need is a vintage longboard and a little style.

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