Liquid Lines

Some Significant Swell, the Beauty of the Beach Haven Bubble and More Plastic Alternatives

By JON COEN | Jun 06, 2018
Photo by: Joe Hodnicki/Jetty Philly hip-hop band, the Ill Doots, perform at HopSauce Fest in the "Beach Haven Bubble" last Saturday.

Last week Liquid Lines was all about millennials who live at home until they’re 40. Before that it was the weather. (Actually, it’s been about the weather for the last six months.) In the last few weeks, we’ve covered plastic bag bans, the summer ramp-up, Mary Lee the shark, food served in novelty bowls and beach replenishment.

Remember when we used to talk about surfing?

Last week, all I wanted to do was write about surfing again. Actually, that’s false. All I wanted to do was go surfing again. I’m sure you did, too.

Spring is a rough one around here. It’s not technically longer than any other season, it just feels like it’s six months from mid-March to June. Of course, surfing for most of the spring feels a lot like winter surfing thanks to the air temp. This year, the ocean temp was about the same at the start of May as it was at Christmas. But it’s not just the cold. The swells become smaller and less consistent, the sandbars don’t set up all that well, the tides are erratic, and the winds are frustrating. Spring 2018 was even colder, smaller and more frustrating than usual.

So if you haven’t surfed a lot these last few months, you’re not alone. We went from having one swell more epic than the last in March to one day of clean surf a week in May. And that day usually wound up being closed out or deep.

In short, it has been junk.

But then something happened. We had waves.

And for this time of year, they were pretty sizable, powerful waves. It wasn’t anything special, but when you’ve been metaphorically lost in the desert, you don’t complain if someone hands you orange Gatorade over Arctic Blitz.

The waves were a result of a low-pressure system that moved in on Saturday night. Sunday set a new standard for “unseasonable” weather, with howling northeasterlies and a wind chill that bottomed out at 50 degrees. Keep in mind, it’s June.

The wind tried to go offshore on Monday morning and the surf was shoulder high to a bit overhead. It never truly cleaned up, but it was better than anything we’ve had in the last two weeks and one of two decent days in the last month.

Surf City had some juice, but I saw a bunch of heads surfing the south end, where it was a bit cleaner. It was chunky, but there were plenty of waves and light crowds. The conditions definitely could have benefited from some northwest winds, but there was a point at midday when the tide was high and the wind almost died. Like I said, nothing great, but good to feel a wave move you again.

Because we’re surfers. It makes us feel alive. Hell, it makes us feel like ourselves again. Without consistent waves, we’re just guys and girls who dream of perfect conditions and have an unhealthy obsession with fiberglass.

I should also add that the water temp has been on a steady rise. Then the northeast winds kicked it up a few more degrees to about the mid-60s. After the winter we just had, we thought we’d never take our boots off.

Those who surf year ’round love a hearty winter swell. Others thrive on wearing trunks in the summer. But when you have somewhat powerful waves and can just wear a 3-mil, that’s a pretty good feeling.

The wind came up northeast again in the afternoon but lightened up before dark. A bunch of guys found some love in Harvey Cedars, in Ship Bottom and again on the south end. By Tuesday morning, there was still a 2 to 3-foot wave and the wind was finally offshore. No one is claiming it was epic (well, I am sure someone will on Instagram) but we’ll take it …

THE BEACH HAVEN BUBBLE?: I’ve long heard about the “Beach Haven Bubble,” a fabled meteorological anomaly wherein the world goes to crap, but Beach Haven’s weather stays ideal.

There’s something to be said for this phenomenon/theory/fable or whatever you want to call it. Scientifically, it does have some merit as weather systems moving from west to east can see dramatic changes when they hit the bay. Moreover, our inlets seem to have some influence over our summer weather.

I’ve never bought much into the bubble theory, as I remember lighting candles as a bartender when a storm knocked the power out in the Queen City. Why would one town be any different than the rest of our sandbar? And if there’s actually some invisible shield that protects Beach Haven from junk weather, why do people in the middle of town sometimes have to canoe to work?

But after Saturday, I’ve changed my mind, and here’s why. 2018 was one of the worst Mays anyone can remember. It was cold, wet and windy. I believe we got rain 24 of 30 days.

And for almost a week in advance of last Saturday’s HopSauce Fest, the forecast looked about as good as one lane open on the bridge for the start of summer. And these days, folks have very good access to weather in their pockets. You had to figure everyone in Bucks County, Scotch Plains and Brooklyn were looking at the forecast, going “Yeah, this might not be the best weekend to go down to LBI.”

Early in the day, there was a giant blob of weather coming across southern New Jersey. As it approached the coast, you could see the black clouds. Then, right before a certain deluge, it broke into two. Half the system went north of Beach Haven, half the system went south.

And after all those terrible forecasts for rain, lightning, flooding and the coming apocalypse, there wasn’t a drop of rain.

The bands were great. The food is always great. And people showed up. The money raised went to the Jetty Rock Foundation, which already donated $15K to Parson’s Seafood, where Dale Parsons is building an oyster reef, the kind that has been gone from our bay for decades. This is such a good story for our environment, local seafood and reviving the bayman lifestyle. Good work to Jetty and Spice it Up. I am now a believer in the Beach Haven Bubble.

FANTASTIC PLASTIC ALTERNATIVES: Before we get into any planet-saving talk, we should note that environmentalism in 2018 is strange. I don’t think we have time to get into the past doings of Scott Pruitt, who the 45th president decided to name as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. To put it in basic terms, it’s like if you had a whole nursery of baby roadrunners and you hired the coyote to watch after them.

Somehow, the politics vs. science debate has been turned so upside down that the right sees them as their Rachel Carson, or they would if they knew who Rachel Carson was. American history will likely place him somewhere between Benedict Arnold and Roseanne ...  Arnold. But the latest news has nothing to do with his environmental ethos or lack thereof.

It appears that Pruitt asked a staff member to take care of his personal matters, which staff are not hired to do. Now on a list of ethics violations, this barely registers by what this administration has made the new normal. But one of the tasks was to obtain a used mattress from Trump International Hotel.

Let’s put aside the illegality of having his staffer essentially handle his housekeeping. A head of a major U.S. governmental department is looking for a used mattress from the luxury hotel owned by the president. And was so brazen about it that he made it official government work. Yeah, sounds perfectly normal.

Thankfully, we’re a bit more sane at the local level. I think we’ve finally got a critical mass talking about single-use plastics around here. The Long Beach Township plastic bag ban is a month old. Harvey Cedars’ plastic bag ban went into effect on June 1. Stafford is up for a final reading in July. Beach Haven is considering the ban.

Coincidentally, when chatting with Mark Cohen, owner of the Chicken or the Egg last weekend, he mentioned that he is not against the bag ban, only that he needs some time to figure out a new system. He didn’t want anyone to get that impression from last week’s SandPaper story. Once again, you have to give the eateries credit for researching new ways to do things without the plastic bag.

Next up: water bottles!

OK, I won’t be so bold. People clutch plastic water bottles like prayer beads. Even the mention of not having two cases in the car at any given time is an affront to St. Evian and St. Poland Springs.

To be fair, bag bans are the easiest sell because people see them stuck in trees, pull them out of their landscaping and fight with them taking over that cabinet under the sink. (Although you are still hard pressed to find anyone at the Manahawkin ShopRite without 20 yellow bags in their cart.) It’s harder to get folks to think about the petroleum that was used or to visualize saving unnecessary mass from the waste stream.

And once they start using a big, durable canvas bag, they wonder why they didn’t switch sooner. But now that there’s some dialogue, I think a lot of folks are going to start realizing that bags aren’t the only single-use plastics that we can do away with.

Pretty soon, you grab lunch – and look at the container it’s in, the plasticwear you’re eating with and the cup you’re drinking out of. Hopefully, there’s a recycling bin nearby. But still, there’s no need to use it in the first place. Surprisingly, there are some easy solutions and some are actually a little bit cooler than a canvas tote bag.

First off, the SandPaper’s Section 2 editor Victoria Ford recently showed me her new foldable shopping bags by a company called Baggu. About three seconds of research on Google turned up at least a dozen companies that make a variation of this 5- by 5-inch foldup bag. I would call it brilliant, but brilliant would be if humans never decided to use something once that will stay around forever. Let’s call it cleverly convenient.

But the alternatives I really love are for silverware, specifically different variations of the “hobo fork,” aka Camp Utensil Set. It makes you look like Paul Bunyan … if Paul Bunyan ate takeout ice cream in a compact car.

This is your basic camp silverware tool. The most simple ones are Colemans that can be bought in pretty much any sporting goods section for a few bucks. It looks like a thin army knife. When the fork and spoon are folded out, the two sides unlock and become independent of each other. The spoon side has a simple knife and the fork side has a can opener. I’ve carried one of these in my backpack for years, just for ease of eating on the road. Also note: kids are blown away by these novel little eating tools.

There are versions made of stainless steel for around $16 or super high-end ones of finished bone that go for $100. I’m sure somewhere in Brooklyn is a boutique that sells must-have hobo forks made of actual hobo bones for $250. Just be careful of the ones with knives. TSA won’t allow them on the plane no matter how cheap and tiny of a blade it is.

A few years back I was also given a set of bamboo silverware for travel that fits into a nice little pouch. I keep it in the glove box of my car. It’s a cute wooden fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks. The chopsticks are a bit of a novelty, I admit, but say you’re eating takeout Panang Curry or Shrimp Pad Thai in your car somewhere. You definitely wouldn’t be close to home because there’s no Thai food within 40 miles of LBI. Those chopsticks come in handy.

Great, now I’m starving for anything with a coconut milk base.

Point is, you can go to an outdoor store or search online and find a super cool silverwear set from Duluth Trading Co. or Tactical Gear that can live in your summer tote, pocketbook, backpack or man purse all summer. And when you pull it out, you will look super savvy. Just wash it every once in a while.

As for reusable bags, I started keeping a few in the spare tire compartment of my station wagon. It’s easy to remember bags when you’re consciously going grocery shopping. But having them handy is a good idea for when you decide spur-of-the-moment to pick up a few things. Admittedly, my life is not very exciting.

SANDBAR HAPPENINGS:First thing first, the HopSauce Tune Up got off to a good start.

“It turned out to be the best conditions ever. No wind,” reported Sheryl Paynter from South End Surf ’N Paddle. “We had a smaller amount of racers show up due to the weather, but it kept the race chill and more the ‘tune-up’ that it was meant to be.”

You can find the full results at Paddle Guru, but here are the winners.

32 paddlers raced. In the long race, winning the Men’s 14-foot elite for ages 14-34 was 16-year-old Robert Mulloy. Taking the 14-foot elite for ages 35-plus was Mike Fithian.

Kate McBride took first in the Women’s Long race 14-foot elite for ages 35-plus and Gabby Sacco won the Women’s Long Race 14-foot elite for under 35. For the Women’s Long race 12’6 under 35, the winner was Sarah Esaray.

In the Women’s Short race, Dawn Jacobus won the 12’6 for ages 35-plus and Colleen Yerves won the 12’6 for under 35. Russell Hill and Zeke Hill were the only prone competitors and so won the Long and Short races respectively.

This weekend is the Lighthouse International Film Festival, one of the biggest cultural happenings here on LBI. There are no surf films in it this year. I strongly believe that’s because the festival has made an effort in the past and very few surfers come. Local surfers can’t be bothered. So there’s that.

This weekend is also the Summer Art Opener at the m.t. burton gallery and Saturday is the first annual Beach Haven Art Walk. Lots of culture this weekend.

If you’re one who’s interested in the craft of surfboards, check out Shapefest at South End Surf ’N Paddle on June 23. This will feature food and music, but it’s really all about shaping boards. I’ll have more info on that next week.

In the meantime, Sunday looks like it might present an opportunity for some surf. Right now models have a little summer swell with offshore winds on Sunday. Keep your eyes on the forecast for the timing on that.

Don’t expect the water to jump into the 70s just yet. One day of moderate south winds will put us back to 60 or below. But this is still a really fun couple of weeks. Get it all in before the crush.

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