Oktoberfest

Surfers Have Reason to Welcome ‘Rocktober’

Oct 04, 2017

Long Beach Island is well known for its post-Labor Day exodus. Following the ten weeks of glorious insanity, most of society returns to inland life – school, cities, organized sports, college life and NFL Sundays. It’s a big switch. But September is hardly “dead.”

While there are the few questionably loyal businesses that throw up that “Closed for the Season” sign at 5 p.m. on Labor Day, most stay open to some degree through the fall. Families with children too young for school enjoy discounted house rentals. Surfers from all over the state come for September hurricane swells. Locals have time to catch up with each other. Gorgeous 83-degree days still draw throngs of beachgoers. Summer folks return for our great weekend festivals.

It’s not until after Chowderfest that Long Beach Island really begins to prepare for hibernation. Many businesses are only open on weekends. Save for the Ship Bottom circle, the last of the traffic lights go off for the year. Day trippers dwindle and summer houses get winterized. And for some, that period is one of the best times of the year.

For surfing, October certainly represents a change in the season and here’s the science behind that: Water molecules are more closely packed than air and therefore maintain their heat content longer. So as the air starts to get cooler through September (which it forgot to do this year), the ocean stays summer-warm. But at some point in October, even the sea temp begins to drop. And that generally means regularly wearing the 3-mil fullsuit. By Halloween, many surfers are wearing boots in the water.

While the water is by no means cold compared to what it will be by February, that chill in the surf and cold mornings tend to thin the number of surfers. Weekenders pack away the board for the season. Summertime folks stop coming down. Other folks start thinking about snowboarding in New England. Lineups that used to be packed with heads tend to thin out. On any given swell, there will still be a good crowd gathered at the very best spot, but other waves will be near empty.

October is also the waiting period for the Jetty Clam Jam, the local apparel company’s annual surf contest and celebration of the local surf community. This event is well known because it waits for the best waves on a Saturday or Sunday to run. The waiting period begins the weekend after Chowderfest and the swell and conditions have to line up, or the contest gets put off until the next weekend. This flexibility only solidifies the event’s status among local surfers.

But the biggest change that happens to the surf in October is when the overall weather starts to change. There’s still a potential for hurricane swell, but it’s more likely the low pressure systems that set up off the Southeast coast or those traveling across the country that deepen as they get to the East Coast.

Tropical swells are great, mostly because they are warm and longer lasting. We lost count of how many days of hurricane swell we got from Maria back in September. But there’s something magical about those quick-hit fall windswells. These are more locally generated waves caused by a clash of warm and cool air. During the month of October there’s certainly enough warm air around but it’s this time of year that the cooler air moves in. The mix of the two causes more active weather, stronger storms, ferocious nor’easters and heavy south swells.

A trip to the pumpkin patch is always better if you go longboarding in the morning. And spooky Halloween hayrides are great after a day of pumping tubes.

Windswells, because they are created by storms right on or off coast, tend to have better swell direction and lower swell periods. The waves tend to be stronger, but most importantly, they tend to have more defined peaks – one spot where the wave has defined energy and disperses it north and/or south from there. Then throw in some solitude on a sunny day. It’s not exactly the feeling of smelling a fireplace in the offshore wind, but those peeling waves and barrels make October a special time.

—J.C.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.