Liquid Lines

Talking About Groins, a Decent Swell, Soft-Tops and a Truly Abbreviated Summer Season

Your Chance to Comment on Proposed Terminal Jetty in Holgate
By JON COEN | Aug 29, 2018
Photo by: Jon Coen Since last week’s swell, the surf has been pretty insignificant, but the ocean has made up for it with an abundance of life.

LBI used to have jetties. Some folks call ’em groins, but if I said “red French fry sauce,” you’d probably know I meant ketchup. Don’t focus some much on the word “jetty” as the phrase “used to,” in the past tense. We still have a few on the south end of the Island, but they’re a memory for most of our 18-mile sandbar.

Now I’m not going to give you a whole sad story about how we lost this amazing gift that nature created as if they were the last Javan tigers. The truth is they were a result of human engineering. “Love my country, fear my government … although those rocks you put out on the beach back in the day were pretty cool.

We used to surf off of them. We’d walk out and see what kind of sea life would congregate on or around them. (Remember starfish?) Anglers definitely used to fish from them. In fact, just a decade ago, you could put on a mask and dive off the jetties, even in Ship Bottom.

But for the greater good of the Island – which essentially is that it not become just a sandbar where archeologists would someday discover the remains of 10 water towers, luxury SUVs, discount Uggs and Ron Jon stickers – we’ve seen 12 years of beach replenishment.  That beach replenishment likely saved us from multiple new inlets during Superstorm Sandy, and maybe losing jetties is a small price to pay in the big picture.

But whenever the jetties start to get uncovered again, we get nostalgic. Maybe we can again enjoy these rocks. Surfers are most hopeful that they will start to create irregular sand formations, which create better waves.

Long Beach Township is applying for permits to replace what we know as the Wooden Jetty with a much longer and wider “terminal” groin. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that could start as early as next month. It takes longer to get a permit to build a shed in your yard.

After I reported on this last week, I got a lot of feedback from folks who share my concerns. I don’t think anyone is denying the benefit of this jetty in the short and medium range of letting sand build up to protect Holgate from storm damage (and rising sea levels, although the latter don’t seem to be mentioned in any of the reports). But we are gravely worried about losing the valuable recreational resource that is the amazing wave at Wooden Jetty and the breaks to its north, especially since we’ve lost most of our other jetties.

Following a study by Stockton University, Long Beach Township, the Army Corps and the state Department of Environmental Protection were given several options drawn by engineer Frank Little, and they have picked one that they are applying for the permit to build. It’s big.

I think surfers have good reason to be worried. Some folks are saying that this could create our own super-duper sand bank with amazing waves. That’s true. But when conditions line up right, we already have a super sand bank with amazing waves.

Many of the same folks who are predicting an epic new left are the same folks who 10 years ago said the waves would be as good after beach replenishment as they were before. They were wrong. While replenishment occasionally sets up a temporary sandbar that makes for great set-ups, overall the net losses to our surf quality far outweigh the gains. Anybody remember a reeling left called Leeward in Beach Haven? When was the last time you surfed killer Cumby’s?

The burying of LBI’s jetties has been very bad for swells outside of summer. We can get an entire winter swell that closes out now. A lot of us make regular trips to Monmouth County in the off-season just to find waves that peel off a jetty, which we used to have right here.

No one knows how the coastal geology will react to this new groin, and we’re wondering if we could lose one, or several, phenomenal East Coast set-ups.

The current plan is for a “modifiable” groin, which means that if the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge starts to get starved of sand, rocks can be adjusted to allow sand flow. The study was very specifically supposed to take recreation into account. But I think it’s a fair concern that it would seem very unlikely that Long Beach Township or the state would modify the jetty for the sake of surfing.

I am aware that jetties are expensive, but if this one can be permitted and funded, what about building some big jetties to replace the ones we’ve lost all over LBI?

Realistically, the Army Corps can’t move forward until it has state and federal permits. The good news is that we are in a public comment period. This is verbatim out of the project’s public notice (the first part will require you getting an envelope and a stamp): “Comments on the proposed work should be submitted, in writing, within 30 days to the District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, Wanamaker Building, 100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107-3390.

“Any person may request, in writing, to the District Engineer, within the comment period specified in this notice, that a public hearing be held to consider this application. Requests for a public hearing shall state in writing, with particularity, the reasons for holding a public hearing. Additional information concerning this permit application may be obtained by calling James Boyer at (215) 656-5826, by electronic mail to, or by writing to this office at the above address.”

WAVE RUNDOWN: This hasn’t been a particularly good summer for surf. Granted, that run of March surf was historic, but after a record-breaking cold winter and dismal spring, we certainly didn’t make up for it with stellar surf all summer. That said, last Wednesday was probably the best we’ve had all summer. It’s kind of like saying you have the best pizza in all of Kentucky. It’s pretty easy to stand out.

Following the raging winds of the previous weekend, we had a few days of lighter onshore winds, and the low apparently built up some kind of fetch. I think most of us were caught off guard by the size of the swell, at stomach- to shoulder-high. The winds danced around a bit between southwest, northwest and west all day, so it was offshore for the most part. Following some decent peaks in the morning, it seemed that the middle of the day turned out to be the best, and it stayed good through dark, even through high tide. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that many surfers enjoying some healthy swell.

It’s also been a while since we’ve been able to do a proper turn. Clearly, the better Island surfers were able to lay down some slashes in July, but most of us just spent a week trying to get around the section. Last week, however, provided opportunity to do a few gouges on whatever you were riding.

Thursday morning was again decent enough to ride a shortboard or groveler board, but by that evening’s high tide, the swell was just a memory. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were back to tiny, clean longboard waves, with poorly timed high tides.

I should also note that the ocean has made some attempts to keep us entertained. What it has lacked in waves, it has made up for in sealife. Late-August water temps are often known for animal behavior we don’t always see, including full Sea World shows off Surf City. The water temp and bait have had whales, dolphins, rays and even toothier friends alive right in and beyond the surf.

The fact that we’re not talking about any hurricanes in late August is truly strange, but it does seem as if we have at least some kind of surf on the way for Labor Day. Now granted, by late August, we’re all tuned in to the tropical update, and this year our hurricanes went on strike. But look for the wind to switch east on Friday, building up some stomach-high wind chop for Saturday. The wind looks to lighten up on Sunday as the swell drops off, but it will certainly be worth a check.

BIG NEWS FOR BAGS: I just want to mention that Gov. Murphy vetoed a plastic bag fee bill, which sounds like bad news for anyone concerned about the environment. But it’s actually good news. The bill was not for a plastic bag ban, only for a 5-cent fee on bags. Murphy called the bill insufficient because he’s ready to go for the full ban. I will have more on this next week.

SAY NO TO THE STORM:The next few weeks on LBI are about the best time of year, and that’s for a couple of reasons. Welcome to the season of savings. If you like LBI and want to come back in a few weeks, that house you’re renting will be far cheaper. If you don’t need to be on the cutting edge of fashion, those summer 2018 threads that were so hot in June will be in the bargain bin. There will be yard sales, sidewalk sales, tent sales and closing-for-the season sales.

And then there’s my favorite kind of discount – zero dollars! The nice thing about being a dirtbag local in a place that is seasonally affluent is that at the end of the summer, folks simply toss to the curb what they don’t want to haul home.

There’s really no use for those beach cruisers in Blue Bell, and there’s no space for that nice grill in Brooklyn. I think half of everything at my house has been, uh ... “recycled.”

But there’s one discount item that I’d like to let everyone know about, and that’s soft-top surfboards.

Soft-top numbers have grown exponentially in the last 15 years, and they’re truly great for teaching people to surf, with chance of injury to them or others greatly reduced. And somewhere along the line it went from “those boards are for beginners, I ride a real surfboard” to “this is funny and ironic, so now it’s cool to ride these boards all the time.” The closest comparison would be a fanny-pack. There are even soft-tops designed for more progressive surfing.

I’m not too concerned with what’s hip. What I am concerned with is the number of these things that are all over the Island – on the beach, on top of cars, and in the line-up, mostly because they are poorly made junk manufactured in Asia.

But hey, I get it. People just want a beach toy. They don’t want to spend $500 to $800 on an actual board that was shaped by human hands. But on the other hand, it’s really hard to see people come over the bridge with two Wave Storm boards from Costco on the roof. And don’t take that as some kind of “too hardcore” viewpoint. I’m not a Costco member myself, but I’ve certainly had friends buy me a summer’s worth of detergent pods or paper towels. But discounted surf craft bought at a big-box store with all these mom and pop shops so close just doesn’t sit right.

I know this is clichéd, but consider spending the extra money to support our local economy. Costco’s revenue pays shareholders and CEOs, not an Island family and employees who work double time through the summer.

I know these boards are also cheaply made in Asian factories, but at least they are of better quality and support the local economy. Surf Unlimited carries Cabo boards from 6- to 9-foot, which are double stringer and very well made. For the end of summer, they’ll be $225 to $300. Farias has Plank and Softtech; the latter are more performance oriented and sell for $265 to $395. South-End Surf ’N Sport is offering Surface Sports boards, including a 5-foot-10 fish, for $160. They make great holiday gifts.

You know what else makes a great holiday gift? An actual surfboard made by a surfboard shaper.

OUT AND ABOUT: Every Labor Day we look at each other and say, “How did this happen? How did we get here? It seems like we just pulled the grill out of the garage.” And usually it’s because summer is so busy with both work and fun that it seems to fly by. But this year summer, in a sense, was legitimately shorter. It was hard to get into the spirit in May when we still had the fireplace going. And June certainly didn’t feel like the start of “the season.”

So, yeah. How did this happen?

We should also note that the temp didn’t hit triple digits once this summer. Instead it seemed the mercury was stuck at 90 and humid for weeks at a time with no reprieve. All we can hope is that September and October make up for it, in both waves, weather and happenings.

Jetty will host the Summer Sendoff at the Sea Shell starting at 2 p.m. on Monday. This is sure to be a good time with a mechanical bull, Funk Shway, Jetty Session specials and a bounce castle with a 50/50 to benefit Jetty Rock.

I’m sure locals will have some festive plans for Tumbleweed Tuesday, though. Most New Jersey schools start on Wednesday or Thursday, which will start to change day-to-day life around here, but not nearly as much as next Sunday, when the NFL regular season starts. If you’ve had it with crowds and want to surf, fish, or simply sit on the beach all by yourself, I would recommend opening-week kickoff as the perfect time.

On Sept. 8, Surf City will present Surf the Sidewalk! (The exclamation point is theirs, not mine.) Most of the businesses in town are participating in special events, sales and free samples, including Farias, and Five O Six Surf Boutique for all you waveriders. That night, the Union Market in Tuckerton has its monthly Campfire Series with fire pits, music and s’mores.

As we edge closer to fall, we get into Jetty Clam Jam Season. The Clam Jam can be held any Saturday or Sunday in the fall, whenever the surf is forecasted to be good at 68th Street in Brant Beach.  This year, the waiting period starts Sept. 22. So it could be Sept 22 or 23. It cannot be the following weekend, however, as everyone is involved in Chowderfest or the Ocean County Decoy and Gunning Show, or heading to Sea.Hear.Now surf and music festival in Asbury Park. After that, it could be Oct. 6 or 7, or any weekend day thereafter.

The annual Clam Jam Team Selection Party will be Sept. 14 at the Old Causeway.

Get the hell out there and enjoy your Labor Day weekend. Spend some time with those you may not see again for a while. Make it count. And hats off to everyone on LBI who has been sweating overtime with a skeleton crew. See you on the other side.

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