Liquid Lines

The Plastic Bag ‘Nightmare,’ a Return to North Swells, $50 Till 50 and the Holgate Assessment

By JON COEN | Mar 06, 2019
Photo by: Marc Halikas The new steel wall at the Wooden Jetty. Hopefully it secures the shoreline and keeps the decent surf set up.
Arctic Outreach 2019
The Arctic Outreach raised $40,000 in February. (Video by: Tony Coon)

Quite a week we had in America. I just want to start out by saying that I am not related to Michael Cohen. He is of the “H” Cohens. I am not.

I have never had any problem with the “H” Coens, and when folks make the assumption that I am of that tribe, it doesn’t bother me. My name is of the Celtic tribe, and while I have a subtle pride in that, I am sure that association will be slightly embarrassing next week.

But let’s take a minute to consider local current events.

The Stafford Township plastic bag ban that was passed last summer and went into effect late last year is still a topic of conversation. The good news is every single week that we go to the grocery store, we see a few more people with a cart full of tote bags. The bad news is some folks still don’t get it. At last week’s Stafford Township mayor and council meeting, Mr. Ralph Trimarchi asked the mayor to repeal this miniscule step toward reducing our dependence on plastics.

Mr. Timarchi called his trips to the supermarket a “nightmare” now because of the plastic bag ban … a nightmare!

So while the rest of us (some long ago) started simply bringing canvas bags into the supermarket for our groceries and then leaving one or two in the car for when we might need them, Ralph has yet to figure out this complex system.

But I thought “nightmare” was a bit dramatic. I mean, when you’re out on Barnegat Bay or walking the Bridge to Nowhere and surrounded by plastic bag litter, that’s a nightmare. If you’re in the Coast Guard and you don’t get paid for a few straight weeks because the government is shut down, that’s a nightmare. If your Nike blows out, spraining your knee before the NCAA playoffs and a few months before you’re expected to be the No. 1 NBA draft pick, that’s a nightmare. Even when you’re coming out of the Target/Dick’s parking lot and you accidentally get on Parkway South instead of Route 72 East, that could be considered a nightmare.

It’s just not clear to me why switching over to reusable tote bags is such a hardship. But then I thought about it. Maybe it’s the big financial investment? ShopRite has been selling the bags for 99 cents lately, so perhaps the $7 to fully equip the household was the nightmare? Or maybe it’s his reputation? Perhaps his friends would make fun of him for being a socialist hippy.

If the latter is the case, I collected a bunch of reusable bags from our kitchen cabinet and mailed them to Ralph. I’ve got a nice variety of vinyl, canvas and organic cotton. Ralph can decide which he likes best. I just want to help Ralph recover from the pain he has had to endure. It’s on me.

And, Ralph, if your buddies make fun of you for using organic cotton, you send those bullies my way. I’ll set them straight. I might possibly buy them rainbow colored organic cotton bags adorned with crocheted snowflakes that I saw on Etsy.

Let’s be clear: Doing away with plastic bags will have direct results on our local environment. But they are a minuscule step in breaking our addiction to fossil fuels (psst, plastic is derived from oil), a much larger problem. In fact, Bills S-2776 and A-4330 in the New Jersey Legislature would ban single-use plastic bags while putting a fee on paper and reusable bags as well as banning plastic straws and harmful polystyrene foam. If this passes, New Jersey would be on the forefront of removing unnecessary plastics from the waste stream and cut back majorly on litter.

Crazy, right?

Plastic bottles have been banned in San Francisco, and the movement is growing. Can you imagine when Ralph has to drink from the sink?

I’ll buy him a gorgeous canteen.

WAVES FROM THE NORTH: We had a little switch in the weather pattern the last week, and a handful of right-foot-forward surfers are happy about that.

Thus far, the winter of 2018-19 has seen all of the low pressure systems sliding up the coast to our west, and when the storms take that inland track, we get south swells. I don’t think we’ve had a northerly blow since December.

The winds came up pretty good north on Friday and continued to build swell into Saturday. The wind wouldn’t quite straighten out until late afternoon, when it went light offshore, creating head-high-plus bowls with a lot of lefts, something we saw nonstop last March, but which have been nonexistent this year. Hey, waves from any direction are always welcome. Saturday-evening waves are a bonus.

Fortunately, the winds stayed light through the night, and Sunday morning was the kind of clean glass we rarely see in the winter. The swell had dropped and the tide was high early, but eventually it did get good again, with some chest-high sets. The wind did go north, but it stayed light through the day, allowing at least rideable conditions. By all accounts it was a good winter weekend.

The wind came back up again with the passing storm on Sunday night, and Monday again had a running north swell with sets up to shoulder and head high. The incoming tide proved to be a whole lot of fun mid-Island with tons of chest-high peaks and some barrels.

We should note nor’easters are what dig away at our beaches – not quick-moving storms like we had, but the giant man-eaters that sit on us for days at a time. Our beaches are absolutely huge right now, which puts us in good shape should we get tumultuous weather in March and April.

But May and June tend to see our beaches naturally build up, so I predict plenty of towel space for summer and hopefully great sandbars.

$50 Till 50: So now that it’s March, I think folks will start to pay some attention to the surf temps. Truth is we don’t pay the water temp much mind in the depths of winter because, well, it’s just cold.

In the fall, spring (by that, I mean May and June) and summer, we keep an eye on that rising or falling number every swell because we need to know what we’re wearing in the ocean. From December to April, however, we’re wearing the same thing – our hooded winter suit, thick boots and gloves. Though the temp may run from 34 to 45, it’s just simply “winter.” If it feels cold, there’s not much you can do about it.

The ocean is about 38 right now – frigid by most of the surf world’s standards, but just about average for this time of year on LBI. And as folks start to ache for springtime, we will monitor the mercury.

Fifty degrees is something of a milestone. You no longer have to wear the full rubber, and it usually means  winter is over.

One local business is on board with watching the water temp’s slow, slow rebound to 50. Equity Prime Mortgage, the Manahawkin office staffed by year-round surfers, will donate $50 to the Jetty Rock Foundation from each renovation loan that it closes until the surf temps are 50.

Not only is this an admirable move, but it definitely has a twist that the hardy locals will understand the significance of. It’s not just surfers; everyone waits for the ocean to warm to start the season of fun.

Now, the reno loan part sounds confusing, but it’s not. Anyone doing a renovation to a home or business can get apply for that loan instead of lumping it in with their mortgage. And every one that closes, Equity Prime, which already donates considerably to David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation will give $50. The Jetty Rock Foundation is focused on enhancing business, arts, the environment and culture for the future leaders of our community, and it’s closing in on $1 million total donations.

While it will be awesome to see that money go to such a worthy nonprofit, let’s hope the water turns 50 before Memorial Day.

HOLGATE ASSESMENT: There’s been a bit of talk about what we’re going to call The Wooden Jetty now since Long Beach Township had a steel wall driven into the sand the length of the jetty. I propose we keep calling it the Wooden Jetty because the original rocks and vintage bulkhead are still there. This is a sacred place for New Jersey surfing, and a lot of people have pretty strong nostalgia for it. Frankly, you can call it whatever makes you happy. I’m just happy it’s still a working surf spot.

There was a time that I wouldn’t have written about the Wooden Jetty. It was no secret, but I didn’t feel the need to contribute to the crowds there. But since it’s been in the news so much the last year, I kind of have to report on it. The last little north swell we had seemed a good reason to go down and check on things there.

Yeah, the new steel wall is ugly, but that’s a small detail. The break seems to be intact, and hopefully this will be able to hold some migrating sand at the McKinley Avenue area. Long Beach Township and the state will be looking at possibilities of shipping in another load of sand to fill that beach (not an offshore pump project), which is really the only emaciated beach on the Island. That wouldn’t likely be until after the summer. In the meantime, that hot spot will have to rely on the May/June flow to build the beach up naturally.

This winter is somewhat of an anomaly in that as mentioned above, we haven’t had those north swells. The sandbars do seem to be a bit farther offshore, but for the most part, I think we’re in good shape for waves, with a peak working on both sides of the jetty. Now let’s hope this stabilizes the shoreline there so we don’t have the threat of the massive “terminal groin” that would very likely alter the surf and possibly eradicate this special wave.

Other things to note – pretty much everyone I know has drifted into the Wooden Jetty. We’ve all survived. But it will be a little more of an issue should you get swept into the wall. Mind the drift (which was very strong on Saturday) and give yourself plenty of room to clear it on your paddle out.

LOCAL STUFF: The numbers are in, and the Arctic Outreach that took place on Feb. 23 at Mud City Crab House raised $40,000 for the Jetty Rock Foundation. That money was raised in the memory of Mallory McBrien and will help to support her family as well as Stafford’s Maryann Murray Levine, who was in a horrific car accident earlier this year. There will also be funds directed to the Jetty Rock’s general community and environmental initiatives.

While a few months from now we’ll be hustling, things are still pretty slow around here. This is not a huge time of year for events. But just to keep these on your radar, Hop Sauce Fest is June 1 this year in Beach Haven, and the Maker’s Festival has been announced for Saturday, Sept. 21.

For those making more-immediate plans, the LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences will host a seminar with the Garden Club of Long Beach Island and Richard Buckley of Plant Diagnostics Laboratory of Rutgers NJAES as this week’s Science Saturday. Buckley will discuss pine wilt disease, one of several diseases caused in local trees by the pine sawyer beetle. It will teach about the insect and how to protect plants. LBI is down to a record low trees-per-capita ratio. We need all the help we can get.

On March 16, Sue Puder, founder and president of the Southern Ocean Birding Group, will talk birding in the Pines. As always, Science Saturdays are free for LBIF members and $5 for non.

South-End Surf ’n’ Paddle’s Polar Paddle was moved to March 30 as the bay was frozen for the original date in early February. I think it’s safe to say there will be little to no ice, but then again …

The surf looks flat until next week, when we may see a return of south swells. Yes, Mud City Crab House is opening this week, and some of the local businesses are starting to prepare for the season. But that’s because there’s a lot of work to be done, not because the season is anywhere close to being upon us. March has gone out like a lamb a grand total of zero times in the history of LBI. This morning’s low was 19. Believing in the mythical “spring” is the killer of all good vibes around here. Just keep your head down in winter and your wetsuit warm.

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