Liquid Lines

Tips on Getting Ready for Summer, LBI-Style in Prepping for the Big Weekend

Waves on Tap, ‘Slater's Back,’ and Readying for Memorial Day
By JON COEN | May 24, 2017
Photo by: Mark Tesi This is the kind of scenes that make you want to get ready for summer. Looking west from the Beach Haven waterfront.

And just like that, as if a ribbon were cut or the flood gates opened on the Causeway Bridge, the mad dash to the season is on. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

To those of you from cities and countrysides who’ve been pining for the magic of our little island, picturing your feet in the sand, line in the water, cold one in hand – the families that come back year after year for morning beach walks, evening glass offs and French fried lobster, welcome back. We missed you. And to the guy in the BMW with aviator sunglasses, official team jersey and a chinstrap beard, pumping R&B through your sound system in a quest for dollar shots, don’t worry, we missed you, too.

And in the spirit of seasonal anticipation, I thought this week I might offer some ideas, something along the lines of those internet listicles, like “Summer Checklist” or “Five Ways to Get Ready for Summer on LBI.” As a matter of fact, that’s what I’ll call this. Get ready to get ready.

Summer Beach Bod: Seems this article teaser has been on the cover of at least one magazine at the grocery checkout for the last 50 years between February and May. Let me simplify: Put your body on the beach. Wear whatever the hell you want. If you’re midsection modest, wear something that covers it. If you want your ass cheeks on display for the world to see, go for it. (Just don’t wear Uggs to the beach.)

If you have your heart set on a toned-up body for summer, well, that ship sailed. Should have thought about that in February when you were watching the Super Bowl in a haze of blue cheese dressing and bacon-wrapped cheddar dip. But hey, summer is a great time to shape up. Start now and you’ll be ripped by Labor Day.

If not, that’s fine. Bikini Bod, Summer Bod, Dad Bod, whatever kind of body People Magazine would classify you as, get on the beach and do your thing.

Bali Feet: Take off your shoes.

Most of us have been wearing some kind of footwear since last September, which has made the bottom of our feet about as sensitive as a newborn’s butt. That is no way to go through the summer. Take your shoes off. Walk the hot pavement. Stroll the jetty. Sink into the bay mud. By July, you’ll have feet as tough as an Indonesian peanut hawker.

Dont Forget Your Roots: The almanacs will tell you that Mother’s Day is about the best time to plant your summer crops. While that’s true, it’s not too late. Our local nurseries and garden shops are still selling all manner of herbs and vegetables. Some varieties already have tiny green fruits on the vine. Hell, the boys at Garden State Surf and Art grew corn on the Boulevard a few summers ago. If you don’t have some hearty homegrown Jersey tomatoes on the table by the end of July, you might as well just move to some state with a lesser nickname.

Trash/Treasure: The old saying about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure may have been written specifically for LBI. (And in the spirit of equality here, I’ve seen women throw out perfectly good stuff or dive to the curb to pick trash.) Weekends in the spring and fall on LBI are prime garbage picking seasons, as folks clear used crap out of sheds, garages (and illegal finished first floors) to make room for new crap. You need something for summer, cruise a few blocks and you might find it.

The real finds are the decades-old gems, things that were made well, but are being chucked because of the owners’ dislike for must and dust. That stuff lasts longer than whatever was imported from China a few months ago. There is really no good reason to ever buy a beach cart, resin chair or bellyboard around here with so many perfectly good ones discarded. If anyone sees a Morey Boogie Mach 20 RS (the one with retractable skegs) in the garbage can corral, I call dibs.

Relax: The only thing more annoying than an aggro local standing on his front porch yelling about cars parked in front of his house is a stressed-out person who’s supposed to be “on vacation.” Summer will inevitably bring conflict, from seagulls in the trash to that guy who doesn’t know what the turning lane is for. But take it easy. It’s summer.

Waves, Weather, Whatnot: I really hope everyone enjoyed the weekend. As folks rushed to the beach on Friday, their smartphones melted mid-selfie. The mercury hit 94, a new daily record in Newark. We all went to bed on Friday night with the windows open and woke up to wind chills that dipped into low 50s. I’m pretty sure it was snowing at higher altitudes, like the top of the Ferris wheel. It’s still very much springtime on LBI, which is always a wild ride.

What has not been a particularly wild ride was the surf, which has been pretty much nondescript. Most of last week was flat to tiny. The kite crew was all over Saturday’s easterly winds, but the swell didn’t materialize into much more than a weak 2 to 3 feet. Still, it was surfable. The onshore winds may have cooled down the Island, but it certainly helped the water temp rebound from the recent southerly blows. As the ocean gets warmer, this type of swell will be a little more fun. Something about boots and onshore slop that doesn’t seem too appealing.

Don’t expect the water to make any big leaps for Memorial Day. When the mild winter and spring had our ocean in the mid-50s earlier than usual this year, we were hopeful for surf trunk temps by Memorial Day. But the late-week southeast winds will likely keep us right about normal for this holiday weekend – surfing in a three-mil, likely with boots and maybe a quick swim without.

The good news is that we may start the big weekend with some considerable surf. Thursday should see sideshore winds and swell pushing up into that 5-foot range. If that forecast holds, Friday is predicted to be chest- to head-high with the potential for offshore winds. I’m not particularly superstitious, but if Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and Friday is the start of said weekend, then we could have really good surf to ring in summer 2017. Just imagine, as all those cars come streaming off the Parkway or through the Pine Barrens, you could be setting up some springtime tubes or dropping your butt into some carving cutbacks.

SLATERS BACK: OK. I admit that one was a play on words to get your attention. Over the years, the words Kelly and Slater and back have been used too many times to count. Every once in a while it’s necessary to discuss global surfing happenings, even in little ol’ Liquid Lines. And this is one of them.

Slater came on the global scene in 1990 and won his first of 11 world titles in 1992. Think about that for a minute. At 45 years old, he’s been at the top level of surfing for 27 years. It’s unprecedented in any sport.

I could go and list his accomplishments, but unlike most surfers whose resumes are foggy to most beyond a few video parts and memorable victories, we all know his record.

“Slater’s Back” is not only a reference to him coming and going from the World Championship Tour over the last three decades. He hasn’t won a world title since 2011, and although he has always hinted at permanent vacation, the last few years he has uncharacteristically been swinging and missing at victory, often against surfers less than half his age.

And now, ranked No. 18 in the world, Slater is out of the game, citing a back injury, very literally “Slater’s back.”

Actually Slater was having a pretty good start to the season, but slipped on the Jeep Leader Board by withdrawing from the most recent event in Rio.

Does this mean that Kelly Slater should bow out? Should he have retired when he was on top, as he publicly considered doing many times? (The “will Kelly retire this year?” question was as much a part of his story as his winning.)

I’m not one to say. Maybe that’s a cop-out for a surf journalist. There are some with the stones to publicly say he should call it quits. The dude made the quarterfinals at the Quik Pro Gold Coast and you think he’s a has-been? For a long time, I would have just gone with “He’s the best there ever was, the dude should do whatever the hell he wants.”

But Slater is clearly not the best this year, nor last year, nor the year before that. And you have to take into consideration that Hawaii’s John John Florence may be as impressive in 2017 terms as Kelly was at the height of his own career.

It’s astounding that he’s made it this long, an absolute freak of nature when it comes to longevity and also a student of the human body. Most guys of the “Momentum Generation” fell off 12 to 15 years ago. But how long can he stay at this level? (Again, a question that was as relevant 10 years ago as today.)

The next event is the Outerknown Fiji Pro. Outerknown is Kelly’s company. Fiji is his favorite break. Might he just be resting up beforehand? Does he have something up his sleeve? Could be.

All I know is that I’m not a diehard WSL watcher. If there are waves or some other summer fun when the contest runs, I will likely only watch the highlights afterward. But I am definitely curious to see where this latest chapter of the “Slater’s Back” saga is going in every possible way.

HERE-WE-GO HAPPENINGS: First off, here’s a big congratulations to Colleen Panetta of Ship Bottom. The South-End Surf N’ Paddle team racer took first place in the 2-Mile Women’s SUP Open Division age 50-59 at the Treasure Island Pirate Paddle last weekend. The race was held in Point Pleasant on the Manasquan River in Saturday’s onshore gusts. Panetta called conditions grueling, and anyone who has ever paddled in windy chop knows it’s a bear, particularly on a stand-up board. Good luck to Panetta for the rest of the season of races.

Now that we’re into the summer, things are kicking off swimmingly. This Thursday, Sink ’R Swim will have its Summer Kickoff Party. In its second year, this men’s boutique has become the cutting edge of style on LBI, and this gathering offers a first glimpse as well as snacks and summer cocktails.

Friday will see the masses descend onto our sandbar, and while there are not a whole lot of official events planned, you can be sure every backyard will be humming with activity. And then you can get to a bar that evening and hear a guy in a tight shirt sing a Katy Perry song. In fact, you should all do just that, then stay out late, sleep in, and skip Saturday’s dawn patrol.

This Saturday will see the very first Saturday Sessions Skim Gathering of 2017. The skim enthusiasts have been in the water already, donning boots and wetsuits these last few weeks. This is a free event open to all ages of skimmers where you can work on those skim tricks, demo Victoria skimboards, and get primed for the LBI Skim Camp all summer.

The following weekend (June 3) is Hop Sauce Fest, starting with South-End Surf N’ Paddle’s Hop Sauce Tune Up race at 9 a.m. at the Taylor Avenue waterfront in Beach Haven. This is a chance to race and work up your appetite (and thirst) for Hop Sauce itself. Speaking of the fest, the MakeShift Union has just announced the line-up of makers to be present this year: Burma Shore Openers, Corey Hudson Art, Pretty Piney, Surfside Sea Glass Jewelry, The Wandering Gypsea, Swing Graphics, Bunkerfish, Clayhouse, Upcycled Library, Seventeenth Street Designs, NJ Vintage Badges, Favor House Atlantic, Beaucycled, Apeiron Yoga and Honeyguts.

Also on Saturdays through the summer, Surf Unlimited will be hosting yoga classes on the beach at 8:30 a.m. Yoga and surfing have become nearly inseparable. (Why do you think it took 45 years for Kelly Slater to have any back pain?) After that, things will really ramp up as we get into summertime proper.

As mentioned above, we’re looking at a good chance of waves for late week. I think the wind could be an issue early, but with dropping tide, much of the day could be fun. And an early dawn patrol on Saturday might be the call for some small, but really clean surf. The weekend looks to be pretty nice, albeit not super warm, and plan for some snotty conditions on Sunday. Have a great time this weekend, find some good trash and get your feet in shape.

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