Liquid Lines

What Everyone Is Riding in 2018, This Administration’s Latest Threat to the Ocean and Gliding Into July

So Many Seemingly Forgotten Design Aspects Are Back in Today’s Surfboards
By JON COEN | Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Johnson Mitchell Gaudioso slipping through some clean little surf last week.

Clearly there are plenty of reasons for surfers to travel, and Australia is one of those spots on most surfers’ bucket lists. The Gold Coast of Australia is a great destination. The only thing more impressive than the waves is the crowds. You’ve likely never seen crowds like this. Snapper Rocks might give you one of the longest waves of your life, but you’re also going to ride it with one World Tour surfer, one former World Tour surfer, a professional Brazilian female bodyboarder, three surfers you’ve never heard of but who surf about as well as the World Tour surfer, a longboarder and five or six random wave riders.

It’s safe to say that your wave count could be a lot higher if you go elsewhere. But the Gold Coast is interesting (maybe just as a stop-off on some Pacific tour) because it holds so much history, especially that of the period in surfing known as the Shortboard Revolution. At a time when society was going through major social change, surfing was also getting very interesting. It was sandwiched between the longboard-beach party days and the more commercial aspects and dawn of professional surfing in the 1980s. Part of that was aligning with the counterculture of the time, coming out of the ’60s. But the other part was developing surfboards that could ride a wave more aggressively.

It was a period of experimentation, trial and error, and evolution. Obviously, surfboards got smaller, many of them dropping from 10-foot to 6-foot. There are countless stories of surfers who were so inspired to surf more progressively that they chopped down their longboards and reshaped them as shortboards. That wasn’t an isolated thing; it happened right here on LBI.

But there were other, more subtle changes. As shapers began to study hydrodynamics more intensely, they looked at fins, rocker and vee. They experimented with bottoms, rails, widths and tails.

It was a very important period because there was a huge change in what the average surfers as well as the top surfers were riding in a very short amount of time. Picture surfboards like human evolution. There are obvious craft from the past that link the classic mid-’60s longboard with the standard high performance thruster of today. But between the earliest hominids, there were species that went extinct while others evolved.

What’s fascinating is that many of the design aspects of the 1970s originally got left behind. If you think of great apes as the classic longboard (still very functional), other boards were like the homo habilis of hydrodynamics. But many of them are being utilized today, like bonzers and displacement. It’s reaching back in history and discovering that just because an idea wasn’t exactly suited for a certain type of surfing, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place in surfing at all. Who would have ever thought we’d see people riding flat wooden boards?

Now, looking backward isn’t always the answer because our conditions vary so much. We’ve all seen surfers paddle out on a heaving winter swell with a fat twin fin. The wide tail slips down the face, and they wind up taking a cold-water beating. It looks about as good as that guy running on the Boulevard in yoga pants. But that same board on a 2-foot glassy summer day works like magic.

In 2018, surfers are riding a wider array of surfboards than ever before. Check the line-up the next time the surf is 2 to 3 feet. You’ll see the same shapes from 1967 in the water with thin, modern thruster shortboards. Then there are fishes, eggs, planing hulls, soft tops, fun shapes, mid-lengths, and every imaginable hybrid of them all.

Surfboard sales were pretty rough in the late spring, which is normally when we start buying new gear. Like everything else, you can blame that on the never-ending season of gray, but George Gales, owner of Surf Unlimited, says that just changed. Rosberns, Stewarts and Sharp Eye are selling.

“Board sales have started jumping up. People right now are mostly looking for floaty, fish type boards and fun shapes. We’re also selling a boatload of used boards.”

Mike Lisiewski, owner of Brighton Beach and Wave Hog Surf Shops, agrees that sales action has spiked as of late.

“It’s been strong with a lot of folks coming in for customs as well as lots of people traveling pretty far to come pick up boards. Our Matadors still lead the way, but used and vintage are very close behind.”

Lisiewski is in a unique situation because he deals Matador Surfboards, the label that his father, Richard, started in the 1960s.

“I think last year I shipped to 13 different countries, which was really pretty cool. And it’s definitely the fuller profile templates that have been popular, as more guys are looking for that five fin design for the versatility of a quad or a thruster.”

And with all of the hybrid type shapes, he still has a lot of guys who want something from the past.

“They want a true retro feel and shape, whether it’s from the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s,” he added.

Farias Surf & Sport has a huge selection upstairs, with more of the global labels like Channel Islands, Firewire, Christenson, and those designer sticks from Bing and Takayama. Robert Weiner of Roberts Surfboards was recently in the shop as well. But the big mover this summer has been Lost.

Surfing, as most of us do it, doesn’t have a rule book. There’s just the one rule about priority. Other than that, you can pretty much do whatever you want out there. And considering alaia and soft tops, people are doing just that.

Sunday morning provided a few waves, or at least the best we’ve had in some time. From what you could see through the fog, there were dozens of surfers, and they were each out on something different, with design aspects that you could trace back three or four decades.

THE SURF ROUNDUP: Is it just me, or is this summer reminding us of just how good the last few summers have been? Summertime can be tough for a hardcore waverider. Warm water, extended daylight and summer sandbars are great. The lack of surf isn’t.

The best mindset is to approach summer with generally low expectations. Have a board (or several) for the small stuff. And when we get a heftier low pressure system or a bit of groundswell, we’re pleasantly surprised.

That said, we haven’t had a banger day of waves in a few months. We’ve had some of the general seasonal mixed bag, but even those small-but-rideable clean days have been few and far between. The highlight this week came from Saturday’s weather. There wasn’t all that much wind to build surf, although 69 degrees on the mainland in late June is odd.

Sunday morning had a semi-clean wave, not fully groomed, but decent. It got better as the tide dropped. There was a decent window of relatively glassy bump at mid tide in that 1- to 3-foot range. The south wind turned it mostly to junk for the afternoon.

The wind went full offshore for most of the day on Monday. Again, high tide flooded it for the morning, but there was certainly a nice clean, tiny log wave out there at mid-day.

The middle of the week was pretty uneventful, but there’s still plenty of summer left.

If you’re starting to think about something tropical to boost our wave count, stop thinking it. All is quiet in the equatorial Atlantic. Hurricane swells for July aren’t out of the question and they do tend to form closer to the coast, which alleviates the issue of long period groundswell closeouts.

The water has been somewhat warm for June, but it has been dipping, basically any time the waves get good.

MORE BAD NEWS FOR THE OCEAN: I think it’s clear that I’m not particularly a fan of our current president, but I don’t relish writing about that every week. I’ve been against this guy since I was a kid, actually. Growing up in New Jersey, we were treated to these garish real estate commercials that featured Trump living his luxurious lifestyle on network television and in tabloid spotlights. He was simply famous for being rich. Even at 9 years old, that didn’t sit well with me. I had no interest in a caricature of a bloated ego. Then came his Atlantic City ventures (and bankruptcies that actually hurt working people at the Jersey Shore.) Besides going to AC to escape sideshore winds on north swells, there was nothing particularly exciting for me about the bright lights to our south, nor about his temporary involvement.

I’ve never been one for reality TV, either. I never watched a single episode of “The Apprentice” because it was just the glorification of this petty, wealthy attention-hound. I’d opt for syndicated “Seinfeld” episodes any day.

Hence I wasn’t surprised when he became a hero of the Fox News crowd thanks to his birther theory. As a candidate and president, his style and platforms have run pretty much exactly counter to simple decency, not to mention his estranged relationship with the truth. He has rolled out one policy after another that seems simply designed to make America the drunk guy in the bar with the muscle shirt and visor who is creeping everyone out.

That said, it’s not like I go looking for Trumpy news tidbits to write about. I would be thrilled if he just spent his whole day arguing with his staff, ordering more red hats from China, misspelling Tweets and eating KFC. Conflict gets tiresome; I’d love to ignore it. And the divisiveness in our nation right now is certainly disheartening. But when he announces plans to specifically scale back protections to the ocean, how can I not address it in Liquid Lines?

In his June 19 Executive Order, Trump laid out his vision for our seas. And no matter  your political beliefs, if you’re an Ocean County beach, ocean and bay person, it can’t look very good.

Starting in 2009, President Obama began collecting input on a National Ocean Policy that he rolled out in 2012 for stewardship of our oceans. The policy aimed at things like marine planning, coastal communities, recreational fishing and boating, commercial fishing, aquaculture, offshore renewable energy, shipping ports, and even offshore oil and gas.

Obama explained that his plan had been influenced by the Deepwater Horizon spill (to jog your memory, that was the one that claimed 11 lives and delivered crude oil to over 1,000 miles of the Gulf Coast). It was about working with industry and conserving our valuable oceans.

His plan itself was an executive order, and I have no doubt it wasn’t perfect. But I respect forward thinking when it comes to protecting the ocean.

In the spirit of the 45th president, he has worked to dismantle everything the 44th set out to accomplish. In his eyes, the ocean is not a place where we interact with nature. It’s something we need to be exploiting even more.

Pete Stauffer of the Surfrider Foundation issued this statement last week: “The Surfrider Foundation is deeply dismayed by the repeal of the National Ocean Policy by the Trump administration. Repealing the policy is a blow to sensible and effective management, and is yet another attack on our ocean and coastlines. Despite today's action, Surfrider will continue to champion the principles of National Ocean Policy that have taken hold across the U.S. and support regional efforts that bring together states, tribes, stakeholders, and the public to protect our ocean and coasts for now and the future.”

I had the opportunity to go to Monmouth University and see first hand some of the National Ocean Policy’s Mid Atlantic information gathering. It brought all manner of stakeholders together, and it honestly felt like folks who surf, fish, boat, dive and otherwise enjoy our waters were having a say in future decision making.

It’s too early to tell the impact as of now. We all have to continue to support the organizations and legislation that will work to protect the ocean. Where’s Rosie O’Donnell when you need her to run some interference?

YOUR SOCIAL CALENDAR FOR JULY: Even with the granddaddy of all summer weekends upon us, we hesitate to get too excited that it’s actually here. There is nothing about 2018 that can surprise us at this point.

The Salty Crew Find Refuge Tour comes through Farias on Thursday night. Look for movie screenings, raffles, giveaways, with beer and food at the Ship Bottom store.

If local music is your thing, the Lizzy Rose Music Room in Tuckerton will host a local songwriters showcase with Rob Connolly, Ryan Zimmerman and Sahara Moon on Friday, June 29.

Once we get into the week of the Fourth proper, other events slow down for fireworks and barbecues. It does look like we’ll have a more significant wave for the end of the week, with some of those illustrious chest-high sets.

Go out. Have some apple pie and American-style fun. Just try not to burn your house down with a Roman candle.

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