Liquid Lines

Why All the Single Ladies Should Be Flocking to a Few Blocks on LBI and Related Surf Happenings

Hurricane Swells, Slater’s Wave Pool and Looking Toward October
By JON COEN | Sep 26, 2017
Photo by: Jon Peterson It’s been a historic run of swell. Nick Rossi has surfed all of it. (Sorry ladies, he’s taken.)

Boy, the surf has been crowded lately.

It’s felt a bit like Walmart on Black Friday out there, and I’ve heard a lot of folks getting pretty fired up over it. The best surfers will usually find their waves, but even if you’re snagging the biggest bombs, no one is a fan of that much humanity in the line-up. I tend to get frustrated when surfers show up from Seaside, Manasquan and Belmar, but then I remember that when the southwest winds kick in, we’ll all be lurking around their towns.

But I can’t help but look for an upside to all this. Women looking for love, I hope you’re listening.

To all the ladies out there who are on Tinder, Match.com, Bumble, OK Cupid or whatever, you’re wasting your time and money.

You need to be on the South End of LBI. Teach yourself how to paddle a surfboard. Or even just hang out in the street where you see roof racks and all those hunky men in towels, the smell of surf wax hanging in the air like some kind of aphrodisiac.

If you’re really looking for a mate, last week saw hundreds and hundreds of males descending on LBI from all over the state, on account of our geography being the first place along the coast that faces southeast.

It would be nice if I could say this to men, but alas, among all that facial hair, there is but one female out there. She is married, with two kids, and her husband will surf circles around you, so don’t even bother.

I have to say that compared to the general American populace, these males maintain a pretty good level of fitness. They have a deep connection to the ocean, which according to Instagram, is something every woman is into. They are fairly environmentally conscious and have decent tans (from the neck up, at least). Other than that, they run the gamut between truly wonderful human beings and scumbags. You might find yourself on some amazing empty, romantic beach in Nicaragua in a few months. But he will also ditch you for swell on the day your best friend gets married. Nobody’s perfect.

For the most part, they’re pretty approachable. Just walk over and start chatting them up. Of course, you can learn what a bonzer is or make a comment about the wind direction, but that stuff takes years to get right. You’re better off just going with something simple like “Your last wave looked pretty good.” He will be eating out of your hand. You’ll have to weed out the married ones on your own, but there is certainly no lack of fellas out there. Just avoid the ones with the paddles.

THE NONSTOP BARRAGE OF SWELL: Well, I lost count. How many days have we had considerable swell? Did the waves ever drop below chest high for the month of September? I don’t think so. I think this season has outdone the 1996 standard bearer.

I have had more than a few folks tell me they are just burned out. And with all that northerly drift, that’s understandable. It was like a river out there until the weekend. You start to feel like you could just paddle to Europe on a calm day.

That’s not to say it’s all been good surf. You may not agree with this opinion, but I feel that when only two blocks of LBI are rideable, that’s not a great day of waves. Those spots have had some moments the past few weeks for sure, but I can’t quite remember what got good when with all those waves. That said, I sometime surf like a pregnant yak, so maybe you all are doing just fine in the walled-up conditions.

What I do know is we remain very lucky this season amid all the hurricane destruction. Just imagine being on one of those devastated Caribbean islands, picking up the pieces of your life, unable to contact your family, sweating your ass off without a fan and not being able to find a cold glass of water. And that’s just the first week …

What I do know is that we’ve been just a few tweaks from perfect. It’s amazing the difference those few tweaks make. I’m sure we all stood atop a dune this week watching overhead sets pour in with mostly favorable winds and mostly unrideable conditions. Last Wednesday through Saturday were mostly marked with Jose swell, as the hurricane wiggled around a few hundred yards to our east. This was mostly mid-period swell that got decent when the wind was more northwest and less north.

By the weekend, Hurricane Maria swell started to pulse as the storm moved north, unfortunately mostly long period closeouts. I like the enthusiasm for big surf, but let’s be real honest: Peaky, waist-high waves that run down the beach are far better than overhead backwashy waves that break three blocks at a time. I did find a few corners Monday morning with minimal wind. Then most of the early week had pretty significant onshores.

The models are calling for some pretty big stuff for the back half of the week. And if the storm gets closer, that period will drop and the swell will get peakier. Maria is supposed to come north and then move east. A straight north heading would give us offshore winds on the backside of the storm, similar to a nor’easter. A drift to the east would give us more northerly winds and then, it’s just a waste of swell. We’ll have to see what we get late in the week. It will be full glory or a total bust.

We also can’t ignore the weather we’ve had. Did it rain three times in September? While the tail end of August got a little wet and cold, we have to be grateful for getting another full month of summer. The ocean temp is still pretty ideal as well.

DOWN ON THE RANCH: There are only a few times a year that global and professional surfing requires a bit of conjecture here in the Liquid Lines. I really can’t write a surf column this week and not mention the fact that the World Surf League just took its best and brightest from Lower Trestles (a wave that was considered pretty flawless earlier in the week) and brought them to Kelly Slater’s new Wave Ranch in Lemoore, Calif. (which set a new standard for flawless later in the week).

Ever heard of Lemoore? Me neither.

Until this week, the biggest attraction was a Victorian House Museum set in a Victorian house.

Slater and his investors have been working on the technology and the final product, the Kelly Slater Wave Co., for many years. Earlier this year, we all got a glimpse of the perfection they built.

And then last Tuesday, a collection of surfers from the Men’s and Women’s World Championship Tour took a crack at the manmade wonder. And then on Saturday, it was announced that this wave pool will host a WCT event next May. Everyone has written about this artificial wave and everyone has an opinion, including the great Aussie writer Nick Carrol’s opinion piece on Surfline. That was a good one.

To give some regional reference, pro surfing (then the ASP) actually held a tour event in 1985 at the wave pool in Allentown, Pa. It did not go well. But Kelly Slater’s wave is an iPhone X that makes Dorney Park and any other artificial wave look like two tin cans and a waxed piece of string. Like it or hate it, the wave is amazing. It’s hollow, clean, long and by all accounts, perfect.

Right now, I have to wonder what the engineering community is thinking. Because as epic as the wave is, the mechanics involved are truly fascinating. And I am told it’s run completely on (purchased, not produced) solar power. That’s pretty rad.

Here’s what I am thinking though: Right now, it doesn’t matter if you love it or hate it. Because you will not be riding it. It will be for the upper echelon of surfers and surfing dignitaries (like Gerry Lopez, who ripped that thing). The athletes who get paid to win will have these waves reserved by their sponsors. Knowing Kelly, he will probably invite some environmental superheroes, refugee orphans and Mark Cunningham to get a few waves. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, you don’t have to worry if you like it or not. Perhaps, a few years down the line, several of these things will be built, and you can pay to get your waves. But it won’t be cheap. If wave pools popped up like ski slopes and golf courses all over the country, perhaps the actual ocean might get less crowded. But I doubt it.

I am fully aware that this paragraph will have no bearing on anything ever, so I will keep it short. Riding this wave certainly takes something out of the experience of surfing. There’s a feeling in riding the power of nature and a sense of accomplishment that goes with forecasting a swell, becoming at ease in that environment, and developing the skills to ride the energy of the sea. Hell, we just like being in that big body of water. A lot of that is lost in a wave pool.

Given the opportunity (which I will not be), I would very happily ride that wave.

HAPPENING NORTH TO SOUTH: Hey, hey, it’s Chowderfest weekend. For out-of-towners and second-home folks, that means one more big party weekend on LBI. For locals, it means one more big work weekend. And then, of course, just about all the lights start blinking and the speed limits get raised. (But that’s our little secret.)

To start off, if you’ve got a deep connection for Puerto Rico, like so many do around the Island, Ship Bottom Brewery will be doing a Pours for Puerto Rico fundraiser. The brewery bar has a charity fermenter where they donate $1 per beer to a charity. This week, $1 per pint of the Cranberry Gose will go to ConPRMetidos, which will channel the funds first to food, shelter, clothing and water, and then transition to long-term recovery.

Saturday is the Merchants Mart, which this year will feature MakeShift Row, a special 50-foot tent pop-up collective hosted by the MakeShift Union (curated by the good folks at the Makers Fest). You can be sure this will add some creativity to the event. Sunday is slurp day. This year’s Chowderfest weekend looks to be on the warmer side.

As is customary, the Jetty Clam Jam window period opens on the first weekend after Chowderfest, which is Oct. 7 and 8 this year. There are still some slots left.

Because of all the September events, the Clam Jam selection night has been moved to next Friday, Oct. 6 at the Old Causeway. All of the surfers who have registered for the Clam Jam will be randomly paired with a teammate.

It would seem there is good potential for an early Jam this fall with the way the swell has been pumping. Let’s just hope for some shorter period swell. Also, be advised, the whole event has been moved to 80th Street in Harvey Cedars where the sand is set up better. Parking there is limited, so get a ride from your homeboy.

And while we’re talking Cedars and 80th Street and Oct. 6, the HC commissioners meeting is that evening is at 4:30 at borough hall. Several Cedars residents and surfers will be campaigning for surfing outside the flags. Clearly, this is a summer issue, but it has become a very important debate, as Cedars is the only town on the Island to not adopt this policy.

Things slow down a bit on the sandbar in October. Might be a good chance to catch your breath. But I’d say it’s looking like a great month, especially for all the single ladies.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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