Liquid Lines

A Guide to How Not to Start Your Winter in the LBI Region

It’s a long winter and the beginning is a pitfall for health and fitness, surfers or non.
By JON COEN | Oct 30, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Johnson The fall swells have been fun. And here are some pitfalls to avoid at the start of winter to keep from getting out of shape.

We do a lot of comparing of winter to summer around here. It seems local conversations always come back to the extremes of these two seasons – the desolation of winter vs. the madhouse of summer.

Compared far less often are the transition seasons. I guess some folks would say they’re about the same, but I’m going to state for the record that fall is infinitely better than spring, and the last week has been ultimate autumn living around here – cool nights, warm days, fun surf and whales breaching off the beach. If we could get nine months of this, I think we’d be all right.

But things are going to take a hard turn in the next few weeks; they always do as we round out October. Soon the leaves will be gone from the trees, and the northwest wind will have a serious bite to it. We’ll start breaking out more and more rubber for each swell. It’s still infinitely better than that March/April/May junk, but we’re going to be rounding a corner, nonetheless.

And this is a very important corner in terms of your health.

Yep, we’re going to talk about health. This is the part where I should tell you to consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program, but this is 2019. Even if you have health benefits, even if you pay thousands of dollars a year for your own insurance, your provider has a deductible to keep you from asking your doctor anything.

“Hey doc, what time is it?”

“Three o’clock. Here’s your bill.”

And I’m not disrespecting the people in the medical profession who actually went to medical school and spent more on textbooks than my car is worth. I’m talking about the giant middleman who seems to make money without providing any care. In fact, I would estimate that asking your doctor about some new healthy choices would cost you $40 to $60. For that, you and your homeboy could split a juicer and be on your way to a healthier winter.

For all it has to offer, winter is a rough time to be healthy around here. Not only do 2,894 new forms of germy bacteria enter your house every time someone comes home, but it’s also a much more sedentary time of year for obvious reasons.

If you’re a surfer, particularly north of 30 years old, winter can be rough on your body if you’re not smart. Due to the nature of weather and waves, we usually have only one to two days per week of ridable swell in the winter. Part of that is due to the weather patterns, longer flat spells, blow-out tides, four-day nor’easters and harder winds. And that results from not being willing to spend all that time pulling on the neoprene to chase onshore or small surf as we are in the warmer months. Part of it simply comes down to the fact that we might have only eight or 10 hours of daylight. We have much shorter window periods in which to surf. Sometimes it’s tough to find the motivation to get out there, and before we know it, we’re out of surfing shape. And you certainly need to be in good physical condition to paddle against a 10-knot current in a 5-mil wetsuit or get to your feet in a millisecond when the bottom of a 6-foot wave is dropping out and your board is stuck in a 40-knot offshore wind.

Even for those who don’t surf through the winter, it’s a hard time to maintain fitness for some of the same reasons. That evening paddle, bridge run or early yoga class all seem a lot less appealing than a pack of Stroopwaffles and a six pack. In the summer, it’s easy to be on constant alert for that windless night, bluebird day or 5:45 hot vinyasa. In the winter, it’s easy to be on constant alert for whatever’s on HBO.

Where some folks’ Sundays were once calorie-burning beach and boat marathons, the big effort becomes brunch and two NFL playoff games in January. The fresh local berries and other fruit that were so cheap in the supermarket are a distant memory. There might be some frozen fruit in the back of the freezer, but that will mean getting past the bag of frozen spring rolls. And once presented the option, we’d all opt for heating up those egg rolls or “Hey, you know what would be good? If we deep fried these frozen spring rolls.”

Yes, there are downfalls to winter, especially when you live in a place like, say, a barrier island that has zero protection from the wind ,and between the four gymnasiums, there’s about 30 minutes open to the public per week. And the next thing you know you’re sitting out sessions because every time you go to zip up your wetsuit, you feel like Chris Farley putting on David Spade’s jacket.

And that’s why these next few months are so important. They will set the tone for your winter. They will determine whether you’re excitedly peeling off layers next Memorial Day or if you have to wear stretchy sweatpants to the BBQ in hopes that you can cut enough weight to wear trunks to the beach by July 4.

And here’s my big disclaimer: I am clearly not an expert on exercise, surf fitness or dietary choices. No way!I’m the opposite. I’m an expert on drinking cold glass bottles of Coke, eating half a loaf of Italian bread while I’m making a pasta sauce, and sneaking spoonfuls of Nutella. By the time the last of the Halloween candy is gone, I’m all about sticky buns over morning runs. And hey, there’s pumpkin in this pie! It has pumpkin in it! Is that a fruit or a vegetable? … I don’t really care; it’s got to be a healthy breakfast.

These next two months are absolutely crucial simply because we celebrate them with sugar and carbohydrates. From candied sweet potatoes to gingerbread men, November and December seem hell bent on putting you physically behind where you need to be to tackle January.

The best thing you can do is to be aware and proactive. Don’t completely deny yourself, or you’ll lose your mind by New Year’s Eve and wake up Jan. 3 at least 10 pounds heavier, wearing nothing but garland and a fruit cake. Pick days that you’re going to be a slob and work out harder the days leading up to it.

Decide on an exercise program and stick to it. November is actually a great time to run, specifically in the woods. All those spots that were teeming with ticks will be safe again, and there are decent trails all over. When the wind honks offshore, maybe run the beach and the hard sand adjacent to the blow-out tide.

Plan your week around the conditions. Maybe try to go longboarding when the surf is small and the breeze is light. If you see a day with dead-calm winds, line up your work to get a long paddle. Whatever you do in the warmer months, make an effort to do when possible in the winter.

And then, of course, there’s the gym. Hey, I absolutely hate going to the gym. But I have that cheap-ass gym membership because I know I’m going to need it all winter. Maybe join a pool, a gym, or a gym with a pool? Perhaps do circuits in the gym and then run outside. Anything beats a treadmill.

These next few weeks of holidays are all about tradition, right? Well, make some new traditions. Find a Turkey Trot to train for with your friends. Plan family hikes in December when you would otherwise be making (and eating) cookies. The point is now is the time to start. February dedication is another issue, but we’ll cross that lonely road when we come to it.

AUTUMN FUN: While I mentioned that the last week was pretty much October Jersey paradise, part of that had to do with some fun surf, specifically going back a week. You may remember we had some weather last week with onshore winds Monday and Tuesday. The wind went offshore on Tuesday night for maximum fun on Wednesday morning.

This wasn’t a huge swell. The best sets were just barely head high, but it was lining up with fun drops, occasional barrels and turn sections, specifically in North Beach, Surf City and on the South End. We all love those days of critical tubes, but getting 50 waves in a session isn’t too bad, either.

Seems this type of day used to be bread and butter in the fall, but hasn’t been as easy to come by in the post-replenishment era with the jetties buried. But the sand was good enough, and the swell direction, swell period and wind were just about ideal. It even broke right through low tide without getting too shallow and unrideable – just general fun, overall autumn goodness.

The wind did pick up in the afternoon, making it less than perfect, but not unrideable. It was a complete day of fun waves, and if we continue to get waves like that, winter will be a blast.

The rest of the week was not quite as exciting. The surf dropped, and then we had a storm Saturday into Sunday, which never really panned out for clean surf here. Some surfers headed north and fared better. Monday had a smaller wave.

There is no lack of activity in the Atlantic Ocean right now, and we’re seeing groundswell for the middle of this week although winds may not truly cooperate. Nevertheless, they should be light. On Thursday, we have a system swinging through bringing weather and building surf. This may not be clean first thing in the morning, but the winds are forecasted to go north/northwest. This would be our first significant south swell of the year with the potential for overhead freight-train rights. And that’s something to be excited for.

NOVEMBER STUFF: After this week, Liquid Lines goes back to the off-season schedule of every other week. Hence, I may go a little farther out in the upcoming events since here won’t be a column every week.

This will be my last column before The Elovaters show at Folk Across the Street in West Creek. On Nov. 11, this touring reggae band from Boston will be playing the Barn, one of the most unusual venues in our area. This event is a potluck dinner starting at 6 p.m.; the show is at 7. With the nature of the event and venue, you buy tickets by calling 609-296-9150. Part of the ticket goes to charity. It’s sounding like a really good time.

On Nov. 14, Fusaro’s Pizza in Manahawkin will hold its monthly “Let’s Raise Some Dough” fundraiser for David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation. They donate $1 for each pie sold. Doesn’t get much easier than that for you to make a difference.

At the end of the month, the Lighthouse International Film Festival (they keep that stuff going year ’round) will bring the film “Emocean,” a film about a surfer’s connection to the sea, to our Island. This will play at South-End Surf ’N Paddle on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m., which is Small Business Saturday.

So this is a critical time. Take advantage of the daylight and warmth while we have it. Get the blood flowing, and attack the sugar cookie season head on.

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