Liquid Lines

A Tale of Two Swells and Skate Park Talk (Again)

September Continues to Roar with Groundswell and Windswell
By JON COEN | Sep 25, 2019
Photo by: Kyle Gronostajski Pete Machotka knows how to deal with closeouts, just go over them. It’s been a pretty exciting September.

Long Beach Island — There’s skate park talk again.

Every few years we have this talk and frankly I can’t believe we’re still having it. It seems a new generation of kids has become the latest to take up the fight for a local skatepark.

I’ve written about this subject so many times over the past two decades with so little progress that I want to stick pencils into my eyes. Every time it comes up, I run down the history of skateparks in Southern Ocean County. I’ve done it so many times at this point that I can’t even go through it again.

Here are the Cliff Notes: Barnegat Township and Waretown have marginal parks. Stafford had a park in Ocean Acres that they buried. Barnegat Light has a terrible outdated skatepark and they don’t care.

That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Every few years there’s a little bit of momentum for a park in one town or another. Most recently, there was a petition by Southern Regional Middle School student Kaden Cannavo on called Stafford Township Needs A Skatepark!

That might sound a little over the top, but the kid is right. We really do need a skatepark. And since a fantastic park opened in Brick this year, it’s even more glaringly obvious that Manahawkin needs a skatepark.

Cannavo’s petition has garnered about 1,300 signatures. But he’s far from the first. Every few years there’s a kid or a group that gets the conversation going, but for one reason or another, our local municipalities don’t see the need for it. And specifically, LBI has about six ball fields that get used two days a year. Furthermore, the road surface in Baghdad is better than LBI. Have you ever seen anyplace that tears up a road and then only repaves half of it? And don’t think you’re going to go work on your nollie kickflip anywhere near one of our coveted pickleball courts. You’ll be shot on sight.

I hear a lot of reasons about why we need a skatepark. One of the first is that it gives kids an alternative.

Sometimes they say it. Sometimes they imply it. But what they mean is an alternative to drugs. I want a skatepark as much as anyone and I am confident that a kid who’s thinking about the next swell and the feeble grind he’s gonna do in the bowl can have enough drive to not want to go down the wrong path. But I don’t buy the idea that having a skatepark is going to lessen the opioid epidemic. Sorry, that stuff is everywhere and if a kid is going to start popping pills, it’s not going to matter if he’s skating or not. But that goes for any group of kids. I’m sure if you dug deep into the church choir or a sports team, there are kids “rolling” (check my lingo, man). So I’m not going to use that argument.

Look, if you open something new and “edgy” like a skatepark, it’s going to attract all the kids at first. There will likely be a few problems. But then the kids who are a pain in the ass will eventually find something else to do and someone else to annoy and the people who want to skate will keep skating. It’s so hard to think that it can work in Wildwood, Ocean City, Neptune, Sea Isle and Long Branch, but for some reason, Southern Ocean County can’t figure it out.

If there’s one thing that the LBI region has proven in the last 15 years it’s that we have a great surf community. And in case anyone needs this pointed out, surfing and skating are pretty tightly connected. There will always be folks who shudder at the thought of all those boisterous kids in one place, but in 2019, the skater stereotype is about as outdated as “Knight Rider.” I mean, David Hasselhoff talking into his watch? Who the hell would ever talk into a watch?

OK. Bad example.

With everything that surfers have been involved in with the greater community, how have we not been able to get a skatepark? How is it that other towns can get grants, design parks and get them built without incident, and we can’t?

So why Stafford? Well, to start, it’s a town of 26,000 people, far more than any other municipality in the area. It’s 55 square miles with all sorts of parks and open space. And it’s quite literally connected to LBI, home of eight thriving surf shops with a great little underground skating presence. Stafford has the infrastructure and there are plenty of areas that have high enough elevation so that flooding isn’t an issue.

Cannavo told me that it came up at the last Stafford Council meeting and there was some discussion about digging up the old park, which was filled in by the town back in 2007.

I may actually start a petition against that idea. The Ocean Acres park was so bad it was actually depressing. I remember going there to skate and just getting so frustrated with the terrible transitions and lines that I would just drive to Philly or some other park over an hour away. Build a new one, in the same spot. Pick a new spot and build a great bowl with a skate plaza. Hell, build it on a floating dock off Beach Haven West. But please don’t dig up that awful, awful park.

And to any kids, families or groups that are going to push for a skatepark for the 29th time, I will keep the conversation going here in Liquid Lines. But let’s work toward a good skatepark. Because we’ve come a long way and we really do need one.

A TAKE OF TWO SWELLS: Seems the last few weeks have been a science class in waveology. Think that’s funny? Local surfer Dave Werner has been teaching a course called the Science of Forecasting Waves for the last three years at Stockton University. In 2019, you can literally get college credits for learning waveology. But Werner could do a whole semester on wave period and the different swells produced by different storm tracks from what we’ve had in September with a few very different examples.

To explain this is to understand what wave period is – the distance between waves measured at a stationary point. Surfers around the world get excited about longer period swells because they tend to make certain breaks better. But surfers around the world generally have more points and reefs. We don’t have points and reefs, so for the most part, LBI does better on shorter period swells. Windswells tend to be shorter period and work much better on our sandbars. Our coastline just doesn’t have any irregularities.

On Sept. 6, Hurricane Dorian passed just offshore of New Jersey with stiff northeast winds and huge seas. The winds were northwest on Saturday, Sept. 7 and the swell registered 7 foot at 10 seconds, dropping to 9 seconds by the afternoon. The surf was about as perfect as it gets here, breaking on pretty much every street.

Last Friday, Hurricane Humberto passed hundreds of miles offshore. We got no weather and the winds went offshore by morning. The swell registered a similar 7 foot at 12 to 14 seconds. And while there were a few spots that got very good, most of the Island closed out all day. Again, a few spots were handling it, but it was not a truly epic swell (unless you went on Instagram – it’s always epic on Instagram).

We had two hurricanes in the same month that produced similar sized swell. But the difference was how close they came to our shoreline and the swell period. Optimal storm paths are the ones that bring storms right up our coast. In most cases, the closer the better.

So Humberto was the big story last week. The swell peaked on Friday with a lot of teeth. As mentioned above, there were broken boards and broken hearts. Saturday was the Jetty Clam Jam, which started out with 3- to 4-foot surf and dropped to 2- to 3-foot. The morning was marginal with a lot of closeouts and offshore winds. The afternoon suffered south winds.

The wind mostly died Saturday night and was very light Sunday morning with a small leftover wave before the south wind came up. Monday was a full blowout, but it did put some south windswell in the water for Tuesday morning when we started getting groundswell from Tropical Storm Jerry. While it was weird at daybreak, the morning session turned out to be very good with peeling shoulder-high rights and barrels. It’s been some time since regularfoots had a chance to put on the gas frontside and do some turns. And again, this was a result of a combination of windswell and groundswell, with the previous day’s windswell clocking 4-foot at 6 seconds and a secondary swell that was 2.5 at 11, which is why it was so good. During the day, the groundswell became more prevalent.

But it sure has been a good month. We’ve had five named storms in a matter of 10 days and now we’ll be looking at Tropical Storm Karen and a system that just came off Africa. Let’s keep the fun going.

FRESHWATER PRO NEWS: Brazil’s Gabe Medina has won the 2019 Outerknown Freshwater Pro at the Surf Ranch in LeMoore, Calif. Kelly Slater, who developed the wave, took 11th.

Normally this wouldn’t make our local news, but we have to discuss this for a moment precisely because no one is discussing it. In fact, no one that I know cares that Medina won. Barely anyone is talking about the contest.

Did we see some progression in aerial surfing this year?


But shouldn’t we expect that? It’s a perfect wave that breaks the same time after time. (I might add that the down time while the wave sets up again is brutal to watch.) The best surfers in the world better be able to take advantage of that. How are we not seeing switch stance tubes to double backflips yet?

For as mind blowing as the Slater wave pool was when we first saw it, it’s almost like the surf world is already bored with it. I’m certainly not the first to point out that without the spontaneity of the ocean and a surfer’s ability to react, surfing a machine gets pretty dull.

We were told this would be the future of surfing. Maybe it’s not.

SO HAPPENING: Have we ever seen a September this gorgeous? I feel like recent Septembers have been marred with a lot of northeast wind and some rain-outs. We’ve been riding on nothing but gorgeous weekends going right through the summer. The ocean is still about 70 degrees and there’s nothing in the forecast that shows it dropping. In fact, the coming 10 days look about as perfect as it gets.

Congratulations to the ladies of the Makeshift Union on what was another amazing Maker’s Fest with 181 crafters. Sure, the weather played a big role, but the vibe they’ve created at Manahawkin Lake is pretty special. Hopefully the Clam Jam doesn’t fall on the same day as Maker’s Fest again.

Surf events may be slowing down, but that just makes time for free surfs and community events. September’s magic rolls right into October.

This weekend is kind of quiet after last weekend, but the local restaurants will kick into high gear for Merchant’s Mart Saturday, Oct. 5 and the Chowderfest Cook-Off Sunday, Oct. 6 in Beach Haven. This year’s big weekend will get a big colorful exclamation point thanks to another Fantasy Island Fireworks Spectacular on Saturday night, Oct. 5.

For all you board collectors and bargain hunters, Brighton Beach Surf Shop will have its Fall Board Swap on Oct. 5 starting at 9 a.m. for all the folks headed down to Chowderfest. These swaps are always a good chance to score vintage, used and stand-up boards and it’s always free to sell and trade your gear.

If you’re into taking in some phenomenal longboarding, Vans is having its exciting Duct Tape Classic in Rockaway Beach, Oct. 3-6. This contest came about nine years ago as an alternative to the WSL’s Pro Longboard Tour. Today, it’s far more popular and features the best classic longboard riders on the planet with a full art/skate/surfboard shaping festival to accompany it. It might be worth the drive.

Saturday, Oct. 12 is the second annual Shellabration. In case you haven’t had enough of celebrating bivalves, this event at Bayview Park with food, beer, wine, music, oysters, demonstrations and family fun is raising money for the Oyster Recycling Program, which is bringing wild oysters back to our bay.


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