Liquid Lines

An Epic Coquina Jam, Inspiring Paddlers, and Are You Living Summer to the Fullest?

Summer Will Be Gone in the Blink of an Eye
By JON COEN | Jul 31, 2019
Photo by: Dan Przygocki Sunday’s Jetty Coquina Jam was the biggest surf event ever held on LBI. With great surf and high fives all around, it raised over $35,0000 for David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation.

Surf City — Did you have a soft shell sandwich this week? Did you swim or surf in 78-degree water?

Did you go offshore fishing or maybe crab off your dock? Did you ride your bike to a local concert? Did you eat ice cream as the sun set at 8:15?

Did you wake up early, paddle a few miles, throw down a pitaya bowl, hit up the Alliance for a Living Ocean Critter Round up, run across hot sand, have the incoming tide claim your sandals, suck down a White Claw in the outside shower, tend to a mild sunburn, enjoy a first-class fish dinner in flip-flops, meet your friends at the back bar, do something you kind of regret, pass out in a booth at the Chegg, get up early for a long work day and hashtag it all #summerlife?

If the answer is yes, or some variation of that, then you’re already taking full advantage of summer. Keep it up, because summer is short.

If the answer is no, then you are not taking full advantage of summer. Step it up, because summer is short.

To be fair, there are plenty of overworked local business owners and employees who have the countdown on to September. But even they’ll take the time to chase butterflies through the mustard grass come “Local Summer.” (That might not be a metaphor …)

But here’s the thing to consider: Every one of those activities will be completely off the table in a few short months and you’ll be wishing you’d gotten up earlier, hiked a little farther, and rocked a little louder.

Here’s how the year breaks down on Long Beach Island. Fall is fleeting. It’s an amazingly comfortable time. It used to be a sudden drop-off. But these days, weekends can still be bustling with all the events. The first chill feels novel. Flannels are comfy, and wetsuits still have that new wetsuit smell. We ring in the holidays the first week of December with the Ship Bottom Christmas Parade, so the entire month is somewhat of a sugar cookie blur.

We start Jan. 1 with some kind of outdoor activity, a beach walk, perhaps a surf if there are waves before the sun goes down at 3:30. January gets bitterly cold with biting wind chills. Life comes to a halt (except at The Local, where that fire pit is a warming sign of life). The busty pirate wench statue outside the Buccaneer Motel starts to look kind of cute. Hmmm, wonder if she’s dating anyone …

By February we usually have a few big swells and snowstorms, enjoyed by everyone who doesn’t have some viral plague running through the household. Then comes March and April, two seemingly benign months that stretch into a grueling 40 rainy weeks. Weary from winter, we start looking for signs of spring. But those are hard to come by. And just when we think we’ve made some progress, Old Man Winter plays another cold, nasty trick on us. As we get into May, it’s ironic that we get consumed with prepping for summer while it still feels like winter.

We have a few nice days before Memorial Day hits like a brick to the face. But even as we shake that off, we’re glad it’s here. There’s a few quick weeks of June, then that big 4th of July ordeal. When you finally get a second to sit on the beach, you nod off in your beach chair. It’s only a short nap, but when you wake up the lifeguard stands are gone. It’s September.

That’s how quick summer goes.

I’ve had the same conversation with so many people here this week. It’s August? What? Where did July go? One of my friends who manages a restaurant was trying to make a schedule and a lot of his employees are already dropping off. While there are still kids who understand that August sweat translates into winter funds, what used to be taking off a long weekend before going back to school has become a month for many. But despite differences in work ethics, how can we possibly be having this conversation already?

Let me preface this next part by saying I have ridden Burton snowboards exclusively for almost 20 years. It’s not so much that I have technical preferences, but they make quality boards, they share my ethics for environmental responsibility and they’ve always stood behind their boards and outerwear. I use my Burton backpack every single day and it holds up fantastic.

And yeah, Burton’s whole year is based on winter, but if I were a kid I would definitely be taking issue with their marketing email that went out on July 18 touting “Lifetime Warranty on Back to School Gear.”

Back to school? July 18? Summer goes fast enough. Who the hell needs to speed it up? Certainly not anyone who’s going back to school, be it fourth grade or their PhD.

So here we sit at a crucial time in the summer. There are only 33 days left until Labor Day and maybe seven weeks of summer/local summer weather. Make it count.

COQUINA FOREVER: If you were at the Jetty Coquina Jam on Sunday, you were part of history. That was the biggest beach/surf event in the history of LBI. I had to do a lot of research to support that statement, poring over years and years of data. I mean, I dug deep.

I asked Jack Bushko.

“Yep. Biggest one,” his curly gray locks and sunburned face told me.

Jack has seen every beach event on the Island for the last 45 years. He confirmed it.

I assumed maybe there had been a lifeguard tourney or ’60s surf contest, but the 11th annual Coquina Jam, with perfect weather and 2- to 4-foot surf was the biggest ever.

Not to mention, Jetty raised $35,000 for David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, which is going directly to New Jersey families battling that disease as you’re reading this.

In what has been a mostly terrible summer of waves thus far, the ocean came alive with some southeast swell on Sunday. Winds weren’t ideal early, but there was enough west in it early for some really good conditions.

The crowd was massive. It’s fantastic to see so much support for women surfing and David’s Dream & Believe. And the even though Mia Gallagher and Katie Imswiler from Ocean City and Newport, R.I., respectively, surfed awesome and won the event, the locals still stole the show.

Mary Tantillo, of SwellColors Gallery, made the final. She’s been surfing the Coquina since its inception and is a role model for the young girls as far as starting a business to support yourself and keeping surfing in your life.

Mary Frack of Barnegat was the absolute crowd favorite. At 65 and also having surfed every Coquina Jam, she caught the best wave of each heat and surfed it to the sand as the beach erupted with support.

It’s always good to have Beach Haven native Jamie DeWitt home from Florida. She was one of the top female surfers in the world back in her amateur days and has won plenty of pro events. She didn’t find the right waves early in her first round heat and then when she locked into a beefy lefthander, we were all excited to see how well she would carve it up. However, there was another competitor inadvertently in her way paddling out and she ditched so as to not slice the other girl in half. That likely cost her the heat, but she spent the rest of the day graciously hanging out with everyone and will always be an icon of female surfing in New Jersey.

Sophie Beyer, who watched this even as a little girl, was surfing extremely well and toward the end of her third round heat, paddled to the inside to help her partner, young Isla Carvajal of Manahawkin, get a wave.

Other companies don’t run events like this. Not every community supports them. It was a fantastic day all around.

WAVES, WIND, WHATNOT: As mentioned above, this has not been a fantastic summer for surf. The pair of south swells we had a week ago Tuesday and last Sunday were the highlights with a little bit of swell in between. The start of this week has been marred by relentless south winds that not only made for sloppy conditions but are keeping the water temps down. The whole season has been marked by pretty erratic temp swings and while we’re usually in the clear by early August, I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see more upwelling.

Fortunately, we’re looking at pretty light winds and welcomed cleaner conditions for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but no significant swell to speak of. We won’t be totally flat, however, and pretty much any session in the summer is worth getting.

Keep an eye out for a continuation of that super-long period swell arriving from the South Atlantic. We’ve discussed this for the last two weeks, massive storms that move between South America and South Africa. The swells have to travel thousands of miles, so when they get here, they’re tiny, but they keep us from full Lake Atlantic conditions.

While there is nothing specific worth monitoring in the tropics, this is the time of year when we do see a substantial difference in activity. By a rough estimate, we see more than twice as much Atlantic tropical energy in August as we do in July. Again, there is no particular area to watch, but in general, there are general conditions that have inhibited development to this point that are signaled to change.

CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP: If ever there was a thick of it, we are in it. This time of year, I find it amazing that there are weeks in the winter where I struggle to find any gathering worth mentioning in this part of Liquid Lines. Here goes:

Two Island paddlers/surfers just traveled to Hawaii to paddle the famed Molukai 2 Oahu race across the Molukai Channel. Beach Haven’s Lifeguard in Training instructor Chris Esebill and Barnegat Light’s 15-year-old Hugh Shields both completed the legendary crossing on Sunday. This is a bucket list-type achievement. Esebill lives and teaches in Pennsylvania much of the year and actually did some of his training on the Schuylkill River. Shields is actually still a lifeguard in training himself and this is a tremendous feat for a 15-year-old. It will be exciting to see where he takes his passion. Congrats to both guys.

Tonight (Wednesday) is the Season Three, Episode Two premiere of Just Beneath the Surface, starting at 8:30 at Fantasy Island, playing on the big screen and entry is free.

On Friday night from 5 to 9, Mary Tantillo of SwellColors Gallery in Surf City will present “Ember,” her latest body of work that will take six years to complete. She currently has 90 new pieces to show.

“I’m creating a sun/nature inspired panel for every day of the year. Ember was designed this winter and is about stoking internal fire,” she told me this week.

From 6 to 9 that night, “Northside” Jim Vernhagen will present “An Island Without Us Art + Science” show at the Ann Coen Gallery. Vernhagen is an incredibly colorful conservationist and photographer (just don’t call him that) and a trusted, experienced advocate for wildlife science and management. This event will showcase his art and expertise. All profits from the sale of Jim’s work will benefit the Little Egg Foundation and support their research along the coast of New Jersey.

That same night is the Sun Dog Fashion Show on the roof of daddy O hotel in Brant Beach to show off the summer collection along with their sister label, Yaatree. Entry is free with a suggested donation of $10. All proceeds will benefit David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation

Aug. 8 is Ladies Night at Farias Surf and Sport in Ship Bottom (although men are welcome too),  6 to 9 p.m. O’Neill will host a night of fun where they provide some scents to make your own scrub bar, light bites and cool libations. Funny to think that 20 years ago, a surf promo meant a bunch of pro surfers stumbling around the bars of your town.

The next surf event is the 11th annual ALO LBI Longboard Classic on the 17th Street beach in Ship Bottom. Registration for the men’s division is now full for this event, which continues to grow every year. There is also a ladies’ division, kids, and the tandem, which is a fan favorite.

The final paddle race of the summer is likely to be the Barnegat Bay Challenge, which is usually the week before Labor Day.

So the choice is yours. You can while away your summer looking at Face App photos of how your friends will look as they get into their bedpan years or you can get the hell up and paddle a kayak around LBI, read a great book, build something in the backyard, do an ice cream parlor crawl of LBI. Make it the best damn summer since Gordie, Vern, Chambers and Teddy went looking for that dead body. Because winter is long.


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