Liquid Lines

Annual Easing of the Pressure; All Eyes on Dorian

Feeling Local Summer Magic Though Hurricane Moves North
By JON COEN | Sep 03, 2019
Photo by: Shawn Casey BEAUTIFUL DAY: Last week’s combo of the cleaning, northeast swell and Extra Tropical Storm Erin provided a few moments of brilliance to end the summer. This moment was brilliantly captured by Shawn Casey.

Surf City — I’m selling all of my beach badges. I hear there’s still another month of beach weather, so if you want them, hit me up. I’ll give you a deal.

Something feels different this week. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Something feels lighter. As I navigated the Ship Bottom Circle on Monday afternoon in less than a half-hour, the air seemed a little less humid. There’s almost a feeling that a weight has been lifted.

It’s as if this week, I’m talking to a different audience. Anyone else know what I mean?

It’s as if there’s a whole group of people who have been (thankfully) reading The SandPaper for the last ten weeks that have up and left our fine shores and are now sitting in a hot parking lot outside some sporting event somewhere.

Like life, summer is short. And I can’t help but think that maybe I lost the opportunity to tell those people a few things. We should let people know how we feel about them before they’re gone.

For instance, I might tell some of those folks that it’s much safer to walk, or ride bikes, on the side of the road, rather than the middle when there’s a car coming. And that goes for everyone, from 5-year-olds with training wheels to the Spandex crews on $3,500 titanium road bikes. Just to reiterate, the middle of the road is dangerous.

I also might compliment all the dads who wanted to show their irreverent, fun-loving side this summer by buying a cool pair of checkered Vans after so many years of Under Armor running shoes and Topsiders. But just a little hint, fellas: You’re not supposed to wear them with athletic ankle socks.

Also, if you’re flying a Keep America Great flag outside the “shore house,” you’re letting everyone know you support dropping nuclear bombs to thwart hurricanes. Because that’s a literal idea that came out of the Oval Office.

Other than that, I would just tell those people that we mostly had an awesome time with them this summer, and that we’ve got some fantastic things for you to come back for in September and beyond.

I assume that if you’re still here, you’re not doing much of anything. And you shouldn’t be. You should be kicked back in a hammock, or casually hiding your beverage of choice in a beer coozie on the beach.

The last five years, the New Jersey Shore and LBI have been doing record numbers. It’s not just about money. It’s that we’ve worked to create an experience for visitors. We know how to hustle. From early indications, and the fact that we didn’t have even one rainy washout weekend, it’s safe to say that we have continued the trend. So great job for every table bussed, every kid pulled out of a rip, every bed made, spin class taught, ice cream sundae served, boat waxed, bike repaired, house sold, air conditioner fixed and kitchen fire extinguished. So here’s one last “Happy Labor Day!”

SUMMER SWELL WRAP: This summer was not one of epic swell, but you can’t exactly say it was flat, either. And it certainly ended with quite a bit of excitement, which is how summers tend to end. If you add up all the accumulated swell energy of last week, it was more than we had in the prior four months.

The run of swell kicked off with a dry nor’easter and three days of sloppy swell. While the stiff northeast wind didn’t make for great conditions, pretty much everyone with a board went out for a surf at some point, just to feel the power of the swell in a duck dive; or to find one or two big, peaky waves out there among the slop and chop. It was drifty, disorganized and mostly frustrating. But any time you have overhead surf in the summer, it’s worth getting out in the water.

This swell wasn’t followed by offshore winds, the way nor’easters do in the off-season. But on Wednesday night, the wind did lay down, making some very good waves, especially on the South End.

Thursday was highly anticipated as well, as we were forecasted to have the leftovers of the north swell combined with extra Extra Tropical Storm Erin, a smallish system that formed off the southeast coast and made a quick dash through our swell window to the Canadian Maritimes. And all of this would coincide with offshore winds.

So, needless to say, after only about four hours this summer of surf higher than three-foot that had offshore winds, we were pumped.

Thursday morning was marred by some north-northwest winds and super high tide. Friday was the new moon; so much of late last week saw extremely high tides. (That, coupled with the days of onshore winds stacking water up into the bay, caused flooding through the storm drains on the South End of the Island. Take a moment to understand that: flooding, without rain.)

There were some good waves, though, to be had Thursday morning on the extreme ends of the Island that do better on north winds. Most of the Island had to wait out the tide. By afternoon, the Erin swell started showing up and the wind went straight offshore.

Unfortunately, between the way the sandbar had morphed from the nor’easter, and possibly the angle of the swell, it was a lot of close outs. Some of those lips were slamming down onto the shelf pretty hard at low tide. But if you were creative and flexible, you likely found a few peaks that were much better than most of the small, summer stuff.

There were leftovers on Friday, though not very good. Saturday was small and very much onshore. The swell came up on Sunday, but again, it was mostly junk. It’s safe to say that while Labor Day weekend is normally a great time to be a surfer, this wasn’t the best one we’ve had. But nonetheless, a final last hurrah was had by all.

FROM GORY TO GLORY: What a difference a track can make. After a notably dull tropical season, the engine slowly turned over. Within a week, all systems were firing. Just like that, Tropical Storm Dorian became Cat 5 Hurricane Dorian. There is no such thing as a Cat 6 hurricane.

Our 45th president said he’s never heard of a Cat 5 hurricane. He also warned Alabama would be hit. And you can’t really blame him, because there have only been four of them to affect the U.S. since he became president. And Alabama and the Gulf Coast had been out of the forecasted track for days.

Then he played golf.

But regardless of his poor memory and geography, this thing was a beast. From a purely scientific point-of-view, it was astounding, a perfectly symmetrical spinner with a sharply defined eyewall. But this storm has been an absolute menace and is still battering the Southeast as The SandPaper hits the streets.

From our relatively dry and safe New Jersey vantage point, we watched as Dorian formed with a forecasted track taking it directly into the Florida Coast. This was kind of a worst-case scenario for all East Coasters, as it looked like very minimal waves and maximum damage. We love hurricanes, but if there was never a landfalling hurricane again, it would be too soon. The thing looked like it was going to saw Florida in half.

But as we got into Labor Day weekend, the forecast started to show a northerly curve, first to plow into Georgia and then basically mirror the coast with its path. And then the model runs started to show it kicking off the Carolina coast and out to sea. We went from total bummer to a cautious optimism leveling on full stoke.

The reality will likely be somewhere in between. No one wants to see storms decimate the neighborhoods of coastal brethren. And Dorian, even as she was downgraded to a Cat 3, will likely have a grave path of destruction. Parts of the Bahamas will be recovering for years, if not decades. And the slow-moving nature of the storm prolonged the troubles for the Southeast.

Whether there is destruction or not, it does seem that Dorian will provide swell for New Jersey. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when, yet looking ahead, it would seem we are going to get some northeast winds generated between Dorian and high pressure over land. Then, as Dorian passes, well offshore, we should see clean up. Again, there’s a lot that can happen between now and then, but that seems to be where the models take us.

We can only hope that she has stayed off the Southeast coast enough to spare Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. And even though it doesn’t look like she will be visiting us very closely, please be very careful this week. Swimmers, take note of red flag warnings. Surfers with less experience should also be wary.

WELCOME TO LOCAL SUMMER: Hope everyone enjoyed Tumbleweed Tuesday. Take a breather. Just know that there’s not a whole lot of down time, however, as we get into our ever-growing list of fall events.

Since school starts this week, it’s a good time to announce that any interested Southern Regional surfers who might want to check out the school surf team should meet at Ms. Rist’s room on Sept. 9 at 2:05 p.m. The requisite swim test will be at Bayview Park in Brant Beach on Sept. 11 at 3 p.m.

Rist has been the surf team faculty advisor now for about 10 years. Surf City pro/Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol Captain Randy Townsend has been coaching the last several years, as well. Townsend says there are some surfers recovering from injuries but all in all, they should have a better squad this season.

Now let’s talk Jetty Clam Jam, our annual team surf event that we’ve all come to know and love. Registration is open and already filling up. Team Selection Night is Friday, Sept. 6 at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House in Manahawkin. This is where, in following tradition, all of the surfers’ names are put on clamshells and teams are paired at random, each with one older and one younger surfer.

This event will run on a to be announced weekend day with suitable waves, starting in less than two weeks. Generally, the Jetty crew looks for a day that will have some kind of wave from start to finish (which is much tougher than it sounds.) The first potential date would be Sept. 14 or 15. It could possibly run Sept. 21 or 22. After that, there are weekends that it will not run, one of those being Chowderfest. The window period would pick up again on Oct. 12 or 13, and so on. It sure would be nice to have a tropical swell in mid-September.

If you’re interested in watching some professional surfing, the Belmar Pro is Sept. 12-15 in Monmouth County. This once was more of a draw for LBI, as we had a good number of surfers competing and some local sponsors involved. Now it’s mostly a chance to take in the scene and watch some super, high-level surfing.

The following weekend, Sept. 21 is Maker’s Fest, an event that has grown exponentially and brings an amazing amount of creativity, music and food to Manahawkin Lake Park on North Main Street (Route 9).

Merchant’s Mart and Chowderfest are Oct. 4 and 5. The Fly LBI International Kite Festival is Oct. 11-13.

Plan accordingly, and fall can be just as much fun as summer.

Let’s hope the rest of the coast is spared, and everyone be safe.

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