Liquid Lines

‘Dudes, Brahs, Strobers and Koko,’ Six Decades of LBI Surf Conversations

Over 60 Years, We More or Less Still Want the Same Thing
By JON COEN | Jun 12, 2019
Photo by: St. Lawrence Not a perfect day, not a perfect wave. But Shawn Casey did line up a chunky turn last Thursday. Nice umbrella placement, too.

First light will be before 5 a.m. this week. It won’t be completely dark until 9 p.m. That’s a lot of daylight for doing all the Island-y summer things we love to do.

It occurred to me recently that surfers my age are about to start our 30th summer of waveriding. If you’ve ever heard the saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” well, it’s pretty accurate. Because the Island has changed significantly. One might argue it has changed more in the last 10 years than the 30 years before that.

But the other night at dinner, a friend was saying that no other coastal areas have the community that we do. And as the Island changes physically – as buildings get higher, mini golfs get bigger, businesses change names and hands – the things most of us want are still the same things we wanted two, four or six decades ago. Obviously, everyone has more responsibilities – kids and/or grandkids, mortgages, careers and whatnot – but we’re designing our lives around the same principles we’ve kept throughout all those years. When you look around, you see folks who’ve made homes as close to the beach as possible. They’ve built amazing businesses that not only profit from but contribute to the coastal lifestyle. They’re raising their kids to do the things we always loved – building skate ramps in the yard (local municipalities, take a hint) getting them into clamming, fishing and crabbing.

I mean if I were to go back in time and chat with your average Islander through the decades on those rare days of good summer waves, what would it sound like? Like if you were to ask in the 1960s, “Hey, how’re you doing?”

“There were some hot waves this morning. I just picked up a nifty new Greg Noll Miki Dora model from Koseff’s and threw it in the back of the Studebaker. We got some really nice waves with Huckleberry and the fellas.”

“That’s cool. What are you doing later?”

“I’m on my way to go clamming now, make a few to hit the diner and then catch that new Bruce Brown movie at the firehouse.”

And in the ’70s if you were to say, “My man, what’s the skinny?”

“It was like a cosmic swell today at Holyoke, man. Sugarbear, Raisin were groovin’. Coco had one wave that looked like Gerry Lopez in Surfer Mag. I just cut my 9’6 Weber down and reshaped it into a 5’11. It’s cool, but I’ve got Chito making me a far-out new board up in Barnegat Light. I might even get a leash! Have to practice up for The SandPaper Surf Classic.”

“Right on, my man. What’s happening later?

“I’m on my way over to the Acme. They got me washing dishes over there. My rent’s $200 for the summer. You know, gotta pay ‘the man.’ But we’ll catch you on the flip side. After work we’re gonna catch a buzz, skate Free Spirit and hitchhike to Le Garage to meet Stinkin’ Steve. Some guy named Springsteen from Asbury Park is jamming tonight.”

As lame and Hollywood as “North Shore” was in the ’80s, everyone still watched it, and that conversation would have started with “Hey, brah, what’s the haps?”

“Brah, the waves were bitchin’ this morning. I got this rad new G&S from Freedom, dude. 7-Eleven was a full-on zoo, but that kid Justin Citta was goin’ off. He’s sponsored. Skip and the whole Line Drive crew were out. The water was freezing so I had to wear my new O’Neill Catalyst. Just got a hot pink rashguard, though, so no more surf rash.”

“That’s cool. Hopefully there weren’t any more hypodermic needles and trash. What are you doing later? ‘Hot Summer Nights’ is on ESPN.”

“Oh man. Can you tape it for me? I have to work at Touché. They make me wear a bow tie and this pastel cummerbund thing. It’s so beat. (Actually, “gay” would have been the word – fortunately, we’re past that.) But the money is so good. I’m saving up to buy that used Fiero out in front of Burger 39. I can stick my boards out of the sunroof.”

The flash would have been toned down by the ’90s, but not the attitude.

“What’s up, bro? Nice fish.”

“Duuuuude. This thing worked so epic this morning. We were at the Port Hole last night watching the Weather Channel, and we saw that hurricane moved off Hatteras. We got up at the ass crack. Coffee Shop was firing. We were ripping until the lifeguards kicked us out. We hit up Subbogies for that $2.22 breakfast deal and then went back to Hudson. Randall was out, you know the guy with his hair dyed leopard skin? That dude is gonna go pro. And Ben was busting sick airs.”

“Yeah, I heard he bit some dude’s board. Hey, do you still have my Sublime cassette?”

“Oh yeah, I left it at work. I’m busing tables at the Chegg. I’ll bring it to the Body Language Surf Classic this weekend. Kenny says it’s gonna be a rager … Anyway, I gotta get out of here. This lady keeps calling the cops on us for changing in the street. I mean, I’m wearing a towel. What’s her problem? Ever since that guy pooped in that shower on Cape May Ave., that cop with the mustache has been all over us. By the way, sick tribal tattoo, bro.”

There were some big changes brought on by the 2000s, thanks to something called the internet.

“’Sup, dude? Hey, is that the new Face to Face CD?”

“Whaaaassaaaaap! Yeah, we saw them at the Troc last week. The pit was insane. I’ll burn you a copy.”

“Cool. Burn me the new NOFX, too. How was Two Five this morning?”

“Oh bro, So sick. Surfline said it was gonna be two to four, but there were some head-high dredgers. Then we had tacos at Luker’s new place.”

“I’m stoked to surf later when the wind switches. My Channel Island Flyer is feeling a little waterlogged. I want to trade it in for a Flyer II at Farias. But they’re $600 bucks. Might have to pick up some more shifts at the Surf City Hotel, but I don’t know if I can take one more Sunday with Jackie Vee and Paul Presto.”

“Oh yeah, I was in Farias the other day. They have some shirts from those Jetty guys. I like supporting a local company, but I don’t know how long they’re gonna last printing all their own stuff.”

“We’ll see. I’m gonna surf in that Clam Jam contest. I guess they pick your partner for you. I haven’t surfed in a contest in 13 years. ... Call me later.”

“Cool. Let me see how many minutes I have on my cell plan.”

And then there’s the conversation earlier in the 2010s.

“Buddy, how was it this morning?”

“We checked it all over. Leeward looked fun, but the tide was too high. The Wood was packed. Ever since those guys posted that video on their website, everyone is down here. We wanted to check Cumby’s, but they just dredged Cedars and ruined the break. The sand was set up pretty good at the Gator, so we got a few strobers. I rode that Lib Tech from Island Surf and Sail. It’s so sick.”

“That’s cool, man. I was watching it on the cam earlier.”

“There’s a surf cam now? Oh, man. That street is gonna get so crowded. Let’s hook up later. You have to check out my place and shaping my own boards. I’m building a pallet wall.”

“No way, you got your own place?”

“Nah. Rent’s too expensive. My parents raised their house, so I’m making the garage my own apartment. Don’t tell the township.”

And of course the convo today, via personal messenger:

@tubegroover93: sup

@ilovecats: dude, did you see @wavebandit story

@tubegroover93: LMAO.

@ilovecats: Rip that thing

@tubegroover93: Where was @Yewville shooting?

@ilovecats: dunno. Secret. Looked lit.

@tubegroover: Imma go to that new spot @birdandbettyslbi with bae and check it out

@ilovecats: dad making u work this summa?

@tubegroover: Im makin a phone app that puts whiskers and ears on your Uber driver’s face. Gonna sell it for a few million and be set

@ilovecats: Bruh? OMG.

@ilovecats: #adulting.

PERKY PATTERN: There’ve been some ups and downs with the surf, but overall a decent showing for June. We had a moderate system pass through last Wednesday that created a little swell for Thursday. This one certainly gets some mixed reviews with southerly winds in the morning and some periods of southwest wind. There was fog and a swampy high tide mid-morning. But somewhere between the tides and the wind shift, I heard a few positive reports, mostly from the north end.

Friday was something of a surprise if you got on it early. The swell was half the size, but it was actually breaking better. And the north/northwest wind was mostly clean for some unexpected little lines before the wind came up from the north.

It didn’t really build much swell on Friday or Saturday, but it did help the ocean jump up 7 degrees. Keep in mind it sometimes takes the ocean a full month to come up 7 degrees.

By Sunday the wind was kicking up pretty good, and there were some legitimate sets up to shoulder high. The drift wasn’t bad, and it was warm. I snuck out in a short-sleeved full for a bit. And although it was haggard and windy, there were still a few peaks, and the against-the-grain rights offered some fast drops. At the very least, it was a chance to get yourself into some chunky waves. We can’t be too sure what summer will bring, so anything over waist high is a reason to paddle out right now. Not to mention it’s far more enticing to surf warm slop than cold soup.

The swell dropped a bit on Monday, but the weather system came through, and Tuesday morning was again clean. This was a pretty disappointing swell as the original forecast was for 3- to 5-foot and the prediction dropped through Saturday and Sunday. By Monday night you could tell there wasn’t going to be a ton of swell, and Tuesday was waist high at best. It eventually went northwest, but small and weak.

Looking ahead, we could see a very similar system come through for Thursday and a clean-up on Friday, so stay limber. This kind of swell will be our bread and butter for the next few weeks until the tropics start popping off.

DUDE, THE DUNES: The dunes are pretty magically green right now, and the beach plums are in full bloom. There is nothing better than color between the streets and the beach. But I really have to point out a phenomenon that I am seeing on Island beaches, albeit some more than others.

The entire Island has had new dunes built up as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 50-year plan (we’re now almost 15 years in, if you can believe that) to replenish the beaches of LBI. While surfers, swimmers and beachgoers don’t always like the shape of the beach and sandbar post-project (I’ve only written about it 800 times), I think we can all agree that the dunes are necessary if we’re going to continue to live here. And by the looks of development, no one is going anywhere anytime soon.

But the last year or so has seen a “new” primary dune developing eastward of the toe of the engineered dune. It’s sand that has accrued naturally, and new dune grass is starting to grow on its own. Again, I am not seeing this everywhere, but specifically mid-Island the dunes are growing eastward.

Take a look when you’re headed down the ramp this weekend. In many spots you will see the dune fence that was erected is now almost buried by new sand and the growth of “sea oats.” In fact, many plants growing on this new, natural dune are actually doing better than the plants that were specifically planted after replenishment. I would have to imagine that a wider dune system would facilitate the dune growing in height as well, which would be another bonus.

There was a time some of the publics works crews were beach-raking over anything green that was east of the dune fence. Whoever made the decision to let that grow is doing the whole Island a favor; those dunes are our best protection from storms. No, they won’t do anything to protect from bay flooding, but if we see the Atlantic breach the dunes, it’s a very bad scenario. I suspect the lack of strong nor’easters last winter has something to do with the quick formation. These new dunes could continue to grow, and the beaches are generally so wide right now that they’re not going to take up any towel space.

On an island that takes its lumps from Ma Nature, this is a bit of good news.

STUFF AND HAPS: It’s been pretty cool for June. I don’t know about you, but I’m in no hurry to hit triple digits. And while there’s been some snot in the weather, the weekends have been uncharacteristically wonderful. Things are still pleasantly quiet around the Island; we won’t get into hyper speed until the last week of June. That said, there is plenty happening to keep us busy.

For the last few weeks I have been mentioning the Memorial Paddleout for New Jersey surf legend Richard Lisiewski. Brighton Beach Surf Shop will have its annual Board Swap this Saturday, June 15, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The paddleout will be at 4:30 for anyone interested. As of early week, the seas look calm and the weather looks great to honor Richard.

South-End Surf ’N Paddle is readying for a busy season. It kicks off summer with Shapefest on June 29, featuring shapers from all over the country and boards by Clean Ocean Surf, Donald Takayama, Pine Knot, Queen City and Stoke. The big festivities are Saturday night when The Ellameno Beat plays. This will be its fifth year in a row playing at the shop. And if you want to see how surfboards are made, this is the place.

The shop will host free ukelele lessons every Tuesday, and Movie Night Thursdays, starting in July. July 13 is also the seventh annual LBI Paddle Classic at Bayview Park.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hopefully we’re able to honor all the fathers who pushed us into our first waves, baited our first hooks and taught us about ospreys and secret clamming holes. These are long days. Do what we’ve always done: enjoy them.

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