Liquid Lines

Loss of a Beach Haven Legend, Surfline Sessions and a Lot of a Little

Surfline Rolls Out a New Feature That Might Blow Your Mind
By JON COEN | Aug 14, 2019
Photo by: Ann Coen Way overhead and possibly the best moment of the 2019 Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic, 8-year-old Niko Sanchez finds a bomb en route to the juniors final.

Surf mags are kinda dead, and that’s a bummer.

And while there’s still a daily tornado of surfing content online, it’s not the same as getting that mag in the mail, or off the newsstand, or picking it up at 7-Eleven and reading it while sitting on the sidewalk, back to the brick wall, sucking down a Slurpee. I’m especially bummed because I used to write for some of them.

Luckily, social media hasn’t fully killed surf websites. One of the websites I have been fortunate enough to write for over the years is Surfline. They’ve given me assignments on monster East Coast swells, New Jersey surf contests, a company that makes surfboard bags out of recycled billboards, the Red Bull Icebreak surf contest in Canada, and anything else that no one wants to cover from the office in California. I’ve gotten to know some of the folks there and I’m still friends with many of them to this day.

For several years they were hitting me up about getting a surf cam on LBI.

But I told them we didn’t really need a camera on the Island.

Seaside Heights, Belmar and Ocean City had cameras for years. Frankly, surfers here didn’t really want the rest of the world to know when the waves were good. But from a business standpoint, they were worried that their competitors might be moving in and setting up a bunch of cameras on LBI. I stood firm with Surfline for a few years, politely telling them that this isn’t the kind of place where we need cameras to tell us when to surf.

Look man, LBI is a different kind of place. We’re not like Seaside. Hey, we love those guys, but we don’t need some camera advertising how good the surf is when there’s a south swell and the wind’s northwest…. And we don’t need three million surfers from Ocean City checking our cam. If you want to surf LBI, you have to make the commitment and check it yourself. There’s only one way on and one way off ... and we ….”

Today Surfine has six cameras on LBI. Everyone I know checks all of them.

Honestly, I can’t say that it’s made much difference with the crowds in the water. Guess my estimates were off on that. And yes, even though my desk is about 300 yards from the ocean, I am constantly bringing up those cameras to see how it’s looking from Harvey Cedars to Beach Haven.

And Surfline now has cam rewind. You can go online and actually look at the time you were surfing, pick out your waves and download a file to get your own clip of your own wave.

The cameras are just one component. We’ve watched Surfline grow substantially over the years. Anyone else remember calling 900-976-SURF to get a forecast? They had the first online forecast in the business. Then came the updated reports, buoy readings, over 500 cams worldwide, etc. They developed an app that has the access to all the info on the site. And their forecasters all have meteorology degrees, including Rob Mistifer, who’s from right here on LBI, living on the Outer Banks and now holding it down with Surfline’s East Coast forecasting staff.

I remember having a conversation with the late Sean Collins, the surfer/sailor who founded Wavetrak with his partners in 1985 at the Quick Pro NY. He explained to me how hurricane swells were enhanced by the Hudson Canyon on their way to Long Island. His knowledge was so impressive.

But Surfline’s latest development will blow your mind.

As of two weeks ago, if you’re a Surfline premium member and you have an Apple watch, you can now connect your watch to your Surfline account and pull up your Surfline smartwatch app at the beach. Through your watch’s GPS, the app knows you are in front of the cam. You hit “start.” Then you surf and the camera does its thing, recording the session. Then you hit “stop.”

It’s called Surfline Sessions. And by the time you get back to your car or house, towel off and pick up your phone, Surfline will have gone through all that recorded footage and sent you clips of all of your waves.

That’s some bizzaro futuristic stuff right there.

The whole concept is almost insane, but surfers’ desire to see themselves on a wave can’t be underestimated. The digital age has pulled back the curtain as to how vain even the most soulful surfer is.

Yoga girls posting endless photos of their half-naked booty in suggestive poses paired with some copy/paste Bagavad Gita quote got nothing on surfers who will find any reason to share a photo of themselves. We want our picture taken. We want our waves recorded. And not only that, we want to show the world.

For waverers already going to great lengths to see themselves and show their friends how hard they rip, it’s a game changer. It’s a far cry from when you’d have your buddy half paying attention with a crappy video camera shooting you from the beach.

Mind. Blown.

LOSS OF AN ICON: This week, Long Beach Island lost a legendary waterman in fisherman/surfer Kurt Horensky, who recently lost a hard-fought battle. Horensky was loved by family and friends in Beach Haven. This week, Jack Bushko posted some footage of Horensky surfing Beach Haven in the 1970s and it was a reminder to many of his fantastic style – in surfing and life. In many years of writing about the history of LBI, Horensky’s name has come up over and over. There is already a small anchor and flowers in Kurt’s name at the top of the Holyoke Avenue dune.

“This was a tough one. He and I go back so far. We’d surf Holyoke and then for about ten years, we did some contests, surfed Harvey Cedars and would travel to Puerto Rico for a month together every winter. He had cancer for the last three years and man did he fight it,” Beach Haven builder Dean Harkness told me this week. “He was maybe 140 pounds soaking wet, but he was tough for a little guy.”

Harkness went on to talk about an apartment at the corner of Coral Street and Bay Avenue in Beach Haven nicknamed the Boys Club that he and Horensky lived in with a lively cast of characters where life revolved around surfing and camaraderie.

There will be a paddle-out memorial for Horensky at Holyoke at 8 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 16. That will be followed by a eulogy at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Beach Haven. At noon, there will be a reception at the Marlin and Tuna Club in honor of Horensky. Hawaiian shirts are the dress code for the service. Best to his family, as Beach Haven says good bye to this icon.

A WHOLE LOT OF LITTLE: The summer of 2019 has taken a serious turn for the better. What started as the worst summer in recent memory has turned into a legitimately fun second half of the season. The surf has not been flat for two weeks now.

Again, we haven’t had a day of bombing surf. There have been no huge local storms or hurricane waves, but the surf has been consistently fun. And if you’re able to widen your range of what constitutes “fun” by riding different equipment and/or enjoying time in the water with your family that doesn’t surf outside of summer, then it’s been a festival out there.

With the low tide last week aligning with the morning offshores, there was plenty of opportunity to get waves – and not just on a longboard. Many recent mornings and even some afternoons have been decent on a shorty as well. Last Thursday and Friday were all classic days of summer surf. Saturday was an absolute gem with the wind staying offshore all day for the Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic.

We’ve had consistent 1- to 3-foot surf from a combination of sources including windswell from frontal boundaries, a low-pressure system off the northeast coast and even the super-long-period swell we’ve been discussing in Liquid Lines coming from way out of the Southern Hemisphere.

However, we still have yet to be blessed with that bombing day, that special day of the summer when the surf gets a few feet overhead. And that’s mostly because the tropics have been so quiet.

The last few weeks, there have been subtle signs in a pattern shift in the tropics. For one thing, we’ve had a weak to moderate El Niño pattern. Although most commonly known for its effects in the Pacific, El Niño influences weather all over the world. In our case, it brings winds to the tropical Atlantic. Hurricane season is generally July, August and September, when the trade winds die, allowing storms to form. But with the El Niño pattern, those trade winds have been blowing, inhibiting storm formation, along with several other factors. The result has been only two named storms, both pretty insignificant and neither sending us waves.

But now the meteorology community is in agreement that El Niño is officially phased out. The water on the equator is plenty warm. Conditions are prime for some tropical development, and some of the forecast teams have slightly bumped up their predictions for the meat of the season.

There’s still nothing on the horizon. So, it’s hard to say what we might see. The third week of August is when things tend to kick into high gear historically. The conditions are there. It just has to happen. It’s been known to come on like the flip of a switch, from zero to three named storms in a day.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: There’s been a bit of congestion in the line-up the last few weeks, and I should mention a few things for the sake of everyone who’s trying to stand on a surfboard this summer.

It was kind of strange how no one was surfing at the start of the summer. But August has been a much different story with warm water and consistent small waves. Everyone is out there now … mostly on soft tops, which is a whole other topic.

Now, when there are a lot of newbies in the water, things are pretty relaxed. And they should be. A 6-foot swell in October has a much different tone than a 2-foot Sunday afternoon in August. Serious year-round surfers need to keep this in mind and take the 59 Walmart soft tops, mom-and-grom teams, and surf schools with a grain of salt. Sometimes we just have to let that 1- to 3-footer go so as to not cut someone in half.

I’ve seen some sessions of late that have been full-on free-for-alls. And it can be a really good time when it’s all family and friends. However, it’s our responsibility as surfers and/or parents to explain to kids that not every wave is a party wave. Even when everyone’s out there learning to catch waves and being goofy, we have to show them how it works for their own safety, the safety of others and for the sake of maintaining any kind of order out there.

We don’t need to instill fear (which is how we learned about priority in the ’80s), just some awareness.

That said, we need to be teaching newcomers and kids about how surfing priority works, the simple tenets of surf etiquette. Don’t “drop in.” There is literally about one rule in surfing and that is that the person who has position gets the wave and everyone else has to back off. To put it in simple terms, if the wave is a right, whoever is farthest south has priority and vice-versa.

We don’t need to intimidate little kids or flex on some account exec from Philly who’s out on a board for the second time ever. But as surfers, we can politely educate them. You’d be surprised how receptive people can be when you simply explain your world to them. No need for screaming.

CEDARS NOT FEELING LIKE ITSELF: While the Island has been getting lots of love in every direction the last few weeks, Harvey Cedars has been suspiciously slow.

For many decades, Harvey Cedars and Beach Haven were the places to be on LBI. You learned how to surf in the Township or Ship Bottom and then you went to Cedars for real waves.

Well, the last few weeks has been a little funky up on the North End of LBI, and I’m not really sure why.

It’s pretty easy to see the changes between seasons in the sandbars. And beach replenishment creates radical transformations in the nearshore bathymetry. But Harvey Cedars hasn’t been replenished since last summer. The sandbars returned last fall and we surfed decent waves there all winter. There were solid sandbars on the North End as recently as July.

But the last two weeks have seen those sandbars just disappear. While there has been decent summer swell and waves breaking all over LBI of late, the surf has just been crashing unceremoniously onto the beach on the North End, and I can’t say I know why. Ironically, this is the first summer that surfing has been officially allowed outside of the flags.

This isn’t just a surfing issue. Families who want to swim, bellyboard or bodysurf have been finding there’s no sandbar either, even at the lowest of tides.

We’ll keep an eye on what’s going on. Hopefully a good hurricane swell will snap the North End back into shape.

THINGS A’HAPPENING: Hate to say it, folks, but the summer is winding down. Granted September and October are the pinnacle of LBI living, but when summer’s days are numbered, it’s always a reminder to get out and do the things we love that won’t be an option for the next 10 months.

Here’s a reminder that Vans ambassadors, the Gudauskas brothers, will be at Farias on Thursday, Aug. 15 en route to their Stoke-O-Rama surf contest at Manasquan Inlet on the 17th. They will be at the Ship Bottom location, serving hot waffles from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. And those boys have some fun toppings for your waffles!

This isn’t necessarily watersports related, but I think a lot of readers are into sustainability, and the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences and the Lighthouse International Film Festival will bring “The Biggest Little Farm” to the Foundation this Friday at 7:30 p.m. It chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. The film is said to be fantastic, as they uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm. There’s a $5 donation at the door that will benefit Sassafras Hill Farm and Soul to Soil, the two business partners on this screening.

On Sunday, Aug. 25, a local nonprofit called Waves of Strength will hold its first-ever Special Needs Surf Experience at the 68th Street beach in Long Beach Township (which is wheelchair accessible.) The idea is to give kids in the LBI area with special needs, disability or underprivileged circumstances a chance at a fun and encouraging surf lesson.

If you want to register a child, there are a few days left. Honestly, when word of events like this gets out, parents jump right on them. There will be no problem filling the event with participants. However, they will be in need of sponsors and especially volunteers.

As a surfer, we have acquired a lifetime of knowledge, skills and experience that are otherwise useless to the rest of the world. Here’s your chance to share that with a kid who has no idea of the magic of the ocean. Our pursuit of waves is pretty selfish. This is an opportunity to be less so. Email info@wavesofstrength.org and sign up to help out.

Save a little energy because Monday, Aug. 26 is the Barnegat Bay Challenge, the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol’s 5-mile bay paddle from the Ship Bottom bay beach, around Flat Island under the bridge, around Cedar Bonnet and back. This one is open to all manner of rowers and paddlers and sign up is at the event from 5-6 p.m. Assume the wind will be hard south that night. It always is.

As we look at the back half of the week, we should see the surf come up for Friday and Saturday with some combination of south and northeast windswell. This could have a touch more size than the run of recent swells, although still nothing huge. I don’t necessarily see any windows of offshore winds, but that mixed bag of light onshore winds can be better than those heavier south winds we get in the summer, so there should be more opportunity to get in the water, and maybe on a shortboard. Count on some nice warm water and make sure you get your clips from Surfline.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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