Liquid Lines

Surfing in 2019 Is The Age of Silly and The Atlantic Comes to Life

Ray Romano selfies, the great pop tart conspiracy theory, silly surfing, a dry forester and hurricane season gets underway.
By JON COEN | Aug 28, 2019
Courtesy of: Catch Surf Surfing in 2019 is a whole lot of silly. Here’s Hawaiian surfer Jamie O’Brien in New Jersey earlier this summer on the Catch Surf ‘Get Wet’ Tour.

Question: Do you think Ray Romano and Jon Stewart have countless photos of themselves with random strangers around LBI? Do you think they ever just flip through their phones, going: “Here’s me with that family from Staten Island at Jayson’s Pancake House … oh, and this is me with some jamoke at the Beach Haven Fishery … and I love this one of me and that lady from Manahawkin at the water slides.”

Hard to believe this weekend is Labor Day. Like everyone else, there is more sand in my bed than Surf City after the last replenishment. And my only regret from this summer is that I wasn’t the guy who invented White Claw. But I’d like to take this opportunity to throw a solid fist bump to everyone who has worked their butts off on the Island this summer in every industry. I know we all talk about the depleted labor force, and that often means locals have to work even harder at two jobs and a side hustle. Some haven’t had a day off since July or before that. Much respect.

It certainly was a busy summer. Or at least that was my perception until last Friday, when a woman posted a story to a Facebook post called Long Beach Island Bites about someone forgetting to put a pop tart into her bag at a local deli/eatery.

Her family stopped for food as they were leaving LBI. She claims the girl behind the counter forgot to put her pop tart in the bag, which the family discovered after they’d gone over the bridge. When they came back to LBI, they were not given a replacement pop tart.

Now, I’m not passing judgment on the woman who asked for her missing pop tart. I’m not passing judgement on the manager who wouldn’t give her a replacement pop tart. However, I really have to question the folks who had time to create a thread of over 330 comments on that post. While some people are working three jobs, others have time to argue both for and against the infamous pop tart. Holy hell, people, if you have that much free time on your hands in August, pick up a bus bucket and clean off table four. Help your neighbor who’s sweating it in the vegetable garden. Or just knock back a few watermelon cosmos and get drilled in the shore break. I don’t know … but I do agree they have some damn fine pop tarts at that place.

Seems kind of silly. But hey, who am I to judge? Surfing is about the silliest thing going at the moment.

Surfing has gone through peaks and valleys and all manner of trends and styles. If you think back, the ’80s were very glamorous and materialistic. Styles were bright and flashy. It was rock and roll so the chicks would dig you.

The ’90s vibe was underground and hard core. It was about being tough and “living the struggle.” We were a cross of Black Flag and Tupac with a thruster on the roof.

The 2000s simply saw a massive boom in surf popularity. Pro surfers were stars again, and surfers took on the lifestyle of whatever those stars did. There was an ’80s revival. The magazines came fat in the mail each month. No one could get enough of surf comps. The industry was booming. Does anyone else remember Quiksilver sailing the Indies Trader off LBI back in 2004?

That blow-up led to something of a counter movement, which went back to a soulful feel, even as it was co-opted by the same marketing folks who had blown it up in the first place. Then surfing turned super hip. Surf movie soundtracks went from driving punk to poppy synth music. Boardshorts crept up within inches of bollocks. Suddenly Brooklyn was the hottest place to be a surfer. There were new heroes and more of a DIY vibe, where everyone wanted to create their own version of surfing, from videos to homemade hand planes and “hey man, check out this board I built out of tampon applicators that I found on the beach.”

There’s been a pretty significant shift the last few years, too. Instagram has mostly killed the surf media. While the hottest global surfers still move the dial, surf companies have directed their marketing dollars from the legions of semi-pro surfers to “influencers” who are good at getting a pretty picture and a huge following.

And today, we’ve seeing the results of that. Everything is markedly silly.

You might say this is the age of silly. Whoever can be silliest online seems to be setting the direction of surfing. Some of the man-eating waves ridden at Tahiti’s Teahupoo got a lot of love online this summer, but Jamie O’Brien riding a soft top through an inflatable rainbow got an awful lot of love as well.

And silly is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m certainly a fan of all the high fives.

I mean, we were always silly. We were always pranksters. Surfing has a long history of irreverence, which is a fine tool for keeping things from getting too serious. It’s just wild seeing some people who are making a living (or making money hand over fist) right now based on just being silly. And, that’s being adopted by the surfers in every beach town, including on LBI.

Where we were once over-the-top tough guys of the counter-cultural lifestyle, we’re now goofy imps in elf shoes. Where we used to distinguish ourselves as surfers and not tourists, we’re all floating around on foamies wearing unbuttoned flower shirts.

Where are we heading next?

WILD MAN, WILD: The situation in the Atlantic certainly escalated quickly. The last 10 or so Liquid Lines have been pretty repetitive, running down the 2-foot surf. Well, that something came up pretty quick, and earlier this week we had the first significant waves in some time. Just last week I was talking about our almost annual August northeast blow.

Swells are normally a result of low pressure. From spring storms to winter nor’easters to hurricanes, they’re all low pressure systems. The wind and waves that began last weekend were partly due to low pressure, but more so because of really high pressure to our north. Combined with just moderate low pressure, it created all that northeast flow that built the surf up to overhead on Monday. It’s what some folks call a “dry nor’easter.”

The storm doesn’t play out like a traditional nor’easter, where the low moves to the north, turning the wind offshore for one magical day of bombing surf. But rather the high pressure just pushes the low out to sea. Instead of northwest winds, the wind is just slowly dropping out mid-week.

That’s not to say it was all a waste of waves. I know there were more than a few surfers who went out for a drift this week, just to feel the power of overhead surf again. Now, we don’t usually surf big sloppy stuff from October to June for two reasons. The first is that no one’s really messing with onshore surf when the water’s cold. Putting on a winter suit to surf a nor’easter is about as fun as doing sun salutations behind a guy in yoga pants. The second is that more often in the winter, the wind goes offshore after a nor’easter, so there’s no reason to go mucking about in the maelstrom when the good ones are coming. But when it’s warm, there’s some fun to be had making those fast drops into heavy faces. Against-the-grain rights tend to be fun in north swells. Plus, it’s a good workout.

Look for the wind to drop out around the time The SandPaper hits the streets. But as soon as it does, the swell will drop as well. There still could be a wave Thursday with the potential for offshore winds in the morning.

The surf is supposed to be down for Labor Day weekend, but I think it’s too early to say for sure. More about that below.

One thing to consider this weekend is that your favorite sandbars will most likely be altered. In some cases, like the far north end of the Island, it could be better. Or, I should say, it can’t be any worse than it has been in August. In other spots, like mid-Island where the sand has been set up really nicely, we could see adverse effects like that nice terrace just off the beach being dug out with a thinner sandbar farther out, more like what we call a “winter beach.”

FINALLY SOME NEWS FROM THE SOUTH: If I’ve been talking about 2-foot waves in Liquid Lines for the past 10 weeks, then the last five weeks I’ve been saying, “And things should start to happen in the tropics soon …” Well, things are finally happening. We saw our third named storm of the season in Tropical Storm Chantel, which was a weak storm that did nothing off the southeast coast and then moved out to sea. Now we have Tropical Depression Six moving up the mid-Atlantic toward the Canadian Maritimes and Tropical Storm Dorian, which became a named storm on Saturday.

TD Six is going to help our surf for Wednesday and Thursday. It’s not a powerful system, but it will keep us in rideable waves late week as the nor’easter swell falls apart.

Dorian is moving slowly through the Caribbean. We might be seeing waves from it now, but it’s a very small system in size and therefore not really throwing waves in much of a radius. Dorian is forecasted to stay a tropical storm and head to southern Florida. From there, it could go inland and die, cross into the Gulf of Mexico and do nothing for us, or turn up the East Coast. That last scenario would be the only one that could bring us swell. A nice, offshore tropical storm would be very welcomed. Overall, I kind of like the idea of minimal hurricanes and tropical storms. Not that they can’t be threatening, but they’re a lot less stress than a monster eating up the whole East Coast.

While Dorian could be a potential wavemaker, I think the important thing to note this week was a wave that came off Africa this weekend. While it doesn’t show immediate signs of intensification, just the fact that these waves are coming off says the Cape Verde season will at least be a thing this year. September should not be a bust.

ROUNDING OUT THE SUMMER: Too fast, too fast. It all just went too fast. But how about that sleeping weather? Man, I would take a few months of this.

In some local boy done good news, LBI native Marc DeRosa has been living, surfing, skating and snowboarding in California for over a decade. DeRosa was recently promoted to sales director at Dr. Bronner’s Soap.

Anyone who considers themselves a conscious consumer has to check out Dr. Bronner’s “Magic” Soap. The story of this family-run company and founder is amazing. It’s a complete line of all natural, fair trade products, but I have been a convert of the properties of the spearmint liquid soap for over 10 years. Not only is it one soap for all your needs, but it’s the best thing I have found for clearing up surf rash or any kind of skin irritation. Congrats to Marc for his accomplishments at this amazing company.

Many local surfers and business owners also need to get recognized for a successful Waves of Strength Surf Clinic last weekend. The event was moved from Sunday to Saturday to avoid the whipping northeast winds. But there was a great turnout and effort to get all those kids who otherwise don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the ocean like the rest of us into the water. It’s hard to say what kind of impact we have when we volunteer for these types of things. And, man, does it make you feel good.

This week will see the Barnegat Bay Challenge on Thursday, which was rescheduled from Monday night. That was a good call because while it’s called the Barnegat Bay Challenge, the winds were wild. No one needs to paddle into 15- to 20-knot gusts to challenge themselves. Registration begins at 5 a.m., just like always, at the Ship Bottom bay beach.

There aren’t any specific contests or surf events throughout Labor Day weekend, but it does look like there will be plenty to do besides surf and sun, specifically in the Queen City. On Friday night, the legendary Skatalites play Bird & Betty’s. While not the original members, this group originated in the Jamaican ska scene of the early ’60s and was the foundation of rock steady and reggae music. And it’s generally good to have a show by a band that won’t be doing a “Sweet Caroline” cover. Or maybe they’re big Neil Diamond fans and the joke’s on me.

On Sunday night, Fantasy Island will host a special Fireworks Spectacular, which could be a great way to end the summer.

For those who are around on Monday night, Bird & Betty’s is hosting a Local Summer Kickoff Party for the celebrated season that starts with Tumbleweed Tuesday.

And that brings us right into Jetty Clam Jam season. Jetty is prepping for its 13th annual Clam Jam, which will be held on call, waiting for a good weekend swell through the fall. Registration is now open.

The first potential date for the Clam Jam is Saturday, Sept. 14, followed by Sunday the 15th. Then it goes to the 21st or 22nd. The next potential date after that would be Nov. 12 or 13. This year the Clam Jam will be dedicated to our bud Pat Harrington of Ship Bottom, a 13-year vet of the Clam Jam who is currently kicking Hodgkins lymphoma’s ass and will be back in the action for the 2020 Jam for sure.

And that will do it for summer 2019. I think we did a good job of all having a good time on a tiny little sandbar at the same time. Go do something silly this weekend. If you’re out of here on Monday, there’s plenty to come back for on weekends in the fall.

If you live here, take Tuesday off and enjoy it. I’ll see you in the lineup. Maybe I’ll bring my inflatable unicorn.

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