Liquid Lines

Wrapping Up 2019: How Many Miles Did You Surf?

December Waves Cap Solid Year; Statewide Bag Ban on Horizon
By JON COEN | Dec 11, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Well, it seems the holidays are certainly racing up on us right now. Has anyone else thought of using their CVS receipts to trim the tree?

Seriously, what is up with those things? I bought one box of almond milk the other day and walked out with a receipt that was 9 feet long. And from time to time I do save them for the Extra Care coupons. Right now I am just waiting to run out of mouthwash because somewhere in the 97 linear feet of coupons currently stuffed into my glove box is a coupon for half off a second bottle of mouthwash.

And speaking of all things December, Spotify just released everyone’s personal “Wrapped” results, which is your personal music choices laid out in nifty statistics and easy-to-read charts of artists, streams and genres. Even if you’re not a subscriber to this music streaming service, you have likely seen folks sharing their results on social media. Mine tell me I’m getting soft. I will be conscious of listening to more Defeater and Wu Tang in 2020.

My personal Spotify history only goes back to 2016 ... not what you’d call an early adopter. I usually hold out for a good while before I dive into mainstream technology – i.e., the last guy dropping change into a payphone in the mid 2000s.

Streaming service has completely changed the model of the music industry, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But when you look into the report that Spotify was paying something like .00084 cents to an artist every time a song was streamed, you have to have some kind of ethical concern, specifically for smaller and independent artists.

Yeah, it’s nice to not have all that physical media taking up space around the house. But on the other hand for many of us, the tapes, CDs and records that we used to collect are part of our own story. The same can be said about the excitement of an algorithm that breaks down our listening habits with something as personal as music.

We certainly get year-end reports from other services, but no one is sharing their American Express business spending or Atlantic City electric power usage to their Instagram story. That said, it would be kind of cool if we had some other life stats.

Like what if we had some good intel on our surfing numbers?

“Ready for your 2019 Surf Wrap Up ...  In 2019, you rode 390 waves. 311 of them were closeouts. You surfed a total of 1.8 miles. You had 15 tube rides. You spent 364 hours in the water and 389 hours driving around checking the waves.”

Or maybe we could have more local informational wrapups like:

“You ate 76 crab cakes in 2019. You had 187 doughnuts. Your favorite type of doughnut was the French Toast at Shore Good Donuts. Let Shore Good Donuts know that you’re a fan. You spent 78 hours sitting at red lights in the Ship Bottom circle. You drove 37 miles through saltwater last year. You worked a total of 2,600 hours in 2019, 2,000 of those hours were between May and August. You went to the Port Hole 328 times. You got pretty lazy in September ...”

Maybe we just stick it to music.

2019 OVER AND OUT: Being there is only one more SandPaper coming out in 2019 and Liquid Lines is bi-weekly, this is my last of 2019. It was certainly an interesting year here. And I say that knowing full well that every year is interesting. This is an interesting place and it attracts interesting people. In that, we are all lucky.

The year began with waves. Jan. 1 saw a roaring south swell. Winter was less brutal than most, certainly less so than the previous winter. While many lamented the lack of a huge swell or two, you can’t really complain about a good 3- to 4-foot day about once per week. March had one very good swell and the rest of the spring was about average. And if winter was less brutal than most, spring was less depressing than most.

One thing of note this year is that the sandbars were mostly in good shape. I firmly believe that most of the Island was better before replenishment because we had jetties. But since we didn’t have any replenishment project in 2019, for the first time in a good while, we had better, more consistent sandbars overall.

Summer started with rather poor surf. And in retrospect, there really weren’t those one or two great swells this summer that stand out. We didn’t have a single hurricane swell until September. But we did have plenty of those small, clean days, and one of them again blessed the Alliance for A Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic, which was an epic day. In fact, we had them pretty regularly. I could go for one of those days of warm, peeling longboard waves right about now.

One spot that didn’t break all summer was the Wooden Jetty, as it got reinforced with steel. It’s designed to hold sand better at the south end of Holgate, which it has. But it also starved the sand south of the jetty. That changed radically after our first September swell and the sand has been set up very well. Overall, I think there are more take-off spots there now than ever and some equally long lefts to be had.

September got epic with Hurricane Dorian. For a single day, LBI was the focus of the entire surfing world as massive hollow lefts came pouring through on a picture-perfect Saturday. But as always, there were weeks of long-period groundswell with mostly closeouts. September also gave us about the most perfect “Local Summer” weather anyone can ever remember. October had more days of surf for sure, including several from a rare storm that was named in our latitudes. Fall certainly saw a lot of storms, and nuisance flooding is certainly becoming a more common occurrence.

November gave us yet another nor’easter with a handful of average days. December has been near to above average. Overall this was a solid year with nary a dull moment.

DECEMBER WAVE PATTERN: We’re in a pretty typical wave and weather pattern for December, which generally follows the sequence of a storm, a day of clean waves and a day of leftovers, followed by four to five days of flat or junk conditions.

For the most part, this is pretty dependable unless that day of waves doesn’t work out on account of wind or tide. I honestly thought we were setting up for a Thanksgiving of waves, but the winds went hard offshore that Wednesday night and knocked the swell down. Any possibility of waves was further swallowed by a super high tide that morning.

Things were quiet for a few days and then in the back half of the holiday weekend, the wind came onshore again, blowing pretty much every brand of onshore. But the bulk of the weather was to our northeast over the North Atlantic, meaning we had overhead mid-period east/northeast swell without a ton of moving water. This really cleaned up by midday Monday, making for some solid surf that lit up in a few places around the Island, but most notably on the South End where it was about 3- to 5-foot with some bigger sets and well-shaped, long lefts.

It was one of those swells where you saw license plates from surrounding states and heads from all over New Jersey, but between the start of winter and the drift, you could certainly separate yourself for some good ones. It offered some throaty left tubes and some really long lefts with open faces for carving. Man, it felt good to lay on that rail.

And even with the wind blowing offshore, that fetch was to our northeast, meaning that Tuesday morning still had some head-high waves. Surf City and other mid-Island spots became the focus, but the South End still had long peelers and was relatively empty. This lasted most of Tuesday, and there was even a tiny leftover Wednesday morning. The weekend was down.

The ocean temp has dropped to the mid-40s. Depending on your preference and how old your gear is, you can choose between a 4-mil and a 5-mil at this point. If you’ve been skating by with lighter boots or gloves these past few weeks, thicker boots and gloves are not far behind. The ocean tends to hit its lowest point in January. Enjoy the novelty of cold waves and the possibility of snow (a new suit or new boots helps) while you can. We will be wearing all of this for the next four to five months.

The surf came up again early this week, and forecasts are pointing to at least head-high surf for Wednesday when The SandPaper hits those yellow boxes. This will be the first considerable south swell in some time and the first rights we’ve had in a while. Winds look to be offshore, but not nuclear, which is always nice. Also, the possibility of rain turning to snow will make for a nice seasonal accoutrement.

Look for offshore winds and swell again on Thursday morning, but plan accordingly with a super high tide at 7 a.m. and then winds getting dicey later in the day. Also, good news for all the Monday-Friday workfolk, as there’s another, possibly bigger south swell lining up for the weekend. All in all, we’re in pretty positive pattern to end out a pretty decent year of surf.

STATE BAG BAN NEWS: As you may have learned from Liquid Lines or other news sources, New Jersey has been considering a statewide bag ban on plastic bags for a while. Gov. Murphy, who has gotten pretty high environmental marks thus far, vetoed a law last year that would have imposed a statewide charge of 5 cents per plastic bag. He wants a better law.

As we’ve seen in Stafford, when there are loopholes, it’s easy for the law to become useless. I imagine that the Manahawkin ShopRite has used less numbers of plastic bags since the town ban went into place. But the thicker “recycle” bags that are being sold at the register to people who can’t remember to or refuse to use a canvas bag are likely putting just as much plastic mass into the environment and waste stream as the old, thinner bags.

Yes, we want to get plastic out of our ecosystem because it’s ugly. And yes, that leads to a healthier planet, healthier people and better tourism revenue for the coast, if that’s what moves your needle. But we have to keep in mind the greater toll of petroleum products that rarely get brought up in this context. It’s a much bigger debate.

So as of this week, there is a new state bill that would ban all plastic bags, paper bags, straws and eventually polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers. Stores simply would not be allowed to give out single-use bags, which has proven effective in areas around the country.

This would be the most ambitious law in the country and the Styrofoam ban would actually mean some items in the supermarket (the most commonly used example is Cup of Noodles) would be removed. Of course, the lobbyists for the industries who make petroleum-based containers are declaring end times should the law pass.

They are claiming that the companies would no longer sell their products in New Jersey. Just wondering if anyone else can see right through this claim? By that thinking, none of these companies will ever alter their packaging to reach the 8.9 million people in New Jersey. I find that hard to believe.

Philly just moved one step closer to a bag ban. New Jersey’s still has a way to go through the state Assembly, but we’ll see if New Jersey can make that giant leap in 2020.

ENDING THE YEAR: This weekend, get festive at the Holly Jolly Holiday Market at Five O Six Surf Boutique starting at noon on Saturday, celebrating local and homegrown artists and businesses in our community. In addition to some great artisans new and established, The Barrel Mobile Bar will be there with hot cocoa and coffee. There will be food from the Tide Table group as well as music by Ty Mares and the Starlight Performing Arts Carolers.

For those who just think Liquid Lines should stick to what break was bowling last week and where whatever contest is this week is happening, I am sorry to say I can’t do that. I figure that there is segment of Southern Ocean County that truly doesn’t like me. And if there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job. Hopefully you all keep reading. These are divisive times, but they won’t last forever.

Thanks to my family for never-ending support. Like every year, I am super grateful for The SandPaper editors and publisher for allowing me to touch on subjects from controversial to downright inane. There are not so many job opportunities for those who trade mostly in ridiculousness. And like always, I feel super grateful to get to cover all the amazing events in the surf and greater water/sports/art/music community here.

I wish everyone the happiest of holidays. May there be some windless days over the break for boating and paddling. May the striped bass hang around until the New Year. May your family enjoy a long walk on the beach or in the woods. Peace on earth and waves on Christmas.

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