Has anyone else had the thought that the Island is split into two very different camps?
This isn’t political commentary. In that regard, it’s nice to see how the country has chilled out a bit since last summer. It’s refreshing to see almost no flags in support of presidential candidates. Maybe folks have mellowed out and just gone to the beach.
Actually, there are two flags that have caught my attention this year that have given me, and I hope many others, a sense of joy. The first is a Wu Tang flag flying on the Boulevard in Long Beach Township. The other is a Springsteen flag flying on a bay block in Surf City. The Wu and the Boss – both give hope for our country.
I’m also not referring to the longstanding Philly/New York divide. LBI is the spot on the New Jersey coast where the 732 and 609 collide. Culture (we’re using the term loosely in this instance) from Brigantine to Cape May is dictated by the Mainline, Flyers fans, Burlington County and cheesesteaks “hewgies.” From Seaside Park up to Sandy Hook, it’s all about the PATH train, the New York Times, bagels, tracksuits and Bergen County. For the most part, unless some wayward South Philly drunk starts an “E-A-G …” chant or some human steroid from Lodi loudly professes his love of “Derek Jeetah” on a crowded beach, everyone mostly seems to get along.
What I’m referring to is the very distinct ways we look at health on this Island. If you’re up before 9 a.m. on any given summer morning, LBI would look like a healthy lifestyle nirvana. Ocean Boulevard through Long Beach Township is so packed with power walkers, anyone daring to pull onto that street is fired upon with an arsenal of dirty looks. The Barnegat Light pickleball court is full, with as many folks stretching on the grass waiting to play as there are players. And from the look of the Boulevard south of Loveladies, I am fairly convinced that most of the U.S. Olympic team is training in Harvey Cedars right now.
Never skip leg day. Moderation is for suckers.
I took a beach fitness class at Black Sheep studios once. Couldn’t walk for three days.
We have yoga, stand-up paddle yoga, and yoga with goats. There are more yoga instructors, personal trainers, massage therapists and life coaches here per capita than Park Slope, Princeton or Chestnut Hill. On any given day you can see endurance crazies prone paddling the ocean, rowing the bay and SUPing on every piece of water. Possibly the fittest of all, lifeguards train to keep us safe, beat each other in the upcoming Island races and see which patrol has to build bigger lifeguard stands to support the winning ego.
We’re eating healthy, too. From macrobiotics to microgreens, we have our choice of raw foods, low-cal, farm fresh, fresh-pressed, raw, organic, free range and fat free, plus any number of things in bowls, which can make the most ordinary food seem more exciting and even 200 grams of sugar seem healthy.
And a little treat from the ice cream man on the beach doesn’t count because, hey, it’s summer. You worked it off just running up the dune. Yes, we are tight, tone and tan.
Until about happy hour.
And that’s when the wheels come off.
Dinner can be healthy, specifically in the summer with our restaurants so well known for fresh fish in a state that harvests so much fruit and vegetable goodness in the summer. But this is where two glasses of wine turn to two bottles of wine, extra rich side dishes and “what is in this butter? Oh my God, I could eat it with a spoon!”
Plus, who can resist dessert? Fried ice cream doesn’t count because, hey, it’s summer. And by dark, our little sandbar makes a 180 degree turn from kale and burpies to nachos and burping up dollar shots.
By 10 or 11 p.m., while every bar on this Island lights up with a High Noon-fueled dance floor, house parties continue with the last remaining ping pong tables getting ruined with big, swollen beer-filled pock marks.
Moderation is for suckers.
And then it’s midnight. Energy drinks and vodka. Smoke ’em if you got em. Perhaps powder? Find one legendary 1970s tale of a Tucker’s Island party that doesn’t involve a snow drift. Then come the goofball pills. Certainly not everyone, but it’s a part of life after midnight in any beach town. Usually it’s the young, singles crowd. But even parents let loose on vacation. Don’t tell the babysitter …
And then, stumbling and staggering about the streets, we end the night with greasy hot wings or pork roll, possibly stabbing our finger at the touch screen in Wawa trying in vain to order that Meatball Parm Classic. And on the way out, we grab a box of Magnum Double Chocolate Bars, because ice cream doesn’t count after 3 a.m.
And it’s all part of the Island tradition, going back to your own family folklore of how your grandfather was partying at the old Happy Daze Gunning and Fishing Shack one hot summer night, saw a woman get swept away in a strong south current, swam out to her with a half empty keg of Schlitz and saved her life. And he’ll tell you if it wasn’t for that keg, you wouldn’t even be here today.
Then your grandmother pulls you aside and explains that Pop was drunk, almost drowned in the bay and she was working at the clinic when they brought him in to get his stomach pumped.
Either way, you wouldn’t be here today.
On Sunday morning, I did a quick, sweaty run over the bridge and then directly ordered up a dozen delicious hot doughnuts with strawberry glaze and marshmallows. The two sides of LBI are like night and day, fire and ice. And it wouldn’t be so damn wild if it was two completely different groups of people. But it’s generally the same folks, all of us, exercising the yin in the morning and mixing the yang with tequila at night. Summer is here and we won’t miss a minute of either.
Moderation is for suckers.
SHIP BOTTOM TORPEDO BOYS: Speaking of fit, a group of Island representatives went down to Cape May on Sunday to paddle in the Desatnick Foundation Cape to Cape Paddle, which has become a 15-mile navigation of Cape May, and came back with some serious accolades.
First off, Sam Candio won the 12-foot Prone Division. Not only did he take top honors with a time of 2:45:39, but he also raised $1,000 for the cause, which provides service and support for the victims and families of spinal cord injuries. Also from Ship Bottom, Jonny Skolnick took second place. This year alone, seven BeachWheels wheelchairs were donated to different towns up and down the New Jersey coast, including Ship Bottom. In total, $130,000 was raised for the foundation.
“I’m still totally shocked with the results,” admitted Candio. “It was an incredible day on the water for an absolutely amazing cause, one that hits especially close to home for surfers. There’s really nothing like pushing yourself to your limits with a bunch of your best friends. The Torpedo Boys had an outstanding race in pretty challenging conditions, representing well the level of waterman our island produces. This is an event I look forward to all year long, and it is always humbling to be a part of such a positive community of wonderful people supporting the Desatnick Foundation.”
Barnegat Light’s Hugh Shields, who paddles and trains with the Ship Bottom boys, took first in the Men’s Under-17 Prone at 2:56:47, way ahead of his closest competitor. Ship Bottom Beach Patrol Capt. Keith Stokes took first in the Masters as well. Also finishing this grueling paddle were Shaun Hannon and Bob Donelly.
FOAMIES ARE FUN: Red Bull, Jetty and Catch Surf held the Red Bull Foam Wreckers contest last weekend and it’s fair to say that everyone had a great time. Most of us didn’t really know what to expect but walked away with a smile. It’s simply cool that Red Bull chose LBI to run this event out of all the beach towns between here and Long Branch.
This was far more about fun than competition and there was no lack of fun. Each competitor had to spin the wheel to see which Catch Surf board they were going to ride, everything from the 48-inch Beater board to the 8-foot log and a fat bodyboard that carried three people. There was music, a bar and Catch Surf team riders like Tyler Stanaland and Hawaiian legend Kalani Robb judging and a whole lot of hijinks in the water. Adding to the fun of the day was Ben Gravy, who served as announcer and also went out and rode some waves in the craziest way he could.
The morning high tide made it primarily a shorebreak thing, but the afternoon got more fun with consistent 2-foot surf. In the end, we had locals Dave Werner and Kyle Calandra in the finals. Calandra took third overall behind Chris Castiglia and overall winner Kimberly Lesniak. You may remember Lesniak (Kim Kepich), who won the Jetty Coquina Jam back in 2015. The day finished up with a lively after-party at Bird & Betty’s, a fantastic sunset and a whole lot of high-fives. There will be another one in Atlantic City, in case you missed out on the fun, with the date TBD.
WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WAVES: I’m leading into this part of the column by saying we have not had any epic surf, but the waves have been generally unexpected this last week – fun when we thought it would be junk and disappointing when we thought it would be good.
This all started last Tuesday when we had our third tropical swell (albeit the first two were pretty tiny) of this young season. Tropical Storm Claudette hit into Louisiana and then emerged off the North Carolina coast last Monday to enhance the south wind swell that we had in the water.
Now I’m not one for complaining about Surfline and their forecasts. They generally do a good job and it’s thankless. But they kind of blew that one. For days ahead of time, they were calling for peaky surf in the waist- to shoulder-high range with mostly offshore winds. They did nail the size, but the winds were light southeast early. The middle of the day was marred by thunderstorms (that has nothing to do with the forecast) and then when the surf was supposed to really get good on the afternoon incoming, it was just walled and not all that good. That had something to do with the nearly 6-foot high tide we had before the full moon. Whatever it was, the surf was anything but peaky. Not to mention the water was as cold as April.
We had pretty low expectations for the back half of the week, but Thursday proved to have some punchy leftovers. This was clean in the morning and gradually got slopped up, but if you had the right board, it wasn’t terrible.
The same was true for Saturday and Sunday. Both days had south winds and small surf but were unexpectedly good times, Saturday being the better of the two days. Sunday got good and shredded by the south winds, but still rideable on a longboard.
The good news is that the sandbars are coming back. This is extremely welcome news for all Island surfers. The sand had been creeping back toward the beach at certain south end spots and a few spots up north, but now we’re seeing that good summertime sand set up everywhere a month after the Memorial Day nor’easter shot them out pretty much everywhere. This weekend it was so nice to not have to paddle a half a mile to where it was breaking and you noticed there were quite a few more swimmers, too. That’s because of the bottom contour.
HOT TROPICS: Tropical meteorologists said this would be an active hurricane season and with the fourth named storm forming on June 28, it already is. We’re almost two months ahead of the average point in the year that we get our fourth named storm. This has only happened three times in history.
Tropical Storm Danny went from wind and showers Monday morning to a tropical storm that hit South Carolina Tuesday night.
Danny wasn’t a wave maker for us, but we are looking at the next potential storm down in the Caribbean that could be something for us. This storm is currently 95L but should it continue to develop, it would be Tropical Depression 4 and then Tropical Storm (and less likely Hurricane) Elsa. This one is still a ways from forming, if she even forms at all, but being as we are three for four on swells to named storms, let’s see what we get.
FIRED UP FOURTH: I’m not sure what to expect for the big Independence Day holiday this year. With the actual Fourth falling on Sunday, it won’t be the 10 busy days we get when it falls midweek, but with pandemic restrictions lifted, folks feeling good and some pretty amazing weather in the forecast, it could be five days of madness and good times. I might suggest in the relative quiet before the storm here that you get to the supermarket and farmers market and stock up now. The less driving you have to do this weekend, the better.
Most everything happening this weekend revolves around holiday festivities, no big watersports gatherings or events until after. But the rest of July looks red hot.
For the eco-minded, a group called Green Drinks will meet on Tuesday, July 6 at the Mainland. This is geared toward networking for the environmentally conscious. It is free and open to anyone. The drinks aren’t green, as they say, just the conversation.
Bird & Betty’s had its first Industry Night last Monday, a night for folks in the local tourism industry who work 97 hours every weekend. The first one featured the Danksters. This will be taking a week off since Monday is a holiday, but back on July 12 with the JP LaStella Band. Farias Surf and Sport will be sponsoring these and each week will team up with one of their brands for giveaways and other fun.
Get yourself in shape for July 17, which is the South End Surf N’ Paddle LBI Paddle Classic to benefit Alliance for a Living Ocean. This is both a SUP and prone race for all levels at Bayview Park. You can sign up in advance at Givebutter.com or register the day of the race starring at 5 p.m.
A few new events have popped up for late July and they’re definitely worth looking into. Australian-born, Hawaiian-based waterman Travis Grant, who was a Long Beach Township lifeguard for several seasons, will be back on LBI this week and doing two clinics with South End Surf N’ Paddle.
Grant is a SUP racer, foil rider, surfer and outrigger canoe paddler. He is now a specialized SUP race trainer and outrigger coach. He has won countless events, including the Molokai 2 Oahu race in 2013 and 2017. He is well respected around the world for his versatility, knowledge and ability.
The first is a Learn to Foil clinic. The second is a paddle stroke and SUP racing clinic. Call the shop at 609-492-8823 for more info.
The Jetty Coquina Jam has been announced for Sunday, July 25 to support female cancer help via David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation and the Jetty Rock Foundation. Now in the 13th annual, this event has donated over $197,500 thanks to our participants, beach goers and regional business support/sponsorship. Registration filled up in two days and all competitors will be raising money this summer for the cause. Check-in is at 8 a.m. with a start soon after. It really is a special day of female surfing and a great beach community.
Lots going on. Get some rest now so you can hit up the high interval intensity training and beer bong in the same day.