And just like that, the hammer fell on summer.
Today (Wednesday) is the first official day of fall. Yes, I know for some, the great season of fun ended when they reeled in that half-chewed piece of spearing or caught that last wave to the beach on Labor Day weekend, but both the calendar and the weather have been screaming summer since then.
If you wanted summer conditions without summer crowds, this month nailed it. The beaches (aside from Beach Haven, which has been doing its hippest impression of Miami or Cannes lately) have been almost empty and the ocean in the 70s.
That is, until this week, when a grumpy Autumnal Equinox and ol’ Mother Nature came downstairs, pulled the plug on the whole party and yelled, “That’s it! Fun’s over!”
On Monday morning, the north winds brought a distinctive chill to the air. Wind chills on the beach were probably in the 50s, the coolest it’s been since June. But so what? It felt good to throw on that flannel. We can take one cool day in September, right?
Well, here’s the deal. It’s not just one day … or two days. We’re looking at this heavy flow for another week. One day of chilly onshores is welcome. Ten days could be a drag, man. This isn’t just a passing front but a series of low-pressure systems, one tight storm well offshore and another blobby one off the Outer Banks. Normally, either of these would be welcome by surfers, but the fact that they are both here means we won’t see that intense northeast build and northwest cleanup, but just a variety of onshore gales and chop for the whole extended period.
First and foremost, the swell from this blow isn’t cleaning up anytime soon. And unfortunately, these winds look to be a lot more east than north, which could mean that trying to find something on the South End might be futile, and even strike missions to Cape May or Long Island won’t be terribly good. This could change, but as of now, the situation is not looking ideal for the south-facing shores either, with tons of current and sideshore winds.
The second bum-out of this pattern is that by the time things turn around, it will be October, which means that consistent 80-degree plus days will be history. Outdoor activity will be limited, especially if the rain materializes, and it will be a different season by the time this wind dies. Now, don’t get me wrong, any local worth his or her weight in scallops (that’s after they’re shelled, by the way) loves that crisp October weather, but losing out on that last week of September kind of hurts. The ocean temps hit 77 at the end of summer and have been in those comfy 70s all month. But while easterly winds tend to keep our water all bathtubby, hard blows like this invariably force water temps down. Earlier this week they dropped to the mid-60s – not cold by any means, but our tropical lounging season is over. And in another six weeks, we’ll be searching for booties and gloves. Again, none of this would be a problem if we were getting a clean surf sesh eventually.
On a third point, the honkin’ winds will put a major damper on all the fun September stuff we like to do when the surf’s down. Mini-grom surf sessions are over. In fact, simply sitting on the beach isn’t going to be too fun this week. You can read Jay Mann’s The Fish Story for a better take on this, but most boating and fishing are going to be pretty limited for the time being as well.
It’s always nice to seek out a silver lining, so yes, there could be some good to come of this. There’s always the odd chance that the wind cleans up. Even a day of north/northwest could bring us a rideable window. But the more obvious benefit of a storm like this is the sand redistribution that’s going to happen at a rapid rate going into October. Normally storms like this are a death knell to the sandbars that form in summer.
But this year is an exception. With the current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beachfill project that is pumping those millions of cubic yards, we will see sand in places where we’ve never seen it before. Does this make up for the buried jetties? Not a chance, but as sand disappears from the toe of the beach, it will start showing up on sandbars and other places it hasn’t been. If you’re growing weary of the marathon walk from the street to the water in Ship Bottom, I predict that walk will be 20 yards shorter by next week, possibly more.
A lot of folks will scream about the sand being gone, but it’s not “gone;” we just can’t see it anymore. It will be out on the system, likely protecting our Island in the form of a sandbar, which causes wave energy to dissipate before it takes chunks out of our beach, something surfers have known forever. I suspect the Army Corps of Engineers knows this, too, but it’s like pulling teeth to get them to admit it.
The best news is that for the areas of Long Beach Township that have been pumped lately, leaving behind large swaths of beach where the water depth drops off just beyond the sand, killing all the swimming and surfing fun, we could see rapid transformation. Some of the sand may show up in Beach Haven, which has been in a state of littoral flux for weeks now. Incidentally, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. had to take off five days of work because of the conditions.
Of course, there’s always the outside possibility that this sand will form our own Jersey version of a Superbank, but the chances are just as good that it could leave us with weird sand formation and amazing closeouts. Just have to wait and see.
Between the long flat spells and the extended blow (take that however you want), this was a terrible September for surf. We had a little wave on Labor Day, virtually zero hurricane swell and that one decent Sunday. So much for the magic month …
MAKERS MADE IT: We had to park a pretty good distance from the Makers Festival at Beach View Farms and bike the rest of the way in on Saturday, but it was well worth the effort to see the vision of the Makers Fest come to life in Manahawkin. The surf was flat, which likely helped the waverider attendance, as I saw droves of folks from the surf community either working or attending this first-time event. And all the handmade surfcraft there was jaw dropping.
The weather was stellar, even if maybe a bit on the sultry side. The bands all fit the bill for a day outside, and while there may have been a cover or two, it was overwhelmingly original artists. It’s a perfect venue. The food was fantastic and my first-ever fried avocado taco from El Swell was delicious. There were cool hands-on activities for the kids without that generic bouncy castle feel. And then there were the vendors – hundreds and hundreds of creatives showing off handmade wares. If ever there was a place to find original items to wear, ride, hang on your wall, or a combination of any of those, this was the place. There were folks I saw who I didn’t even know were artists, who had beautiful items.
Moreover, everything fit the esthetic and theme of the day, and the enthusiasm was infectious. Some festivals you get the idea that it’s just a handful of vendors who travel around, set up for the day, sell some stuff and hit the road. This was more a collection of engaged artisans, mostly from our area, who had a real stake in the day, a result of what happens when innovative people put a lot of time into curating something. It was great to see, not to mention that they all reported a profitable day and a testament that younger area businesses were able to bring out so many people. The folks at Volatile Media, School of Vintage, Rustic Drift, Bunkerfish, Swing Graphics and the Wandering Gypsea deserve a huge pat on the back.
BEACH HAVEN’S FUTURE BEACHES: The Queen City held its regular borough meeting last Monday, Sept. 17, that included an open Q&A with members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.J. DEP attended by about 120 people. You can find Kelley Anne Essinger’s informative report on the meeting in last week’s SandPaper.
For the first time, there was a real presentation given to answer questions about the beachfill project coming to a town. The USACE does not have a great track record on public relations. But they have already agreed to try a different slope from 12th Street to Taylor Avenue and from Iroquois to Jefferies avenues.
As you may well know, there are a lot of watermen and women who are concerned about the fate of Beach Haven’s sandbars for swimming and surfing. The DEP, which works as a sort of middleman between the towns, the stakeholders, and the USACE, felt the meeting went well, as these things have gotten heated in the past. There were an awful lot of questions asked that were answered in the presentation and before the meeting, which gets frustrating, but it remained mostly civil.
The group of citizens who have been campaigning for modified slopes asked for larger areas of modified slopes. The USACE feels this will cost more time and money, so they don’t plan to do it at this time. However, in the case of Ship Bottom, when the survey was completed right before the project started, there was more beach than the USACE thought and so they had more sand to work with. With all that sand filtering down from projects in Long Beach Township, that could possibly happen again. Interestingly enough, the USACE has begun collecting some data now that we are 10 years into the project, and it seems that all pumped beaches, whether they were 1:20 or 1:10, are actually less steep than they were before the projects, which is good news. The other hopeful note is that the project is slated to begin in Beach Haven in January and run right down to Holgate. If that holds true, there will be plenty of winter storms to redistribute sand before summer.
The sad thing is that there never will be a plan to extend the jetties. Beach Haven thrives on those jetties and they are going to get buried without a doubt.
MICROBEAD MICROCOSM: In the best email of the week category, local photographer LeAnna Gerety wrote to let me know that New Jersey will be the second state to ban microbeads, the little bits of plastic balls in cosmetics that are running from bathroom sinks to the ocean and being ingested by wildlife.
Last week, I wrote about a bill to ban products with microbeads in the state of California. But before California Gov. Jerry Brown could sign it into law, Chris Christie beat him to the punch.
Hey, credit where credit is due. Chris Christie has allowed the DEP to grant questionable permits to businesses, won’t admit that human actions may be causing our climate to change, vetoed three bills to help the recovery of Barnegat Bay that contradict his own “10-point plan” to save it, let Exxon off with a minor fine for mucking up acres of wetlands and is about as popular among working class families at the Jersey Shore as syphilis. But he signed the microbead ban. Perhaps the big cosmetic companies are backing his adversaries, or maybe he has a soft spot for fresh Jersey seafood.
COMING UP: Friday, Oct. 2 is the team selection party for the Jetty Clam Jam. This is where, by tradition, names are written on clamshells and picked out of a hat, pairing younger and older surfers into the two-person teams that will compete in the event. The first potential weekend for the Clam Jam is Oct. 10 or 11. This could potentially put it on the same day as the 18-Mile Run. But since the Clam Jam is in Harvey Cedars, it shouldn’t be a huge issue as far as logistics. The following weekend is blocked out, but it would resume on Oct. 24-25. Some folks call it the waiting period. Most mothers/wives/kids simply call it “jerk season” because they can’t make a weekend plan through November.
Other than that, good luck finding a clean wave this week. Early forecasts have it getting huge by early next week, but still no cleanup in sight.
– Reposted from the Sandpaper