Photos by: Melanie Cassie
Long Beach Island, New Jersey gets great surf. It’s a narrow, 18-mile long barrier island located on the central coast of the state. Geologically, it could be considered the outer banks of NJ. That gives it a large swell window providing consistent surf. It’s a natural wave magnet. LBI is known for its powerful fast breaking tubes. The steep, coarse-grained sand beaches drop off into deep water quickly allowing wave energy to approach the sandbars with full speed and power. The takeoffs on waves here are quick, so timing and fast reflexes are the key to setting up good rides.
The SUP community has grown on LBI in the past 5 years. Racing, touring and wave riding are becoming very popular and Island Surf and Sail and South End Surf ‘N Paddle are two great shops dedicated to the sport. There are maybe a dozen local guys who SUP surf regularly here on the island. You don’t see as many SUP surfers here as you find in California or Hawaii.
We received a great Northeast swell from the January 2015 Blizzard. There were only small snowfall totals but the surf was big for this region. Nuking offshore winds created a sub freezing wind-chill factor with 8-foot sets detonating on the sandbars. This presented a scenario that only die-hard surfers wanted to take on. That’s one of the benefits of winter surfing; it cuts down the crowd factor in the lineup. Just walking through the snow to get to the water seriously chilled my feet even though I was wearing my 7mm wetsuit booties.
For me, the SUP was the right tool for the job that day. You just had to time the paddle out right and minimize mistakes. If you are lucky and play your cards right, there are less ice cream headaches with SUP surfing vs. standard surfing in the winter because you are not duck diving. But if you get caught in the impact zone with the SUP in big winter surf it can be twice as bad – getting dragged in the frosty froth by a leash tethered to a big board while trying to hold on to the paddle as waves roll over you.
The SUP enabled me to spot the set waves early and chase them down when everyone else was caught out of position. It also helped with catching those bigger waves despite the resistance of the cranking offshore wind. The power of the paddle and weight of the board made getting in and down the face easier. The directional speed and momentum of the SUP also helped with making the very long and fast sections that day. I even managed a few cover-ups along the way. An added pleasant surprise was discovering that the typically cumbersome lobster mitt gloves even interface well with handling the paddle. It was a memorable session. What a great way to enjoy the wintertime Jersey Juice. Stoked! -Mark Temme