Seagulls are squawking for food, the ocean smells like a salty tuna sandwich from two weeks ago, and the hoards of people flocking to the beach make the search for a parking spot feel impossible. These are all indicators of a harsh truth: you are at a beach in New Jersey. While New Jersey is rarely a sought after surf destination, it should be. Not only does it have a rich history, but it also represents surfing in a way that no other destination truly does.
Since I began surfing in 2016, I have been searching for the best wave and while many professional surfers look to Hawaii, California, or Western Australia for the world’s best wave, I plan to set my sights on the garbage and needle-ridden shores of New Jersey. I believe that the Northeast of the United States does not receive the attention it deserves as there is a unique surf culture that many in the area resonate with. New Jersey is the best surf destination in the world due the ever-changing breaks, summer crowds, and the challenges of seasonal surfing.
While the “best” wave is often subjective based on the preferences of the critic, I am going to clear the water. The best wave is the wave that pushes the surfer to their limits, mentally and physically. The best wave allows for the surfer to improve their technique through overcoming adversity whether that be avoiding other surfers on a crowded day or by paddling into double over-head conditions.
New Jersey provides the conditions for a surfer’s growth to the adversity that is present in the water and on our beaches. Many look to the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu as the best wave in the world due to its difficulty. The waves can reach up to twenty feet as they break over a solid reef, but can also produce some of the cleanest barrels in the world. However, it does not produce the same difficulty that New Jersey surf produces.
Each winter, dredging occurs offshore in New Jersey which creates a vastly different surf break every summer. A recent study was conducted by DanaRose Brown and the US Army Corps of Engineering which examined how dredging and beach nourishment affected surfability in the area. DanaRose Brown states, “Short-term results indicate that surfability was reduced within the nourishment area for at least one month post-nourishment with smaller surf zone widths and less sandbars than before the nourishment” (Brown). This research explains that after nourishment, which occurs annually, the surf breaks change as sandbars disappear and the surf zones become smaller. This adds another layer of difficulty to New Jersey surfing as not only is each wave surfed different, but surf breaks themselves are different from the year prior. This creates a need to surfers to adapt each year to the changing conditions which help them become better. Surfing is all about reaction to nature and changing with the circumstances around you. As the wave changes so does the surfer which is why a annually changing surf breaks creates better surfers as it allows them to stay in this fluid mindset.
Another challenge of New Jersey surf is the crowds. New Jersey is in between three major US cities; Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York City which draws hoards of tourists to the area. On top of the locations adjacent to these major metropolitan hubs, is the fact that New Jersey is a beautiful summer destination for many in the Northeast. This results in beaches and lineups becoming cramped and overcrowded during the summer. Hurricanes also draw huge crowds of surfers as they produce the best surf during the summer. Surfline, the world’s leading surf forecast site, stated, “New Jersey spots can be very crowded — just try to get a set wave at Manasquan Inlet or off the jetty at Broadway Beach in Cape May during the peak of a hurricane swell” (Surfline). As someone who frequently surfs Manasquan during the summer I can attest that not even a hurricane is needed for lineups to become cramped. On a sunny day in August, the lineup of attract upwards of twenty people even if conditions are mild or subpar. The crowds add another layer of difficulty because you have be aware of the hierarchy in the water as well as aware of those paddling out while you are on a wave. This added challenge creates a necessity for surfers to be clear minded and ready for any obstacle that is put before them.
While surfing in the summer may have its challenges, the oncoming winter provides challenges of its own. The beaches and lineups clear up while the waves improve, but the water temperature becomes bone chilling as winter sets in. Water temperatures can reach as high as seventy-five degrees in the summer, but can drop to low thirties in the peak of winter (Surfline). This requires the purchase of wetsuits which help prolong time spent in the water, but regardless the cold pierces through the five millimeters of protection. The cold creates a mental battle as surfers struggle to stay warm and loose in the water as larger sets roll through.
Surfing is hard. It requires mental and physical perseverance in order to improve which is why New Jersey is the best surf location. The best surf allow for a new set of obstacles each time a surfer enters the water which will provide them an opportunity to overcome adversity and improve. Whether it be changing breaks, crowds, or the cold; New Jersey surf provides obstacles that only allow for physically stronger surfers, but mentally as well.
“An Evaluation of the Short Term Impacts of Beach Nourishment on Surfability in Long Branch, New Jersey” Stevens Institute of Technology. 2020. 4 March 2023.
“New Jersey Travel and Surf Guide” Surfline. 2023. 4 March 2023
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Then I placed the post into the RowanStudent6 Category, where it will be easier to find.