Thanksgiving: You Say Turkey, I Say Surf

Thanksgiving break.  Food, family, and waves that will leave you smiling.

Not many people think of surfing when they are home stuffing their faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, and mom’s latest dessert.  As it occurred, the week of Thanksgiving was a week chock full of early-winter tubes.

Tuesday before Turkey Day was shaping up to be very promising. Monday yielded unorganized and choppy surf.  Those who went out found it to be a short and tiresome experience although the beating was lessened by an unseasonal 60-degree day.

Anyone who went out on Monday was experiencing full-fledged post-traumatic stress after their session.  For most, it was a short, maddening surf.  A disheartening Monday created high expetiations for Tuesday’s surf.

I woke awaiting the arrival of friends who were driving to Monmouth University that morning. Brendan had skinned his head since the last time I had seen him and Sean was shaking in his booties, too cold for all of our optimism.  Our band of ugly, frothing dudes pulled up to our first spot to analyze the waves. It turned out that our first stop also ended up being our last. It looked good… really good.  How could we resist?

Rather than drive around, we changed into our winter gear as fast as we could. Sean was in a 3/2 wetsuit and detachable hood, his neck skin screaming through the uncovered space where his suit met the hood.  He managed to crack a smile through his discomfort.

The paddle out to the lineup is always a nerve-racking one, completely silent and characterized by the hand that Mother Nature deals you as you enter the impact zone. For the lucky ones, it takes a few strong paddles and maybe a dive or two. For others, they may end up in the wash for a few minutes.  But of course, that is all part of the fun.

As surfers know, every takeoff is an investment. You have to be all-in; visualizing the grey, cloudy promise land at the end of the black hole you have found yourself tucked into. The idea is simple, yet every movement and thought is heightened to a new level of importance. Life in a barrel: slow, motionless bliss until the light is gone or you are at the end of the line, blinded by spray, but content.

For MU students, it is not much of a struggle getting to the beach.  When there is swell, we usually know, and if we do not like what we see, the ride back to campus is no more than ten minutes.

However, not everyone is blessed with this type of luxury that MU surfers enjoy.  From their respective colleges in Philadelphia, Brendan Nolan and his brother Billy are frequent visitors to the local breaks.

“You wake up at 6:30 am, grab your wetsuit and board, and stumble to the car. Drive two hours to the spot and surf for maybe an hour. Catch maybe five waves and get pounded the rest of the time by freezing cold, head throbbing water. Your face, hands, feet, and balls sting the whole time. Your knuckles take the longest to thaw out, making it hard to get your clothes back on in the car,” said Brendan Nolan when asked about the trips he and his brother make to Long Branch, NJ.

“As for that specific day I got lit up by a set that sent me out of the water puking on the beach, and then I paddled back out, that’s what I know about, that’s east coast surfing to me,” added Brendan.

Familiar faces like these build our community.  Whether they are people from MU who get to study along the shore, locals who grew up on the beach or those who will drive hours for the love of surfing, NJ is a fascinating surfing hub where each and every surfer makes a contribution.

For those who are ready for the next swell, the wait will not be long. On Monday and Tuesday expect monstrous and choppy waves, with high winds. This should all calm down on Wednesday, leaving us with some chest to head high barrels all day, and some more on Thursday morning.

Keep an eye out for a familiar face in the water. Talk, listen, and share ideas, we are all products of a lifestyle that is addicting and awesome. Not much in life can beat good friends and surfing on the Jersey shore.