Superstorm Riley Day 1: Namibia Comes To New Jersey (A Gallery)
“Probably the best lefthand setup I’ve ever seen in New Jersey” – Sam Hammer
Waking up at 4 AM, even by personal choice, can be tough. Waking up at 4 AM for work? That’s feels like a goddamned prison sentence.
But today I woke up at 4 AM — mostly for me, a little for work — and had no qualms about it. That’s because my job (writing about surfing) and my passions (surfing, writing) are closely aligned. For this reason I really enjoy my work, especially when it allows me, encourages me even, to do my favorite thing: surf really really ridiculously good waves and then write about it.
So despite staying up ’til midnight writing yesterday’s dispatch, when 4 AM came along I was excited to hear my oft-dreaded alarm. Because today was one of those days when I got to surf really really ridiculously good waves and then write about it.
But back to the alarm.
No snooze. Brush teeth. Rush girlfriend (“Babe, the waves!”). Hot water jugs. Coffee stop. Drive.
We arrived at the spot, which will from this point forward be called Newmibia, at 6:30 AM. Pro surfers Rob Kelly, Stevie Pittman, and Kevin Schultz, along with Rusty America GM (and ex-pro) Matt Keenan, were already on the sand, pointing eastward and throwing their heads back. A good sign.
Here’s what I saw as I popped over the dune (and what was captured by my selfless girlfriend Ana, who bared today’s chill for the sake of some beautiful photos, seen above, below and everywhere in between.):
The next five hours were a blur of paddling, tubes, and debilitating beach walks. My arms felt they were going to fall off — not from paddling, but from carrying a double-six glassed board half a mile up the beach, against the wind, probably more than 20 times over seven hours. But how does one hop off this aching treadmill when the best waves he’s seen since …maybe ever… are running through the lineup with Fanning-like consistency? (Hint: he doesn’t.)
So I kept going.
Rather than boring you with the details of my (first) session, I thought I’d share some of my Day 1 observations, from the vantage point of an east coast surfer who has lived out west for six years, only to return home for the swell of the decade.
Waves in the east coast jack up and throw very quickly, making them easier to catch than west coast waves, which have a tendency to stand up and roll for miles. However, the quick and oftentimes steep transitions on the east coast can be difficult to handle, even for the best surfers. This change-up took me a second to get used to, but ultimately I prefer the thrill of right coast entries.
East coast surfers are significantly more welcoming than those in California. At the very best spot on New Jersey’s very best swell, there was an incredible sense of camaraderie shared between everyone on the beach, in the water, and in the parking lot. No matter of origins, everybody was stoked for everybody — giving pats on the back, high-fives, etc. — and despite how cliche that might sound, I love that these uni-tribalistic mantras still persist in certain facets of today’s modern surf culture.
At that very same theoretical setting (best swell, best wave) in California, the locals would be snooty toward all the blow-ins, the blow-ins would exacerbate that snootiness by being dicks right back, and the combination of these two phenomena would result in countless burnings, awkward splash-battles, and a general sense of dread coursing throughout the lineup. I experienced this very phenomenon last year at California’s “dream-wave” Sandspit, which, in my experience, is nowhere close to as good as Newmibia. That brings me to my next point.
East coast waves are better than west coast waves. A broad statement, but I believe it to be true. In all my years in California (six), I’ve had very few instances of all-day barrels (certainly less than 10) whereas on the east coast it happens all the time (see: Brett Barley’s Instagram). Also, barrels on the east coast are considerably easier and more fun to ride due to their added girth. Most California tubes feel like you’re trying to put toothpaste back into a dispenser, while east coast tunnels are akin to hot dogs and hallways. And as Rusty America GM says, “California sucks! So glad I moved back home.”
Throughout the day I witnessed many great rides. There was Simon Hetrick’s mystery reveal*, Nolan Rapoza’s deep-point doggy-door, Tommy Ihnken’s tube/slash/tube, Jude Clark’s backdoor squeegee, and Rob Kelly’s never-ending snake run. With all these rides (and many more) taking place at one special sandbar, I felt the need to ask around about the relative quality of this wave.
How good is Newmibia, really?
“Like (Cape Hatteras) Lighthouse, but better!” one pro said.
“Like shitty (Cape Hatteras) Lighthouse,” said another.
Perhaps the most profound statement came from Sam Hammer, future Godfather of Garden State surfing, who said, “I think this is the best left setup I’ve ever seen in New Jersey.”
So yeah, the wave is was legit. (Too bad the wind is going sideways tomorrow.)
But back to today, which I’m now officially claiming in the top 3 of my life (taking into account waves caught, stoke shared, the family dinner afterwards, and the fact that this is my job). Before settling down for some nighttime R&R, Riley graced us with one final gift — a jaw-dropping sunset of pink, purple, orange, yellow, and red.
After seven total hours of surfing, I found myself fighting the river-like current at last-light, trying to maintain position for one final ride in sunset’s dying embers. At last that wave arrived, and after a slight stall I found myself in a quickly-warping pocket. Rather than try to park it for a proper tube, I found myself uncharacteristcally happy to cruise in the pocket and get lost in the view. I remember time slowing down and thinking to myself, specifically, I don’t care if I make the tube or not. In this moment, I’m as happy as a person can be.
After that ride I bellied into shore, basked a little more in the Great Star’s farewell, and fist-bumped everybody I saw on the way to my car. Just when I thought the stoke levels couldn’t get any higher, I realized the water jugs I’d filled this morning were somehow still warm for a post-surf rinse. I told you it was a good (work) day!
So we’ll see you tomorrow, Riley.** Can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us.
*When you’re watching a perfect, seemingly empty gem and then *poof*, the rider reveals himself in a blast of wave ejaculate!
** As I finished writing this up, my computer calendar switched from March 3 to 4, making it technically “tomorrow” at time of posting. I have to wake up in four hours to do this all over again. Should be… fun!(?)
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