Traveling barrel hunters have a bucket list. That list might vary depending on the surfer, their comfort level in giant surf, their tolerance for crowds and whether they are regular or goofy. But you can assume there are a few similar cylinders at the top of every tube rider's list.
Of course, on the North Shore, Pipe and Backdoor come to mind. Then there's the Superbank and Snapper Rocks, those throaty peelers on Australia's Gold Coast where the World Surf League's World Championship Tour will kick off. Near the top of the list would have to be the impossibly long, crushing tubes on the remote Namibian Coast known as Skeleton Bay. Think Rincon in California, J-Bay in South Africa, and countless little gems in the Indonesian archipelago.
New Jersey has not been on any of those lists.
But for about five days straight, some of the southeast facing coastline in New Jersey was hotter than a fresh thin crust right out of a strip mall pizza joint. And despite the 38-degree water, no one could help burning their mouths over and over again.
"I've never had a leg-burner wave in New Jersey before," Ocean City native, Jamie Moran told ASN. Moran has been a semi-professional surfer for over a decade and is now a partner in a mobile tech development business. "The sand was unreal. That's normally a go-to spot for north/northwest winds and east swell, but I had no idea the sand was that good. It was a proper set up for New Jersey. There were guys getting three barrels on every wave.”
It was all thanks to Winter Storm Riley, a low that formed off the Southeast Coast on March 2 and dropped to 975 millibars with 90-mph winds. As it moved off New England, it dumped several feet of snow, flooded coastal areas, knocked out power for some 2.2 million people and uncovered a shipwreck from the Revolutionary War era.
The Caribbean had a historic swell and Puerto Rico pulled in 30-foot waves. Florida went absolutely mental for days, Long Island had a nonstop wave train and offshore winds for nearly a week and the Outer Banks of North Carolina got so big it was unridable for most of the event.
But a little stretch of New Jersey got the world's attention as surfers and photogs from all over the East Coast descended for five days of pumping surf. At the end of it all, there were a lot of broken boards … and smiles.
The unprecedented sand set-up was thanks to the U.S. Government. The Army Corps of Engineers had just finished an $18.4 million beach replenishment project, the kind that keeps barrier islands (as well as homes and people) from going down to Davey Jones.
No sooner had the last grains of sand been pumped into place, then the storm pushed it all south, creating something of a Garden State Superbank that some compared to Skeleton Bay. "Newmibia" was a pretty clever moniker.
"I'm trying not to overhype it, but I surfed for seven hours Saturday and seven hours on Sunday and I don't even think I got the best of it. On Sunday I made myself get out of the water at 2 p.m. because I had to prep for a conference at work … And I'm getting married this week. But I still wound up surfing until 5:30,” added Moran.
On the heels of Riley, Winter Storm Quinn blasted the East Coast again, causing even more flooding, snow and of course, swell for Wednesday and Thursday. And there's another one lining up for the weekend. Maybe some bucket lists need to be adjusted?
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