Diehard NJ surfers give summer the cold shoulder

Written by: Julissa Guadagni

The winter chill may have forced out the tourists and sunbathers of the Jersey shore, but some surfers remain in the icy Atlantic. Winter surfing is an extreme sport that has become popular in Belmar, Point Pleasant, Monmouth Beach, Manasquan Inlet, Sandy Hook, Mantoloking and Casino Pier.

According to thesurfingsite.com, the water temperature ranges from 32 to 45 degrees, and it’s “not uncommon to be surfing while snow flurries are falling”.

Mercer alumnus and winter surfer, Clint Fisher of Hamilton Township has been surfingfor about nine years; his favorite beaches to go to are Belmar and Rockaway Beach.

“It’s the same as summer; just make sure you have good gear. A 3mm or 5mm [wetsuit] for the winter, gloves and hood. Your face feels like it’s getting stung by bees, but with the wetsuit you still feel a little warm and I let a little water in to cool for my body temperature,” said Fisher.

Thesurfingsite.com also states that the surf spots in New Jersey break best on a long-period south to southeast swell. This is typically during hurricane or winter season since the low-pressure systems move off the eastern seaboard and into the Mid-Atlantic.

Surfing in a blizzard is nothing new to Fisher. “On the weekend I went there, it was one of the most memorable times. It’s a feeling where you don’t know what it’s like until you actually do it,” he explained.

Winter surfing may seem extreme, but Fisher finds that it simply relieves stress. He

says, “My favorite time to be in the ocean is when it’s snowing. Call me weird, but when people go in the winter there [are] bigger waves.”

When asking Fisher about one of his unusual surfing stories he replied, “In the winter I went super early in the morning with really nice waves, and there were four or five dolphins swimming. And that to me I’ll never forget.”

However, the sport can also be dangerous. Fisher adds, “I always like to go with someone because no matter how good you are at swimming, there’s always a chance you can get stuck, no matter what the season is. So it’s for safety reasons, especially if you’re just starting off.”

Surfing blog, xtremesport4u.com, states that the most important thing is to “keep yourself warm from the inside out” by eating high fat foods such as peanut butter sandwiches or energy bars. These foods have a slow release which you can draw on later. Chocolate also works well for quick snacks. The site also states that, “…if you start feeling your internal temperature drop you must stop surfing. Involuntary teeth chattering or shivering are signs that your body has already become too cold. Even when mild hypothermia starts to set in, we begin to perform below capacity and can do something stupid.”

Winter surfing is gaining popularity, especially in New Jersey. The cold temperatures do not indicate the end of surfing until summer comes around again. But like any other sport, winter surfing has challenges and necessary precautions should be taken.

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Julissa Guadagni

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