Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

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“Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at them right.”

Praying for Funsets!

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We had some good waves last weekend in New Jersey.  The March winds blew and blew, the passing storm shook the trees and filled the lakes, and in the wake a nice swell persisted in the face of howling offshores.

While surfing on Sunday I found myself feeling immensely grateful for the opportunity to be in the water.  It is a small miracle to be able to paddle out, to have legs and arms and a body that will allow it.  It is an equal miracle to have found surfing at all; to be given the opportunity.

Rarely is this gratitude lost on me, but last weekend it was more pronounced.  With the devastation in Japan I could not help but reflect on how quickly life can turn.  The phrase, “that there is no day promised to you” came to mind as I watched the sun weave its way through the mid-March clouds.

Internally I had a flickering reminder that “there is no wave promised to you either.”  Life can change on a dime, all the more reason to give thanks for the opportunities we have, as we are having them.

Below are ten very unofficial suggestions you may wish to adopt as resolutions for the year twenty-eleven.  Either way SeaSandSurf wishes you a year of peace and good times. 

1) Don’t hate on the beach that is growing on the floor of your car.  Sand is beautiful.

2) Drink more pre-surf coffee so you can stay warm during those winter sessions.

3) Don’t doubt it- when it’s your turn to go, paddle and go.

4) Road trip!

5) If you find yourself mind surfing in the middle of the afternoon then you must be doing something right.

6) Don’t let the boss know.

7) Surf on a day that is beyond your comfort zone, even if it means a surf trip to Tahiti.

8) Go ahead, hoot that stranger in the line-up into the wave of the day.

9) Snake one for old time’s sake.

10)  If anyone can get away with wearing a pair of purple Uggs you can. No, for real!

A special thanks to Daniel “Surfer Into the Woods” Yackewych for helping to formulate the scientific list above.

Daniel Yackewych and I finally caught up via telephone several days ago.  The timing could not have been more appropriate.  Like a tried and true surfer, he must have smelled that the Atlantic was finally starting to brew- with Hurricane Danielle cranking happily along and more activity sniffing at her heels.  This is some feat on his part though, since he was reporting from a small town just off of the Pacific Crest Trail, 200 miles south of the Oregon border.  However, I was not surprised that he still had a read on things- because a surfer in the woods is still a surfer.

SSS: Excellent to hear from you brother.

Daniel Yackewych: Excellent to be heard from.

SSS: For those not checking in on your blog, which is an awesome travel log by the way, please tell us, how is the hike going?

DY: As well as could be expected with 100 plus days under my feet.  I am ragged, dirty and worn but I am feeling good.  So far we have hiked just over 1600 miles and I smell to high heaven.

SSS: You say we- I thought this was a solo mission?

DY:  It started out that way, but I have a few travel companions now who share the goal of making it Canada.

SSS: Mainly Flyboxer right?  I feel like I know the guy from your posts. 

DY: Yeah, Flyboxer is a real levelheaded guy and we have a similar approach to the hike.

SSS: What approach might that be?

DY: Well, a lot of people on the trail are super succinct when they get into town.  They are able to organize their supplies, do their shopping and what not with little effort.  I on the other hand, end up standing in the middle of the grocery store, wandering the aisles for two hours trying to adjust to the change of scenery.  Flyboxer is the same way so that works well.

SSS: It sounds like you are a homeless guy.  You aren’t talking to yourself or screaming on street corners about the approaching UFOs are you?

 

DY:  (Laughs) I don’t think so.  Would somebody tell me if I was?

SSS: That is a great point.  I guess we will see when you get back.  Speaking of getting back, what does that look like for you?

DY: Well finishing the hike will be a miracle.  Washington looms as does late September, and the weather is going to play a huge factor. We are certain to encounter some wet chilly conditions and I am trying to mentally prepare myself.  As the trip is currently planned, I am flying back to New Jersey in early October.

SSS:  Just in time for some prime Atlantic activity I hope.  Although I doubt that you are thinking much about surfing right now.

DY: You would be surprised.  I really miss getting in the water and it is one of the things I look forward to most.

SSS: What else do you miss in terms of your “normal” life?

DY:  I have thought about this a ton.  I miss having an armrest and a couch.  I am focused on a beer, a blanket and the NFL.  I really want to see football.  Flyboxer and I are actually going to try and catch a high school game somewhere in Oregon.

SSS: That is if security doesn’t throw the two homeless guys out.

DY: (Laughs) Good point.  Although most towns along the PCT are used to having hikers pass through, so it is more likely that someone will offer us a pasta dinner and place to shower.  The people we have met along the way have been amazing.

SSS:  And if you had to say there was one lesson that you have learned so far, what would it be?

DY:  I would have to say that I have learned that I know where my home is.  I feel really grounded in knowing that New Jersey is where I belong and that I have it to come back to.  The hike has solidified my attachment to place- to family and friends. 

SSS:  Well that is cool.  Just so you know we will be here when you get back.  Of course you better plan on getting into paddle shape before the winter swells start to come in, or you will be sure to get you tail handed to you.

DY: I know!  I am hoping it is like riding a bike.

SSS:  There is a reason why Todd Stewart titled his short surf film Surf Magazines Don’t Talk About Lapsed Catholics. The ocean will be waiting…

DY: I can’t wait.

SSS:  We can’t either.  Keep up the great work.

DY: I will. I hope there is a Jersey Freshie waiting with my name on it.

SSS: You know there is, and I am buying!

DY: With pepperoni too?

SSS: Sure.

DY: Nice.

 

 

In Ancient China, Buddhist Temples are often protected by enormous statues of warriors with empty eyes and permanent scowls.  These monsters of the Id are often stocked with weaponry and are intimidating beyond reproach.  The stone guardians are intended to ward off evil spirits and protect the monks.  While these figures keep demons at bay, they often serve another purpose, and that is to remind those who enter the temple to leave their fear behind.

When a visitor comes face to face with the statue they are reminded that fears greater than themselves will rise up within them, and they are to look at those fears directly.  Much like the stone that these warriors are made from these fears can be unrelenting, and to ignore them is foolery.  They are not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon.

So travelers near and far are confronted with a very sobering fact: the only way to overcome a fear is to look directly at it and accept it.  The statue is a test. Will you stare at your fear, acknowledge it and then leave it behind or will you allow it to stop you in your tracks?  Will you go past the doorway of your fears and enter the unknown of the temple?

 

The ocean often offers guardian statues of its’ own.  For surfers, those way-layers of demons and fear come in the form of waves that are a little larger than anticipated.  Sometimes the keeper of the shoreline stands before us as a nagging injury or a powerful rip-tide.  At other moments it is laziness or procrastination- or maybe it is an unwillingness to try.

These demons that circle around us are often no more than figments of our overly active imagination.  What if a shark is looming off of the jetty?  What if I go out there and make a fool of myself, or even worse, what if I go out and give it my all and fail?

From session to session surfing is an excellent tool to push personal boundaries.  Many people equate surfing to a religious experience; and in that it requires devotion to be done well, I suppose that it is.  The ocean is a temple for so many surfers.  So when you come to the shoreline literally, or when you reach that place in your own thoughts- think of those before you who soldiered on, and push out past yourself.

Remember, it always better in the walls of that sacred place, than it is standing at the door with you fears.

 

Anyone who knows about Jersey Surfing knows about Sam Hammer. I first met Sam while working at the Crabs Claw Inn in Lavallette more summers ago then I care to count.  At the time, he was just coming into his own as a surfer.  He was methodically building a reputation as someone that really represents what Jersey Surfing looks like in its finest form.  In the time that I worked with Sam I knew him to be driven, humble and focused.  

Through the years since, Sam has been a champion for surfing, and a point of pride to the Jersey Scene.  He has built a successful career as a professional and is recognized as an ambassador for the Garden Sate.  I caught up with him recently to talk all things Jersey Surfing. 

Sam Setting the Standard for the Garden State (Photo: D. Cresitello)

Sea Sand Surf:  I guess I will start by saying that I have kept up with your surfing though the magazines and it is has been awesome to see you progress.  Do you remember the first time you had a photo run?

Sam Hammer: Yeah, I had a postage stamp in Eastern Surf Magazine when I was seventeen.

SSS: Do you still have it? 

Hammer: Of course.  I try to keep a copy of everything that runs even the stuff in the international magazines.  I am only missing two, one was a shot from a  Magazine called Black Water and the other was from a surf magazine in Uruguay.

SSS: As a public service announcement: anyone with a copy of Black Water surf magazine get in touch.  Sam wants to complete his collection!

Hammer: (laughing) It’s not like that.

SSS:  But it is a point of pride to see your photos published?

Hammer:  Definitely.  There is a pride factor involved.  It is also a sense of accomplishment.  When traveling for my sponsor Billabong it is important that I come back from the trips with photos, so having them published lets me know that I am getting the job done. 

Sam Getting the Job Done (Photo Donald Cresitello)

SSS:  What gives you that work ethic?  It must be tough to get somewhere and not want to blow the whole thing off so you can drink beer and sleep on the beach?

Hammer:  Well, my parents are a huge inspiration.  They always taught me that it was important to do things the right way, and I take that attitude into my surfing.

SSS: It seems to be paying off.  The last spread I remember seeing you involved in was a feature for on a surf trip to Norway.  Where have you been to surf?

Hammer: At this point I have been really lucky to have been around the world.  Indo, Chile, Tahiti, Hawaii, Iceland a bunch of times, Norway, Mexico and recently Russia?

SSS:  So Billabong has been good to you?

Hammer: Very.

SSS: What was Russia like?  Was it all big fur hats and vodka?

Hammer:  (laughs) No, that was a bummer.  We got there with the intention of finding some unique breaks and exploring the culture, but we got completely skunked.

SSS: What do you make of the New Jersey Surf Scene?

Making the Most of the Jersey Scene (Photo: Donald Cresitello)

Hammer: I think it is great.  We have a really active ocean year round and we get waves that are amazing.  There has been so much growth in the sport in recent years and I think that the progression is awesome.  There are so many guys that are surfing so well right now and I think it is great that people are taking advantage of the beautiful ocean that we have.

SSS:  What do you say about the idea of localism and the growth in crowds? 

Hammer:  I think it is ridiculous.  This is not Pipeline.  I understand that certain breaks need regulation, especially in places where the conditions can put people in the way of serious harm, but that is not the case with Jersey.  When we get some real size that thins the pack plenty, and on any given day you can find a beach break to yourself if you look around.

Sam, Taking Advantage of a Thin Herd (Photo: Donald Cresitello)

SSS: So localism is a dead issue in your eyes?

Hammer:  Localism is for people who don’t get out and see the world.  If people did they would realize that everyone is a tourist somewhere. 

SSS: And in Jersey we have this whole “Benny Go Home Thing” too.

Hammer:  Yeah (laughs).  I don’t get that.  I know some kids who work for tips that are like “I wish these Bennys would leave.”  They just don’t get it.  Tourism is such an important part of New Jersey. We have amazing beaches and people want to experience them.  Surfing is so much fun, and who can blame people for wanting to get in the water.  Plus, if you are any good, you will still get your waves.  Sure, someone might get in your way now and then, but is that really a big deal?

SSS: As a Jersey surfer, I take it as a point of pride to see that you are getting waves and traveling the world.  It validates the fact that we do get good waves and there is plenty of great surfing here.  I know a signifier of the Jersey Scene is the Smith Optics Garden State Grudge Match and you are the returning champion two years running.  Do you plan on defending the belt this year?

Hammer:  Absolutely.  I love that contest.  With so many awesome surfers in the state I want to surf my best for the Grudge Match. Everyone who enters really wants to win and so there is a lot of tension and it is super competitive.  In the water there is a lot of Jockeying and everyone is focused on getting the best waves possible.

SSS: So no intentions of giving the belt up?

Hammer: (Laughs) Absolutely not.  I am going to hold it down for as long as I can. Everyone in New Jersey respects the Grudge Match. It is where the best surfers in the state come together with one goal in mind, to be the champion.  People outside of the state recognize the Grudge Match for what it is too, so it allows for a higher level of exposure.

Everyone in NJ has a Grudge. Sam Knows How to Handle His. (Photo: Donald Cresitello)

SSS: Is there a certain amount of trash talk involved?  It seems like there is a theatrical element to the thing like the WWE.

Hammer: This is New Jersey. You can’t expect it any other way.

SSS: Has anyone threatened to body slam you off of the pier before?

Hammer: No, but if they thought they might win by doing it they probably would. (laughing)

SSS: The rivalries are real though?

Hammer:  Sure.  New Jersey Surfers have so much of pride. I know that there are some people that are not happy with the fact that I won last year.  It was a really tight competition and the final heat between Gessler and I came down to the closing moments.

SSS: Do you feel your knowledge of the waves along Casino Pier played a major factor?

Hammer: Wave knowledge goes a long way, especially in shifting conditions and Casino Pier is in my backyard.  It means a bunch to be able to win contests there because it is such an awesome place to surf.  Everyone on the East Coast knows about Casino Pier and it has so much history.

Casino Pier at Sunrise

SSS:  Given that you are a three time champ and the only back-to-back winner of the Grudge Match do you have a bulls-eye on your back?

Hammer:  Of course.  I respect everyone who is in the event so much, but I want to keep the title and I know they are hungry.  Guys like Andrew Gessler, Mike Gleason and Frankie Walsh want to win as badly as I do and they surf so well.

SSS: Who else is surfing at a high level right now?

Hammer: Truthfully, anyone who qualifies for the event is a legitimate player.   Pat Schmidt is surfing really strong. So is P.J. Raia and Zach Humphreys.  There are just too many quality surfers to name them all. 

SSS: What about the guys who feel they belong but didn’t get invited to the dance?     

Hammer:  They need to get through the qualifier like everyone else.       

SSS: What about wave quality for the event?

A Couple of These Waves and Sam Might Be Champ Again (Photo D. Cresitello)

Hammer: Rob Cloupe and the whole crew do an amazing job waiting for optimal conditions.  Last year we had two North East storms in play.  When New Jersey is on, there are few places better in my opinion.  Pound for pound we get solid swells and the waves allow for a wide variety or maneuvers and a progressive approach.

SSS: So you are doing it for Jersey pride.

Hammer: Yep. 

SSS:  I know you started a surf camp in conjunction with Billabong?  What made you want to do that?

Hammer:  I saw it as a new opportunity to share my love of surfing and of the ocean with other people.  It is awesome to be able to provide individual attention to the students and see them get as stoked about the sport as I am. 

SSS:  Have you seen a number of your students fall in love with the sport?

Hammer: Definitely.  Surfing is one of those things that you just can’t explain in words no matter how hard you try.  It is really cool to see the look on people’s faces the first time they ride a wave.

SSS:  I know that the camp was successful this year.  Is it something you are going to continue?

Hammer: Definitely.

Who Can't Use a Pointer from One of Jersey's Best? (Photo D. Cresitello)

SSS:  What else is on the horizon?

Hammer:  Mike Gleason and I are planning on tow surfing big waves in a partnership with Red Bull and ABC in the near future. We have been tracking storms for some time now and are looking at running a mission between September and December.

SSS:  Where?

Hammer: Not letting the cat out of the bag on that one. (laughs)

 SSS: Anything else?

Hammer:  The premier of The Dark Fall by Alex DePhillipo at the House of Blues in Atlantic City will be on August 13th. We are also starting work on Get in the Van II.  Brian Nevins, Joe Carter and LaVecchia make hysterical movies and this is guaranteed to be good.

SSS:  Well, I appreciate you spending some time.  Keep representing Jersey well.  Maybe we can catch up again in the future.

Hammer:  Sure thing.

 

*Special thanks to Tim Bourne for his technical support on this publication and to Donald Cresitello for the great photos.

Sharks can clear the water with the flash of a fin.  That is never going to change.  But can you imagine not being able to get in the water at all because the line-up is swarmed with Sea Nettles?  It sounds crazy I know, but it may not be far from reality. 

A sting from one of these things is worse than bumping into a hornet’s nest.  The article in the Asbury Park Press clearly documents how they may become a monster of our own making.  Check it out.  Stay informed.  Do your part to keep our oceans clean.