Let’s talk about the Jersey shore.
I know a lot of people’s minds immediately go to the fist-pumping Guidos of the trashy MTV reality show. The sweaty, drunken summer days at Seaside Heights are not where this conversation starts.
The Jersey shore I think of is the 130 miles of beaches with limited parking, expensive day-badges (the pass you need to access the beaches from June-September), plenty of eating and drinking facilities and let’s not forget, East Vegas…or Atlantic City if you prefer.
That brief description may give you a tiny taste of what you can expect but let’s dig a little deeper. First off, if you’re here to get the dish on all of the best surf spots then you’ll be disappointed. The first rule in any public forum when talking about surfing: don’t disclose access points. Crowded surf spots are more common these days so it is important to get out and hunt for yourself to find spots that work and don’t work. In today’s internet driven society, you should be able to find a couple of places to check out. Or click here for an app that will get you started.
That being said, surfing in New Jersey is an odd thing. The east coast, for those that don’t know, isn’t a surfing Mecca by any stretch. With soft breaking, mushy waves in the summer, the best you can usually hope for is crowded longboard line-ups or beginners kicking their boards out at you. Where New Jersey really stands out is in the winter. Yes, the best time to paddle out is in the 35 degree waters from January to March. Not a great surf vacation to most people that think of the blonde and tans carrying their boards in the middle of summer. But, being honest, in winter there waves as good here as anywhere else. The beauty is, the waves you have in the winter are typically unshared (once you find your secret spot). You just need to be able to handle the chill.
In NJ, local surfers are more likely to tell you “That’s not frostbite, it’s an ice tan.”
Now, summers at the shore aren’t unlike other beach places. The beaches are busy and full of activity. Everything from on-beach theme parks and arcades to excellent seafood restaurants and bars. Asbury Park is a shining example of a great summer getaway to spend a few days. Off the boardwalk there are plenty of bathroom facilities, food joints, surfboard and boogie board rentals (see above though). There are even beginner surf schools that can help teach you the basics. Most parking around here is pay-per-hour and you will need a pesky beach badge if showing up after 9a. If you prefer something a little smaller and laid-back, head up to Sea Bright and check out Woody's. May we suggest an Orange Crush?
Another great spot is along the south shore at Cape May. This little piece of Heaven is cleaner and a little more chilled out than stretches along the north. This has the feel more of a retirement community and reminds me of some beaches in Florida more than the north Jersey shore. If throwing dice or spinning the wheel is more your flavor, Atlantic City is a short hour drive north. Here, in addition to gambling, you’ll find outstanding people watching, an abundance of food options, and fair-type activities in endless surplus. Don’t expect Vegas though. This is a long way from the dessert-located monster in the west.
There’s a lot to see up and down the shore. And this is only a tiny sampling of it. The best way to figure out what is best for you is to cross the bridge in the Highlands and take Ocean drive south as far as you can. With so many towns and shops, it’ll likely take more than the claimed 2 hours and 20 minutes to get from the north to the south.
And at the end of the day, as crazy as things get on the Jersey shore, nothing will beat an east coast sunrise!