This has easily been one of the greatest undertakings of my life. Several years ago, I had the idea to do a series of mini documentaries that focused on the Long Beach Island region. Every year, thousands and thousands of people come from near and far to experience what a special place this is. But I wanted to do something a little deeper.
Sure, everyone comes to our little sandbar to swim in the Atlantic and eat cotton candy. What I wanted to show was just beneath the surface, the characters, the work ethic and the way of life that has created this community by the sea.
After a whole lot of work with the talented guys at Oak Leaf Media unwavering support from the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, a pilot episode, gathering local sponsors, and a lot of time in post production, I am very proud to release the first episode of Season One, "Pineys and Paddles."
The whole idea is to be the antithesis to every reality show you've ever seen about New Jersey. Get past all the bullshit and you can find the real New Jersey, and our life lived on the water. My goal isn't just to bring more visitors to our area, but to make the current visitors more engaged.
We will release three more episodes through 2017 that we are very excited about. Look for some free diving, shipwrecks, ripping surfers, interesting homes, life behind the bar and chasing striped bass. Thanks to the Mud City family of restaurants, Dave's Electric, Farias Surf, Volatile Media, and Ship Bottom Brewery.
For the past several months I have worked with my longtime friend Mark Tesi of Togetherness Agency on the launch of Parker's Garage & Oyster Saloon, an exciting new restaurant on Long Beach Island.
As Parker's Garage is a throwback to the Golden Age of Beach Haven, Mark had the brilliant idea of a marketing campaign that utilized historic imagery of "The Queen City" and Ellis Parker, a bayman who opened a restaurant/engine repair shop on the Beach Haven waterfront.
The rollout included six weeks of historic photos compliments of the New Jersey Maritime Museum that tell the story Parker's. My part included web and social media copy around the launch.
Of course, the product is the real selling point and the Nugent and Magaziner families, with Chef Kyle Baddorf, have outdone themselves with this place. The offerings from the kitchen and raw bar are nothing short of amazing.
I've particularly enjoyed this project because of my love for local history and the fact that my grandfather was a commercial "pound" fisherman and I have some knowledge of how these operations, like the one in Beach Haven. Check it out when you're in Beach Haven.
For the last two years in a row, its possible that the best assignment I've gotten was covering the Salty Dog Cruise, a sailing punk rock festival headlined by Flogging Molly. Our friends The Bouncing Souls were aboard this year, as well as NOFX, Less than Jake, The Voodoo Glow Skulls, The English Beat, The Skalites, the Bunny Gang, and a few thousand scurvy pirates and wenches. We had some good time on that rocking ship.
Of everything I have ever written, this is likely to be among the most meaningful to me. In early January, we said good-bye to Dave Franklin of Vision, aka DaVish, a guy who welcomed me deeper into New Jersey punk/hardcore 20 years ago, as he did for so many over the years that I now count as friends.
On Sunday, April 2, we will celebrate Dave's life and character in the best way we know how - with a raucous hardcore show at Convention Hall in Asbury Park. I'll be the first to admit that it will be an emotional day.
That said, I am honored to have be given the opportunity to write this piece for The Aquarian on the Doing It For Dave show and weave in some of the many stories of our brother. Thanks to Pete Tabbot and Derek Rinaldi who gave me some gold, and photos that span decades from "The Pope," himself, Ken Salerno. You can find the hard copy of the Aquarian at your favorite convenience store. I'll be saving this issue.
For those who don't know, I write what is, at its essence, a surf column for a beach community. Apparently, there are folks out there who do not like to throw social commentary in there with talk of wind and tide. That leads me to believe their are either to naiive to believe political issues can interfere with the pursuit of happiness - or they just don't like my particular political view.
To be honest, I don't give a damn.
I will continue to inject politics and discussions into my writing because power and influence affect everything we do. I have very fair editor and publishers who are extremely supportive of my observances and opinions in my writing. And while I will certainly throw barbs at those on both sides who deserve it, I like to think that I don't alienate most rationale people, even when we disagree. That's important.
That said, never in my lifetime have I seen an elected official reach so boldly for the sword of power, looking not to win over the people by a fair duel, but rather aiming to impose rule by hacking at dissenters. It's important for me to expand on these ideas now more than ever, hence this column, The Pizza Resistance.
From what I see, much of the country is accepting the roll out of this new authoritarianism like a new value meal at McDonalds. (The worst pizza in New Jersey is far better than McDonalds.) But a good portion of Americans, and thankfully those closest to me, are alarmed by the greasy political cholesterol and chemical-filled vitriol. For some, it's all very comforting and simple. It may taste good now, but eventually it will kill them. The rest of us who won't poison our bodies with that garbage, won't let 45 (and those who are really pulling the strings) poison our minds. For those on both sides who aren't ready to let the bizarre become the rationale, we all have to put these ideas out to keep each other sane.
There were two conversations I had before and after the presidential election that made me realize how serious the problem had become. And I hesitate to call them "conversations" simply because they were on social media. It makes it all seem so tawdry.
Normally, these debates go into a vortex of stupidity, so I do my best not to bite. But a guy I know had posted some insane story about Hillary Clinton being involved in a child pornography ring. It was one of the thousands of fake news stories that circulated before the election that likely moved the dial in some warped way.
And he got me. Truth be told, aside from being a sucker for click bait bullshit wrapped in red, white and blue, I kind of like the guy. He's a carpenter and a skilled craftsman with a side business. He works hard, and I have nothing but respect for those professions.
But I asked what he was going to do in a few weeks when it was proven that Hillary Clinton had no connection to a child porn ring? But he was convinced that anything that wasn't from CNN or The New York Times was true. In fact, he was accusing me of not "digging deeper" to get the real story. When his argument ran thin, he took to accusing me of always writing about my opposition to beach replenishment.
For those not familiar, we live on coast that is slowly washing away. It's part natural process where barrier islands migrate inland and part the effects of a rising ocean (due to climate change, which may not be true because outlets like CNN and The New York Times report on it.)
The government basically sucks sand off the ocean floor and rebuilds dunes and beaches, many of which wash away again. Then they come back and suck sand off the ocean floor ...and repeat. The shape of the artificial beach is not very conducive to recreation, which is the main reason people come to our island -and we depend 100 percent on tourism dollars. It also wrecks the surf. So while I am in agreement that we need these engineered beaches as protection, I have long campaigned for better designs, in my column and in public forums. But I fully understand that without these projects, our days are numbered. And that has been my stance for almost 15 years.
Anyway, he accused me of being against these projects to which I responded that I would wait while he went searching through years and years of my columns (which are relatively easy to find online) where he would find the opposite to be true. I was inviting him to go "digging deeper" for the real story, and even handed him the shovel.
But he wouldn't give. He refused to look at the years of columns, demonstrable data I that clearly showed his accusations were false. He was quick to tear down my character, but wasn't willing to look at easy evidence. It's as if we were entering an age where things like proof and facts didn't actually mean anything.
And in actuality, because of that fake story about the child porn ring, some unhinged dude drove from North Carolina to Washington DC to "rescue" children kidnapped by the Clinton folks who were being abused in the basement of a pizza joint. This psycho went into Comet Ping Pong with an assault-style rifle and fired off shots that could have killed someone.
There were no child captives. There wasn't even a basement. So, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who shared that story had a hand in spreading the horseshit story that led to some yahoo endangering the lives of actual children who were eating pizza and playing ping pong. I have no doubt which candidate my friend or the gunman supported in this past election.
And what happened? Well, his guy won. He beat Hillary Clinton - an uncharismatic, former first lady mainstream candidate who was easy to shoot holes in and probably lied more than most politicians, but would have kept American life normal. And by that, I mean, a balance of hypocrisy and human decency.
45 has pretty much lied every single day since he was elected. So we can't go back and look at how ridiculous the story of Hillary Clinton making sex films with nine year olds was because every day we have to be ready to point out the danger of the new lie, while sign petitions, protesting, and generally resisting some attack on our imperfect, but functioning democracy and global stability.
The second happened right after the election. Following the upset and the election of an immature reality TV star, most of the sensible people I know expressed their feelings of darkness, again, via social media. I decided that I had a voice in mass communication and I would use it. And while that week's column was obviously about politics, I basically wanted to let people who believe in the human spirit know that they are not alone. And to be honest, 45's ecological values are a very direct threat to surfing, so they are not mutually exclusive.
When the story ran, I was thanked for addressing it in a way that pointed out facts without forever turning off people who might have voted for 45. But one surfer felt that I should not have mentioned politics in surf journalism. He was sure that my column about the surf and I "should keep it that way." it's the only reason he still read the paper "no matter who he voted for..." So clearly, he voted for 45 and there was a cognitive dissonance between his politics and the politics of so many whom he shared a subculture with.
The comments that followed were not insulting of him, but they pointed out that if one was a regular reader of my column, he would know that there are always political topics, whether it was beach replenishment, environmental standards, beach access, or some other issue. At the root, it all comes back to some kind of politics, even at the most basic level.
But again, the commenter insisted that my weekly column had never discussed any kind of politics. Had he searched through years of my digital ramblings, it would have been very obvious that he was dead wrong. The guy insisted he was right in the face of easily proven facts but wouldn't look at the data.
Those two instances were flashing red lights that we are in something of a national crisis truth brought to us by Twitter. The following months ushered in the era of "alternative facts." We can't debate because the simple baseline for truth shifts from under our feet daily. And that's where we are today. And that's why I have to keep writing.
Since I started snowboarding, it was always very deeply tied to surfing and skating. Even though I've always been merely average at all three, I've has this fascination with the crossover - surfing a big north swell at Holyoke in the morning and running up to the Poconos for the twilight session, hiking a hit in Northern California and then checking the jetty at Humboldt before dark, riding at Whistler one day and then making the trek out to Vancouver Island to surf the next. I love it.
So I was fairly excited when Red Bull asked me to work with them on Switchboard, an event that involved surfing in Asbury and riding Mountain Creek... in the same day. And while we're at it, why not skate the bowl at Fourth Union? (Thanks Uncle Derek.) Unlike so many events that are designed to spotlight the elite, this was all about a bucket list experience that anyone could enjoy.
Yep, the surf was ridiculously flat last Saturday when we all met on the beach (23 degrees - nice touch, New Jersey) so we had a few hearty souls jump in the drink for effect. My bud, Dave Werner is a very good sport.
We skated the bowl and then headed up to Mountain Creek, where I learned to ride over two decades ago. I helped direct the content with photographer Kyle Arcomano and Foreword Films.
While this was based at the college demographic in California for a few years, in New Jersey it was everyone from awesome Dads with kids to pro surfers. Every got in some laps, a few surf turns and messed around in the park before all the high fives and hot waffles at the base. Great time, great people.
And they used this old man's blunt stall as the feature image at RedBulll.com with my story, which is hysterical.
I spent last week in New Hampshire and kind of had the ideal New England road trip. Scored some bluebird days of fast groomers before a little weather system bought snow to the White Mountains and a fun little swell on the coast. Throw in some epic food, hiking, friends, the Womens March in Portsmouth, winter adventure, and it was a fantastic trip.
Big day. On Tuesday, we launched this teaser for the four new Just Beneath the Surface episodes. In the first 24 hours, it garnered 60,000 views. It's pretty damn exciting. Puts a lot of pressure on us to deliver!
This season we'll take you from the striper blitz offshore to deep in the pines. We're going to tell you the stories from behind the bar to the historic ships that have wrecked upon our shores. We'll explore homes that are built around the Island lifestyle, paddle the bay, score epic swell, and show you what's just beneath the surface that you won't even believe is New Jersey water (or waddr, as we say.) We have four new episodes that start dropping in the spring of 2017. Get ready for am adventure in our own backyard. Support from the Southern Ocean County Chamber, Dave's Electric, Mud City Crab House, Farias Surf and Ship Bottom Brewery.
Last week, I got a one-on-one interview with Travis Rice in LA, on the day of the premiere of his latest film "The Fourth Phase." I hesitate to call this a "snowboard" film because it's so much more. Rice and crew studied, followed, and rode the hydrological cycle of the North Pacific for four years. It's not just an action sports film - it documents the place where riding, science, and philosophy all meet. And there's so much more than that.
This film is excellent.
In addition to being a snowboard pioneer, Travis Rice is a very bright dude.
Last Saint Patrick's Day, I set sail with a few thousand punk rock misfits and Irish hooligans aboard the Salty Dog Cruise - Flogging Molly's annual voyage out of Miami to the Bahamas with an amazing lineup. Three straight days of seeing Rancid in a small venue and floating around on rafts in the Caribbean with Fishbone watching Flogging Molly, plus hanging with Frank Turner, Christopher Ellis, and The Street Dogs.
"The ship’s stewards—tall, distinguished Norse men in pressed white sailing suits— began to cajole the masses. They herded mohawks and green fedoras, pin-up girls and skinheads, chubby weirdos in Speedos, and miles of tattooed limbs, all while maintaining a smile. Once assembled, the spike-belted mob broke out in soccer chants and squirt gun fights, calmly quelled by the stewards until 2,000 people simultaneously learned how to put on a life vest.
Somehow we got through the drill. When the leather jackets, pirate wenches, checkered Vans, and half of Boston were all back on the pool deck, the cruise director welcomed everyone to the Sail Away Party. Then, as Norwegian Cruise Line’s Sky cruised past the southern point of Key Biscayne, Frank Turner commandeered the mic.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the English punk folk singer declared, “We are on a fucking boat!” The assembled misfits raised their glasses with a roar like the sea."
23 years of seeing Fishbone, seeing them on a beach in the Bahamas was jus surreal. Frank Turner is literally the least pretentious musician I have ever met. And I pretty much avoided the pool since there was free booze 24/7 and no one ever seemed to go to the restrooms.
We are actually on the front page of Inked today. The article features some really amazing images of the crew of characters by Rich Johnson and Caleb Morgan of Spectacle Photo. Huge thanks to Flogging Molly and CA Management for getting me on the boat and Inked for running such a great piece.