The pandemic brought boom times for New Jersey’s surf industry. Looking for a place to get out, and away (from people), folks flocked to the Shore and picked up boards for the first, or the first time in a while.
So great was the demand that Don Tarrant of Eastern Lines Surf Shop in Belmar had trouble getting enough product in. He calls the demand, and the logjam in the supply chain to fill that demand, “a double-edged sword.”
“A lot of the surfboards we get come from California. For most of the spring, they were on total lockdown,” he says. “Most manufacturers were either not working at all or just had skeleton crews working. … There are boards that come from overseas, Indonesia or China. That was screwed up as well; ports were closed or working at limited capacity.”
Tarrant also credits the boost in personal income (from unemployment checks above wages and stimulus checks) as an added catalyst for people to buy new boards and surf products. A similar thing happened in the bicycle industry—talk to any bike shop owner and they’ll likely say 2020 was their best year on record.
“There were a tremendous amount of beginners,” he says. “The lineup was definitely much more crowded than normal. It’s one of those few things you can do outside that’s not gonna get you sick.”
Melissa D’Anna, owner of Lucky Dog Surf Shop in Sea Bright, said her business “sold out of every week of camp last year,” and sold out of this year’s classes by February.
For D’Anna, who once thought of getting into theater or teaching (the surf camps help scratch that itch), the influx of beginners last year aligned with her business goals.
“I want it to be welcoming,” she says. “You see these guys [at shops], it’s like, ‘What do you need, what do you want?’ I wanted it to be a welcoming space; if you don’t surf, you can feel welcomed.”
Now, here we are again. Though you can get in most places—including gyms—with a mask or a vaccination card, it’s prime surf season and the open waters are still appealing. So, surf’s up for bored New Jerseyans.
Tarrant says the spring calls to the die-hards, May brings more, and the summer brings the most. We could still use a few weeks for the water to reach optimal temperature, though—so a wetsuit, particularly on colder days and early mornings might be in order.
Surfers are notoriously secretive about their favorite beaches, but D’Anna says Sea Bright, Sandy Hook and Long Beach are good places to start. Tarrant adds anywhere in Monmouth County has somewhat reliable breaks—the further north you go, the waves get more fickle, and further south, because the sand bars move, you have to check regularly what’s breaking.