Today is the first full day of autumn, and the beginning of a spectacular season to be down the shore. As a matter of fact, some people say it’s their favorite beach season. The air is crisp, the sun’s still warm and the beaches (and parking!) are free. If you’re not quite ready to trade in your flip flops for snow boots, the shore is the place to be.
Now that crowds have cleared you can easily do the things you may not have been able to in high summer season. Here is our top 10 list of our favorite things to do at the shore in fall.
1. Beachcomb. Fall is a great time to comb the beach for sea treasures. You are more likely to find unique seashells, sea glass and other items tossed out by the ocean, especially after a storm. So, grab a bucket, head to the beach and see what you can find.
2. Clean up the Beach. October 20 is Beach Sweep Day along the Jersey coast. Beach sweep events enlist volunteers to comb the beach, dunes and water’s edge to pick up trash to keep it from entering the ocean. Your participation will help save our marine life from the devastating effects that trash has on their lives and improve the general well-being of our ocean. Please note that Sea Isle City’s event will be held on October 13, 2018 but the other shore towns on the south Jersey coast will be hosting their events on October 20. If you wish to do a cleanup on your own, there’s an app for that – the Ocean Conservancy developed the Clean Swell ® app to allow users to record trash clean-up efforts so that scientists can better identify trends and find solutions. For more information on what you can do to help, check out our post on “5 Ways to Protect Our Ocean”. Once you’ve done your part, you can…
3. Sit and relax! Cooler temps, soft sea breezes and (still) warm sunshine make the beach a perfect place to relax in the fall. As a bonus, all south Jersey beaches are now free, and with fewer crowds you can set up wherever you want without someone plopping right in front of you. Bring a book or just sit and watch the waves (don’t forget sunscreen!)
4.Ride a Bike. Remember congested summer traffic that turned a simple bike ride into a competitive sport? Biking is a lot easier and more enjoyable now, and with less foot traffic on boardwalks and promenades, some days you can ride for blocks and not see another soul.
5. Get Involved. Fall is when many charity organization host walks, runs, bike rides or other events to raise awareness and funds for special causes. The cool air and low humidity mean it’s a great time to exercise for a good cause. For more information about events, see our list of Upcoming Events for each town.
6. Park for free. Many towns disable their parking meters after Labor Day and parking lot attendants close up shop. This means you can park for free – and freely – thanks to lessened crowds. What better incentive to patronize local shops and restaurants? With more funds to spend during awesome fall sales, you can get more bang for your buck. Save your quarters and the stress for next summer!
7. Start your Holiday Shopping(and support local business!) Our coastal towns are filled with specialty boutiques and unique stores that so why not take advantage of the fall end-of-summer sales and start your holiday shopping?
8. Go out to Eat. Dine at your favorite seaside spots while they’re still open for the season. Seating is much easier now, and you’ll be supporting local family-owned establishments who rely on your patronage for their livelihood. Bon appetit!
9. Turn right on red. One of the perks of being at the shore in off-season is the ability to turn right on red. If you get impatient waiting at a red light when no traffic is coming, you’ll be happy to learn that between October 1 – May 1 you can turn right on red to your heart’s content!
10. Go to a fall festival. From seafood festivals to Oktoberfest and everything in between, each shore town has a plethora of events and activities planned this fall. Check out our list of Upcoming Events, and then grab the family and go!
From Ocean City to Cape May, special events will continue into the holiday season. Check back in November when we cover all the winter festivities going on down the shore.
September is a beautiful time to go down the shore. Cool breezes, warm ocean temps and crystal blue skies lure many off-season visitors to the sand and surf, especially with the promise of a peaceful dip in the sea without having to dodge wayward boogie-boarders. But September is also the peak of hurricane season when hazardous surf conditions can arise, even on sunny blue sky days when danger does not seem apparent. Rip currents are especially threatening to beach-goers at any time of year, but are certainly more prevalent when storms bring strong winds and sea surge. Regardless of when you go in the surf, it is important to arm yourself with knowledge about these dangerous currents so you and your family can avoid being caught in one.
What is a rip current?
A rip current is a narrow, fast-moving channel of water that rushes out to sea from the shoreline, passing through the surf zone and beyond the wave break. When waves crash on the shore they bring with them an enormous amount of water that, under normal circumstances, flows back to sea. But sometimes wind, water or other conditions can cause an overflow of water to come to shore and impede the water’s ability to flow back to sea as it normally does. The water must return to the sea somehow, so pressure builds until the trapped water becomes strong enough to overcome the incoming waves. It will find the path of least resistance by creating a channel of fast-moving water between a lull in wave action or through an opening in a sandbar. This is a rip current, and it can take anything or anyone with it as it rushes back to sea.
What causes rip currents to form?
Rip currents can develop from various conditions such as strong winds and storms that bring in a surge of water to the shoreline. They also form as the result of an obstacle that disrupts the flow of water along the beach, such as jetties, groins or even sandbars. They form at all times of the year but can be more prevalent during hurricane season and during tropical storms. Even when storms don’t make landfall around us, they can still create very dangerous surf conditions from hundreds of miles away. As a matter of fact, the Ocean City New Jersey Beach Patrol reported that they made 141 rip current rescues on one single day this summer as the result of Tropical Storm Chris which, at the time, was churning far off the Jersey Coast. It’s also important to know that rip currents can – and often do – form on beautiful days when water conditions appear to be perfect.
Why are rip currents dangerous?
Rip currents are cited as the leading danger for beachgoers. Approximately 100 people die in our country each year as the result of these currents. While rips will pull you out to sea, they will not pull you under. The danger of rip currents is their speed – typically they travel at 1-2 feet per second, but they can travel as fast as 8 feet per second. At those speeds even the strongest swimmers are not able to overcome them. The good news is that they do eventually end, often just beyond the wave break. At that point, the strong pull ceases and a person once caught in the current will be able to get out of it and swim back to shore, often with the assistance of the normal wave action. These currents can range in width from 10-200 feet, which means that most people who remain calm and know the rules of getting out of a rip current can “break the grip of the rip” by swimming to one side or another of the channeled current.
How do I recognize a rip current?
Rip currents can often, but not always, be detected by the naked eye. A rip current may churn up the sand and cause the water to appear to be cloudy, murky or discolored, or white and sudsy.
Additionally, a rip current can cause a break in the wave line. A general rule of thumb is that if there is a section of water that looks or behaves differently than the rest of the water, it is likely a rip current and should be avoided. But don’t rely solely on observation as they may not be apparent.
How can I avoid a rip current?
“When in doubt, don’t go out,” the experts say. Simply put, stay out of the water if any of the signals or warnings are present.
Before you head to the beach, pay attention to weather and news reports, especially during hurricane season which generally runs from June 1 – November 1. Remember that even faraway offshore storms can produce dangerous rip tides along the shore.
When you arrive at the beach, it is a good idea to observe the water behavior from a distance, such as from an elevated beach path. You should also look to the life guard stand to see if they are using the flag system – a green flag means low hazard and calm conditions, a yellow flag signals medium hazard with moderate surf or currents and a red flag warns of a high hazard with high surf and strong conditions. If the flag system is not being used, the best thing you can do is ask a lifeguard what is the likelihood of rip currents. They are experts in this area and can tell you if rips tend to develop in that location due to jetties or sand bars, if wind or wave conditions are ripe for the development, or if any have been spotted that day.
While we are on the subject of lifeguards, the best way to avoid getting caught in a rip current (other than staying out of the water) is to swim only in guarded areas, when lifeguards are on duty. The U.S. Lifeguarding Association estimates that 80% of all lifeguard rescues are for rip currents, which means they are not only well-equipped to assist people caught in these currents, but they also spend most of their life-saving resources on them. It is also important that you swim in front of the lifeguard, and watch your children when they are in the water.
How do I get out of a rip current?
The absolute first rule is to relax. “Keeping calm is what will save your life,” one expert put it. I know this is easier said than done, especially when you are being pulled out to sea. Yes, these currents are mighty and can travel at a high rate speed, but since you can’t outswim the current, you’ll have to outthink it using the information provided in this article.
The first thing is to realize that while a rip current can pull you quickly away from shore, it will not pull you under. People drown in rip currents not because of the current itself, but because they wear themselves out trying to swim against the current. The internet contains a plethora of videos showing lifeguards and other volunteers purposely putting themselves into rip currents so that they may demonstrate how to get out of one. And that means that rip currents on their own won’t kill you – otherwise, these experts would not willingly put themselves in one. However, panicking and trying to fight the current may result in physical exhaustion which is what defeats those who are caught in a current. You should summon someone, preferably a lifeguard, by waving your hands above your head – but again, trying to keep calm. Letting them know as soon as you realize you are in danger may make a difference.
Second, remember that rip currents are generally narrow, and the water just outside the current will behave with a predictable flow towards the shore. If you can either swim to the left or the right of the current, parallel to the shore, you may pretty quickly get out of its grip. Another option is to float on your back until you feel you are out of the current, again summoning someone on shore to let them know you need assistance. Floating your way out may be advised if you are not a strong swimmer or are already exhausted from being in the water to begin with – the point here is that you cannot afford to tire yourself out any more than you already may be. Once out, experts advise that you swim at an angle back to shore, allowing the wave action to guide you in. If you are not able to swim, continue to summon a lifeguard or someone on shore by waving your arms above your head so that they can come to your rescue. Again, this is why it is crucial to swim at a guarded beach at all times, directly in front of a lifeguard.
Finally, it is advised that if you observe someone who is caught in a rip current, you should summon help by alerting a lifeguard or calling 911 and do not try to go in to save them yourself. Many people die from trying to save someone else – who ultimately survives.
So heed the warnings and don’t go in if you believe from what you’ve learned here that rip currents could be possible. If you do go in and get caught in one, remain calm and rely on this information to think your way out. Doing so will save your life.
For more information on rip currents, consult the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, the U.S. Lifesaving Association or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Do you remember going to the beach with just a Tab, a towel and some baby oil? When you turned head, not stomachs, when you removed your cover-up? Back then you wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near the Fudgy Wudgy guy, but now you’re forced to chase after him, drawing unwanted attention to your flopping body parts, just to make your child happy. At least that’s what you want onlookers to think, but we know the truth – go ahead and pretend it’s all about the kids. We know it’s really about scoring yourself a Chipwich.
Regardless of the reason, if your carefree beach days have succumbed to a series of “America’s Funniest Home Video” moments, this survival guide is for you.
In preparation for your jaunt to the shore, it’s important to choose beachwear that’s flattering, practical and least likely to result in criminal charges. This isn’t usually too hard for men as their fashion rules are loosely defined – any suit that simultaneously covers their farmer’s thigh tan and intergluteal cleft (I believe the medical term for this is “butt crack”) is suitable.
There is one fashion rule that’s not negotiable, however, and it’s the one pertaining to the almighty Speedo. Male beachgoers should note that the New Jersey Office of Counter Terrorism has recently banned flagrant display of Speedos from public beaches, since nothing causes more widespread terror like a tight little package of Spandex known in the food industry as sausage casing. Well, unless you’re Michael Phelps. For all I know, maybe there was a shark involved – who’s to say? That’s not exactly where my focus was.For many women, trying on bathing suits is as enjoyable as being struck by a meteor, of which there is a greater chance of that happening than there is finding a suit that flatters. Because, really – if flattering is what we’re going for, we should probably go right back to the twenties. Twenties the Age or Twenties the Era, it’s your choice. Either your body will be the tightest and most fit it will ever be, or your woolen bathing costume will cover you from chin to shin. Again, it’s your choice.
Next you’ll want to find the right beach bag to accommodate everything you’ll need – one the size of a Ford Expedition should do. In addition to beach chairs, beach umbrella, beach toys, beach snacks, beach blankets, beach towels, beach bag and any other beach thingamajig you can’t do without, you should definitely include reading material to ensure that a family crisis arises every time you start to read. What can’t be jammed into your minivan can be strapped to the roof, including any teenagers traveling with you.
The best way to pack for baby is not to. Since she can’t tell the difference between Rice Cereal and sand, it’ll be more enjoyable for everyone if you avoid taking your infant to the beach until she reaches certain milestones. Like graduating from college.
At the height of the summer season, most hotels like to require a minimum night stay – I think it’s is up to 40 nights now – so that the cost of a weekend away is equivalent to a year’s tuition at Penn. If you are going for a day trip, be prepared to spend most of your day searching for a parking space. On busy weekends, many drivers are forced to drop their families off at the beach entrance and drive around town until they’re ready to head home on Sunday night. On holiday weekends such as the Fourth of July, forget it – your best bet is simply to walk to the beach from your home because you’re basically not finding anything closer. I mean your real home, like in PeeAye.
Once you arrive, cue the Seuss parade. Dad will lug the wagon-gone-Grinch-sleigh while Mom In The Hat will balance all remaining accoutrements. Thing One and Thing Two, banished from their wagon to accommodate “all this dumb stuff”, will get to walk “fourteen thousand miles” through “boiling hot sand” when they’re “sooooo tired” all they want to do is “just fall over and die”. Once they see water, however, this fatigue will immediately give way to boundless energy that will end precisely when the last boardwalk ride closes and they’re forced to walk fourteen thousand miles back to the car.
No birth control is as effective for beach-going singles than the visual of you waddling through the crowd with Thing One hanging off your upper thigh, Thing Two bouncing a ball off of your backside and your husband trailing behind with his Grinch-mobile in tow, yelling for you to “pick a spot, already!” This visual, alone, has been cited as the prevailing reason why many people are putting off marriage and child-rearing until they’re well into their sixties.
You will want to select a spot with proximity to the water so you can keep your eye on your children, but not so close that your husband can the ogle bikini-clad twenty-somethings who swarm to the lifeguard stand like green flies to ankles on a hot August day. For this reason, binoculars should never be packed, and any pair that is should be tossed onto the Atlantic City Expressway or, hell, just the Atlantic.
If you’re like me you’ll want your ocean view to be unobstructed, so you will carefully monitor the tide chart and select a spot closest to the water yet not so close that you and your entire family will be swept away at high tide. And because we love those unobstructed views so much, be prepared that no matter how close you get to the water, at some point an enormous family will set up camp DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU – tent, canopy, 4 beach umbrellas, overloaded beach cart, loud-talking cousin from Philly, 145 kids, a couple smokers and 26 chairs. And they’ll do it mere feet from you, so that you can barely raise your arm to drink from your Solo cup without hitting the back of their chairs. And then they’ll blare their country music, because clearly none of us want to just hear the gulls, the waves, the sounds of children’s laughter, other pleasant beach sounds, our own music, the hallowed cries of Fudgy Wudgy, or god forbid our own conversations. No, don’t mind us – we’ll just sit here listening to YOUR selection of YOUR favorite music and, instead of just enjoying the beach, let us all pretend we’re hunkered down on the back of your pickup truck listening to whiny, down-home, slap your knee and gaffaw, stick a piece of grass in your mouth and pretend you’re in the mountains country music. Because the one thing I LOVE to do at the beach is hear music that makes me feel like I’m not at the beach. I like to call these view-hogging, space-mongering people “assholes”. And I’ve found, as I’ve grown older, that the world is full of them.
I was enjoying the view until this happened…
Seriously though – I’ve had people wade up to their knees in water just so they can sit directly in front of me. I’m pretty sure that “Don’t Set Up Directly In Front of Someone” is clearly delineated at the top of the Beach Rules sign, right after to “Don’t Block the Beach Entrance With Your Baseball Game” and “If Your Kid Doesn’t Stop Taunting Seagulls With Doritos I’ll Come Feed Him To the Gulls Myself”. Read the Beach Rules for yourself and see.
Eating on the beach is not advised as seagulls can detect the opening of a potato chip bag from as far away as Northeast Philly. If you do decide to eat, tie down any loose children and huddle under the umbrella. This works best if the umbrella is open. Proper assembly is important to your self-preservation, as nothing causes you to look more ridiculous than chasing an umbrella down the beach. Dig a deep hole using a sturdy instrument like the nearest off-shore oil driller. If your umbrella blows away, pretend it isn’t yours.
A recent study found a direct correlation between settling down into your beach chair to read and suddenly having to chase things like loose toddlers, wayward umbrellas and Fudgy Wudgy guys. To assure that you can get out of your chair within the same hour a crisis arises, practice these simple exercises at home.
First, raise both legs high in the air and take a deep breath. As you exhale, lunge forward and, lowering your legs, shift quickly to your right. This momentum should cause the chair to tip to the side, depositing you face down on the sand. Place both palms under your shoulders, hike your knees up under your hips and lift your torso. Any husband who finds it amusing to slap your backside shall be drawn and quartered by all nearby mothers who themselves aren’t currently attempting to get out of a beach chair. Grab onto something solid like a cute lifeguard to hoist yourself up to your knees. Pause, and busy yourself by remembering how to breathe until your heart rate returns to normal or the crisis is over. Slowly rise to a standing position, avoiding unnecessary sound effects, and begin pursuit of whatever it was that got you out of your chair in the first place. If you can remember what it was.
Following this practical guide will enhance your beach-going pleasure and allow you to spend more quality time with your family doing things like getting everything back in your car and sitting on the AC Expressway traffic for hours.