Friday, August 31, 2012

First-time surfer remains first-time surfer

I’ve done some pretty body-intense things this summer, from riding a waverunner in 25-mile-an-hour wind, to practicing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard in the bay. But out of all those exhausting activities, none of them compared to the grueling workout I underwent during a one-hour beginner’s session of surfing with Jeff Santoloci, owner and head instructor of LBI Surfing.

I’ll be honest: I really had no idea how physically demanding surfing was going to be. I know I’m a petite woman, and the ocean tide can get rather feisty, but I’m a former gymnast and cheerleader, and I'm pretty feisty myself. In fact, many of my friends in high school referred to me as “freakishly strong.” (You should have seen my biceps!)

Photo by Ryan Morrill
I must be living in the past, though, because the meager, two-foot tall waves I paddled through and caught (but mostly didn’t catch) that recent Saturday kicked my butt. (In my defense, those waves had a little chop to them!)
I was greeted by a young boy carrying a towel and beach chair off the beach when I arrived at East 30th Street in Ship Bottom, where I planned to meet Santoloci, along with Lauren Knauss from Marlton, for a semi-private surfing lesson.
“I wouldn’t go out there, if I were you,” said the boy, looking me square in the eye. “I saw some lightning in the sky, right above the ocean,” he added, very seriously.
I saw the black clouds and heard the distant thunder, but I had just driven in Saturday traffic from Barnegat Township to Ship Bottom, and it had taken me over an hour to get here. I wasn’t going anywhere. (Looking back on it, I think this was some kind of foreshadowing of the surfing experience to come.)
“Oh, wow,” I replied. “Thanks for letting me know.”
I had arrived early at the beach and didn’t see Santoloci anywhere. So I figured I’d cool off and take a quick swim in the ocean.
While jumping over rolling waves and ducking under the crashing ones, I noticed a group of kids and instructors who were surfing off to the side of the flags where swimmers are designated to stay. The students were very focused on their lesson and looked like they were having a blast. The water temperature was a refreshing 72 degrees, and the waves were rather calm.
After my swim, I met Santoloci near the dunes. Knauss had also arrived, and we helped each other zip into wetsuits. Hers fit snuggly and made her look like a real surfer girl. Mine, a youth’s large, was of course, too big. It bulged a bit in the back, in the front and underneath my arms; I felt sort of silly wearing it.
Before heading down to the water, we met a few of LBI Surfing’s other instructors, who had just finished teaching a class.
“You’re going to have so much fun! This is the kind of sport you try once and keep trying again,” said Jason Hoch, carrying a surfboard. “Jeff (Santoloci) is the best. He’s been surfing forever, and he’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to catch some waves,” he added enthusiastically.
Santoloci grew up in Loveladies and began surfing as a young kid. He was a member of Southern Regional High School’s surfing club and worked at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop in Ship Bottom as a teenager, where he met many customers who were looking for surfing lessons. In 1996, he began teaching private lessons on the side and later hired other instructors to help. LBI Surfing was born in 1999.
Santoloci directed Knauss and I to carry our foam surfboards on top of our heads down to the water’s edge. But over my 90-pound frame, it was hard for me to walk, talk and breathe all at once. So he eventually carried mine the rest of the way for me.
“You’ll want to save some of your energy for catching waves,” he said, laughing.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
While lying down on the sand, Santoloci taught us how to stand up and catch a wave using the two-step method. Following his instructions, we grabbed the sides of our board, came up on our strong knee and placed our other foot directly in the middle. It seemed easy enough, but my foot was usually too far to one side, which Santoloci said would cause me to fall off in the water.
“It’s really important to keep your body centered on the board, so you have control of it at all times,” he said. “I tell my students to imagine there’s fire on the sides of the board. Fire is bad; you don’t want to touch it.”
After we tried the maneuver on land a few more times, Santoloci thought Knauss and I were ready for the real thing. So we strapped on our ankle leashes, which would keep our surfboards from straying too far away from us when we jumped off or fell off in the water, and headed for the ocean.
We waited for two of the incoming waves to break before paddling out. There wasn’t a whole lot of action, so when a wave rolled in, Santoloci instructed us to paddle hard to make sure we caught it.
I volunteered to go first, but when Santoloci yelled, “Pop up!” I lost all sense of understanding and fell right off the board before I even got my knee in the correct placement. I had to paddle through the crashing waves again, and by the time I got through them I was already exhausted.
As I waited for Knauss to catch a wave, I realized I was drifting all over the place. I knew I had to keep the front of the board facing the horizon so I could see what was coming, but when I saw a large, cresting wave break right in front of me, I froze. The next thing I knew, I was tumbling underwater back to shore.
When I finally came up for air, my board was lying upside down a few feet away from me. I pulled it back toward me, using the ankle leash, and climbed back on top, consciously reminding myself to keep my toes near the edge of the board so I wouldn’t tilt the tip down with my weight and go under again.
“When a big wave comes at you like that, you have to paddle through it as hard as you can,” Santoloci reminded me. “You looked like a deer in headlights back there,” he added.
“Yes, that’s exactly how I felt,” I replied.
Knauss was doing much better than I was. As I watched her stand up on her board and ride a few waves in, I crashed and burned. At least I had an excuse for each of my failures: I have arthritis in my knee, and it’s hard to stand up; I have metal screws in my arm, so it’s weak; it’s too hard to remember all of those steps in one instant.
Eventually, I stood up a few times – but never for long, and never twice in a row. I’d come back after riding a wave, excited and eager to ride another. But my over-confidence ensured I always screwed up on the next one. I’d come back, huffing and puffing, my chin on the board and my arms splayed out in the water, after fighting with the waves again. They were like big bullies, those waves – pushing me back and knocking me down.
“We only have about 15 minutes left, so we have to make sure we end on a high note and ride these waves in. You can do it!” shouted Santoloci.
Knauss caught her last wave, riding it all the way into shore. She made it look easy.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
I paddled hard for my last wave, but by the time I stood up, I had completely missed it. Santoloci asked me if I’d like to try again, but I declined. I didn’t feel like dealing with those big bullies again.
When we got back to the dunes, I was eager to hear what Knauss thought about the whole experience.
“It was fun! It was a workout, but I’d do it again,” she said, while inquiring about board pricing.
Santoloci said foam boards (best for beginners) cost around $200 and fiberglass boards (for the more advanced surfer) run anywhere from $350 and up. LBI Surfing sells their rental boards at the end of the season for a reasonable discount.
If you think you’re tougher than me (you probably are), and you’d like some helpful instruction on learning how to surf, LBI Surfing offers private, semi-private and group lessons for all ages and experience levels. Birthday parties and surf camps are also offered. Surfboards and wetsuits are provided. For more information, visit, or call 609-494-SURF.

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Teen center open Saturday nights in Ship Bottom

For teenagers looking for something to do or friends to hang out with, The Swell at Grace Calvary Church is a teen center in Ship Bottom where young people can stop in anytime between 8 and 11 p.m. on Saturday nights in July and August. The nondenominational teen night unites local and visiting teens from sixth to 12th grades for a fun-filled night of games, prizes, music and snacks.

The three-hour event is a come-and-go-as-you-please type gig. Feel free to mingle among game stations and tournaments, craft tables and henna tattoo “shops.”
If you’re interested in a little competition, Foosball and Ping Pong tournaments will take place throughout the night. For those who are a little less competitive, join in a friendly Wii or Xbox 360 video game. Try your hand at some good, old-fashioned arts and crafts, or just come out for the relaxation and social aspects of the night!
Photo via
The snack shack will be open for business, offering candy, water, juice and chocolate milk. Prices range from 25 cents to $1. Snacks are sold at cost and do not benefit the church or youth center.
New this year is a door prize that will be up for grabs for anyone who enters the building before the drawing is held, at 9 p.m. Prizes can include body boards, professional flying kites and gift certificates to local restaurants and surf shops.
“We’ve tried to partner with local businesses by asking them to advertise for us,” said Youth Pastor Casey Ellis. “We put up posters, and in exchange they either donate or we buy gift certificates or merchandise from their businesses to give away as prizes here. So it draws families into local businesses, and we get advertising with them. We’re trying to establish partnerships, and so far it’s been really well received,” he added happily.
Ellis initiated The Swell when he moved to New Jersey four years ago and took the job as youth pastor at Grace Calvary Church. Having spent many of his summers with his dad, who was stationed in the military in Hawaii, he relied heavily on the community and friendships he found within the teen center on base – a memory that stuck when he moved to the East Coast and realized Long Beach Island didn’t always have a lot to offer young teens, especially without cost.
“Working with teenagers here on the Island, that memory popped back into my head one afternoon during the summer, and I thought about what that might look like on Long Beach Island,” Ellis reminisced. “Seeing this influx of teenagers come to the Island and just observing what’s available for them here – there’s only so much to do, and most of it costs money.
“The youth team here at the church thought that it might be a cool idea to use our building and our space for the community,” he continued. “We have weekly meetings with teens throughout the year, and we offer games and Ping Pong and Foosball and that kind of stuff, that they get to enjoy all year long. But I thought, ‘We have these things, and we have this space, so why not open it up to the community with all these teens that might be bored in the evenings, or may not want to go play another round of mini golf?’” he said with a laugh.
For Ellis, this seemed like a call from God, something he is very familiar with. Ellis had originally planned on pursuing a computer career. But God redirected him, he said, and he soon found himself teaching English to elementary school children at a Christian school in Japan. Having worked with kids at different youth groups and summer camps, Ellis knew he was meant to spread the word through teens, not to sit and stare at a computer screen all day.
After returning from Japan, Ellis immediately enrolled in the Frontier School of the Bible in Wyoming. When he graduated a few years later, he asked God to lead him in the direction where he was meant to help people. That’s when he applied for and got the job working with teens at Grace Calvary Church.
The Swell has become a big hit throughout the summer months. Ellis said more than 90 students showed up one night last year. He hopes this year’s teen center will interest just as many if not more youths, and he hopes to turn the third annual event into a fourth and fifth annual event.
“That was pretty big for us because this has only been going on for three years, and our building isn’t that big,” said Ellis. “We don’t normally see those kinds of numbers of young people come through our doors, especially during the winter. So it was pretty surprising. I hope to see some local kids from the mainland come to LBI, too. Then we can continue to be an influence in their community throughout the year.
“Primarily, most of our students who come for youth group during the fall and winter come from the Manahawkin-Barnegat area anyway. So we hope to have that same kind of impact (during the summer), but we haven’t done too much advertising on the mainland yet,” he added.
Nights at The Swell always end with a prayer, but kids can opt out by just listening if they’re uncomfortable.
For more information about The Swell or the church’s year-round youth group meetings, visit or call 609-494-7777.

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Parasailing: 'Pleasure of the ride,' and a great view, too!

Many of us local shore goers are faithful visitors of Long Beach Island. We’ve traveled practically every inch of the 18-mile haven from Holgate to Barnegat Light. We’ve seen the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and the sunset over Barnegat Bay. But many of us probably haven’t seen the area from a bird’s eye view, 350 feet above ground. Well, I have.

The sky was overcast, threatening scattered thunderstorms and a day to be spent indoors on a recent Thursday morning as I drove to Beach Haven Parasail in Beach Haven Gardens. Looming gray clouds sprinkled down a fine mist, coating everything with a dewy glimmer.

Photo by Ryan Morrill
When I arrived at Bay Haven Marina, a group of 13-year-old girls and their mother, who had traveled from Morristown to spend the week on LBI, were ardently waiting on the dock, hoping for me to hurry up and get on the 34-foot parasail winchboat so we could motor out to the bay and become human kites. Pulling away from the pier, with music bumping in the background, Beach Haven Parasail owner Tracey Newsome snapped a photo of the four girls eagerly awaiting the trip.
“This is just in case we lose one of you,” he said, joking. “Nah, we can’t get anything past you guys.
“They were here yesterday,” he added, turning toward me.
The girls had planned their parasail trip for July 18, but after watching a group of guys struggle with that day’s strong wind, Newsome decided to take the group back in and reschedule their trip for this day.
“It was so windy yesterday,” emphasized Marina Piccolo, who claimed she wasn’t one bit nervous about parasailing for the first time. “We watched as two of the guys came down and landed on the boat after (parasailing), and they were wobbling all over the place, trying to keep their feet on the ground,” she added, a hint of underlying fear in her voice.
Good parasailing conditions really depend on the strength of the wind and a person’s weight. According to Newsome, an individual or combined weight of 120 pounds is sufficient enough on a day when the wind is blowing at five miles per hour, or less. If the wind is moving faster than 20 miles an hour, at least 250 pounds of weight is needed to guarantee a safe, steady ride.
Newsome has been in the parasailing and water sport business for 30 years. He originally ran a charter boat business in Boston before moving to Florida and manning a boat that traveled with nearly 100 people on-board at a time. Eight years later, he was introduced to the owners of the Black Whale Cruises dock marina in Beach Haven, where he chartered yacht goers back and forth between the Island and Atlantic City. A couple of years after that, he took over the parasail business at Bay Haven Marina, where he’s been working ever since.
“I love everything about this job,” Newsome said with a big grin. “People always come back with a smile on their face. It’s not like fishing, where people come back angry if they haven’t caught any fish. Since the whole time I’ve been in this business, maybe only two or three people have come back from the trip upset. Even the people who don’t really seem into it, at first, come back happy.”
Besides Piccolo and I, the rest of the group had already been parasailing before. Kelsey McCluskey, Mary Grace Vallacchi and her mother, Grace Vallacchi, had given the sport a try with Beach Haven Parasail in 2011.
“We’ve been renting on Long Beach Island on and off for the past 20 years,” said Grace Vallachi. “We tried parasailing last year with these same guys, and we loved it. So we came back to do it again.”
After reaching the middle of the bay, Newsome suggested I take a seat while Aaron Milks, the aeronautical pararigging technician (a fancy title he gave himself), let out 500 feet of line and opened up the large, colorful parachute, which blossomed like a flower sprouting to life in fast-forward in a nature movie clip.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Milks is working his third season at Beach Haven Parasail. He was just about to head back to Chicago after working in the Coast Guard on Long Beach Island, when Mandee Bellarosa, a friend of his who has worked at the marina the past nine years, helped him get this job.
“It’s fun working here, because people come in looking for a great, unique time,” said Milks. “Parasailing is so smooth and tranquil; it’s like you’re floating in the air. And you get that bird’s eye view of the whole Island.”
McCluskey and Piccolo were the first to parasail on this trip. Grins spread across their faces before they were even hoisted into the air.
As Newsome operated the hydraulic winch system, which slowly lifted the two girls above the bay, Milks quickly snapped a photo and encouraged them to wave.
“Most people calm down when they’re about 20 or 30 feet away from the boat. As soon as they let their hands go in the air, they realize how secure they are,” Newsome explained.
A typical ride with Beach Haven Parasail lasts between 12 and 14 minutes. Trips are only taken on the bay, where the water is warmer and calmer than the ocean. Milks explained that a ride over the bay is also better because you get a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Island, Barnegat Bay and the mainland.
After a bit, Newsome decided it was time to bring McCluskey and Piccolo down for the big free fall dip in the bay.
“Let’s get these girls wet! They’re coming down!” he shouted.
As Newsome pressed down on the lever of the winch system, the girls slowly began descending toward the bay. Giggles and excited yells erupted as their feet hit the water.
“The bay is 85 degrees; it’s like being dunked in a bathtub,” Milks remarked.
Next, it was Vallachi and her mother’s turn. With huge smiles plastered on their faces, the two of them waved furiously the moment they began ascending into the air.
“Most people leave like this,” said Newsome, holding his arms near his face with his hands balled in tight fists. “And come back like this,” he concluded, his arms in the air.
Laughing, I hoped that I would feel the same way when it was finally my turn.
Because I only weigh 95 pounds and the minimum weight requirement for the day was 120 pounds, when considering the low wind speed, I decided I would have Piccolo join me. This way, I could meet the weight requirement, and all of the girls on the boat could say that they had gone parasailing twice.
After strapping on a life jacket and stepping into a harness, I anxiously awaited my departure. When Vallachi and her mother arrived on-board, Milks led Piccolo and me to the back of the boat, where he buckled us into the tandem bar. Sitting down, with the harness positioned underneath our legs, he grabbed his camera for a quick goodbye photo while Newsome manned the winch system. And up we went.
I held on for dear life, until everyone on the boat waved at us. I waved back and felt all of my anxiety float away.
The sky was gray, which made it difficult to make out the different shops and restaurants that dotted the coastline. Yet gliding around in the air was so peaceful, I realized that, at least for me, the trip was more about the pleasure of the ride than it was about the view. I was surprised by how safe I felt, even 350 feet above water. Leaning back in the harness, I was reminded of those slow, spinning swing rides found at amusement parks, which I loved as a young girl and still love to this day.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
When Piccolo and I noticed we were descending for the free fall dip, she told me to keep my mouth shut so I wouldn’t swallow any saltwater. I just wish she had told me that my bathing suit bottom might fall down.
“That’s why I held mine up,” she said, laughing at me.
We were pulled back up before Newsome dipped us into the bay again, and then gently dragged us back to the boat. This time, I kept my mouth shut and my bathing suit bottom up.
Getting out of the harness and life vest, I realized I hadn’t brought a towel. I was freezing, so I quickly slipped into my tank top and shorts, while Newsome and Milks packed up the parachute.
As we arrived back on land, another group of customers were already lined up, excitedly waiting to get on-board. Stepping out of their way, I wished them a happy and safe trip.
If you’re interested in participating in your own unique parasailing experience, visit (609-492-0375), or for sailing over the ocean from Barnegat Light, visit (609-361-6100). Photos, T-shirts and movies of your trip are available for purchase.

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Six-Word Memoirs a hit at LBIF

Photo by Kristin Blair
More than 100 people showed up at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies on Wednesday, Aug. 8 to meet Larry Smith, the award-winning author, editor and publisher of SMITH Magazine, who created the nationally celebrated Six-Word Memoir Project. While perusing the many imaginative memoir boxes displayed around the room that had been created by Stafford Intermediate School’s sixth-grade art class in partnership with LBIF and Smith himself, the crowd eagerly anticipated hearing Smith speak about his journey with the project. Among the masses were many of his long-time friends and family members who traveled from Moorestown, where Smith grew up, to greet his fans and display their loving support for his literary mission.
“You must be proud,” said LBIF’s public programs and membership coordinator Kristy Redford, after introducing herself to Smith’s father, Louis Smith.
“I’ll admit that he’s my son,” joked Smith. “We always try to come to his events,” he said, smiling.
A quiet hush panned over the jubilant gathering as Larry Smith took the stage and began sharing his experiences on the memoir project. Equipped with a telling PowerPoint presentation that showcased the life of the project, which was displayed in the art gallery on a large projector for all to see, he began telling the story of Ernest Hemingway, who had allegedly been challenged to write a story in just six words. Whether or not this legend is true, Smith said that as a journalist, he was always intrigued by the art and power of a six-word story.
“People have played off six words before, but no one had really said, ‘What’s the six-word story of your life?,’ which I called the ‘six-word memoir,’” he explained.
“Six-word memoirs are very magical. It’s easy to do many; it’s hard to do them well. But some people, of course, have a knack for it. It’s a low bar of entry to get in the game, to write, to say, ‘Hey, I tried this.’ And some of them are excellent,” he added.
After working many years as a journalist in the magazine industry, writing for Men’s JournalThe New York Times and Popular Science, among others, Smith said he wanted to create a magazine specifically for inspiring writers to create their stories and share them with others. He took his prototypes to many publishing houses, hoping to sell his idea, but none were really interested in his philosophy.
After many rejections, Smith decided to start the magazine online, where it wouldn’t cost him much to begin working on it. One day, while hard-pressed for something interactive to share with members of his online community, he said he decided to ask users to share their life story in six words. The narrative didn’t need to encompass a person’s entire life, but rather a pivotal or even ordinary piece of their existence. The next day, Smith said, he received 1,000 responses to his inquiry.
That was six years ago. Now, between SMITH Magazine and SMITH TEENS, a website just for adolescents, Smith said nearly 550,000 memoirs have been submitted.
Photo by Kristin Blair
“There’s over 50 (people) here, and there’s classrooms all over the world; I wonder if there’s been a million six-word memoirs written at games, or at weddings – people do them for the bride and groom. I bet that there’s been a million, but I don’t know that. I know that on my site I have a counter, and I add up teens and adults, and it’s over half a million. So it’s pretty exciting,” Smith reminisced with enthusiasm.
Thus far, SMITH Magazine has published five books encompassing some of the most intriguing six-word memoirs submitted online, at seminars and even sent in via mail. The books feature all different kinds of personalities, nationalities, sexes and beliefs. Celebrities such as Steven Colbert, Nora Ephron and Dr. Mehmet Oz have also contributed to the project. And, of course, so have Smith’s friends and family members.
“We’ve watched this whole thing flower into a cottage industry,” said Amy Friedman, a childhood and family friend of Smith’s. “Every time he comes out with a new book, I write at least 15 new (memoirs),” she said, flipping to one of her published anecdotes in one of the project’s most recent books, titled It All Changed in an Instant.
Others in the crowd shared their memoirs during the event’s “six-word slam,” evoking oohsand ahhs from those around them. Amused laughter seized the group as one woman shared hers: “Breaking loose at 72; about time,” while a young boy stole their hearts after sharing his: “People seem to love my freckles.”
Stafford Intermediate’s sixth-grade art teacher, Jessica Gomez, and her participating students were applauded for their work featured around the room. The children’s projects each highlighted a specific moment from the previous school year, ranging in topic from music and art to field trips and family secrets. The projects were of all shapes and sizes and mediums. Some were held together by glue, others with tape or staples. Cardboard and papier-mâché were popular canvases.
Vinny Caprio’s project, titled “Flow: My twisted days at Stafford schools,” captured the essence of his school year, attending school dances and meeting tons of friends. Made out of duct tape, Styrofoam, tubing and paint, the project resembled a winding waterslide, which Caprio said he got a lot of enjoyment out of building.
“I love art because you can express yourself without having to write a paragraph. (The project) was a lot of fun to make,” he said, proudly standing next to his masterpiece.
“When the Foundation contacted me about the project, I really wanted the kids to come up with good memories they could use to enhance their art projects,” said Gomez. “I told them to really dig down for the weird and embarrassing stuff and let it shine. The kids wound up really getting into it and helping each other out. I think they did a great job,” she added, beaming with delight.
Photo by Kristin Blair
As the event came to a close, the crowd trickled out and the students took their projects home with them. But many stuck around for a bit, sharing their thoughts on the seminar and creating yet more six-word memoirs.
“(Larry Smith) is an amazing young man,” said Lisa Sokal of Barnegat Light. “His project really puts your life into perspective. He made me think about my own life, living with an autoimmune disease, and my own six-word memoir. To laugh about a disease or a tragic occurrence puts it in perspective because by then you’re already past it. I’m really glad I came out tonight,” she said, smiling ear to ear.
To learn more about the Six-Word Memoir Project, visit For more information about the many special events occurring this summer at LBIF, visit, or call 609-494-1241.

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Historical Homes & Garden Tour, Wine & Cheese Party

Join the Barnegat Light Historical Society for its Historical Homes and Garden Tour on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 2 to 5 p.m. The fundraiser will showcase six historical homes located in Barnegat Light. Five of the homes featured on the tour are Victorian structures, built in the late 1800s, when the town was originally established as Barnegat City. The sixth home is an oceanfront oasis constructed in 1937, which encompasses five acres of land, a rare find on Long Beach Island.

Photo by Jack Reynolds
The tour will also highlight St. Peter’s-at-the-Light Episcopal Church on 7th and Central Avenue, which was originally assembled in 1890 as a chapel for guests staying at the Oceanic Hotel. Two lush gardens will be featured on the tour as well, including the Edith Duff Gwinn Garden at the Barnegat Light Museum, which is maintained by members of The Garden Club of Long Beach Island. The celebrated outing only takes place every few years, so don’t delay! Tickets cost $25 each.
“We only sell 200 tickets, and that’s a big thing because there aren’t any long lines,” expressed Diane Adams, curator and docent of the Barnegat Light Historical Society for nearly 10 years. “The owners are in the homes during the tour, and they love to talk to the guests about the history of the home, what they did to renovate it, ghost stories, whatever,” she added.
The Barnegat Light Historical Society is also hosting its annual Wine and Cheese Party that very same day. Anyone interested in taking a peek inside the Barnegat Light Museum, located on Central Avenue at 5th Street, is welcome to stop by the exhibition hall any time between 3 and 6 p.m. for finger food and beverages, as well as a comprehensive look at the museum’s local, historical artifacts. The membership drive is free of charge.

“We have a nice spread of finger foods with cheese, fruit, dips and breads, crackers and nuts. And people make cookies and little finger foods that they are known for here,” relished Adams. “We have red and white wine, soda, iced tea, punch. The guests help themselves in the museum, and then a lot of them go out and just mingle in the gardens. It’s very nice; it’s very pretty. All the people dress up and go out in the gardens. It’s a moment in time,” she described.
The museum is inside the town’s old one-room schoolhouse, which was used from 1904 to 1951. The museum is on the National Register of Historical Places and houses relics, reproductions and snapshots, illustrating the history of Barnegat Light and the rest of the 18-mile Island. One of the museum’s most fascinating pieces is the First Order Flashing Lens from the Barnegat Lighthouse, put in service Jan. 1, 1859. The town’s old post office mailboxes, kitchen appliances from immigrants who came to work at the docks, animal and plant fossils and postcards autographed by famous individuals are just some of the exhibit’s other exciting characteristics.
For more information about the Historical Homes and Garden Tour and the Wine and Cheese Party, visit, or dial 609-494-8578.

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Find your inner child at Paint a Pot

The sky was overcast on this particular Tuesday morning, making it a perfect day to spend inside. But the morning’s dull, gray clouds dissipated quickly, which meant beach time was still on. That didn’t stop families from crowding outside the shop doors of Paint a Pot in Beach Haven Gardens, where they waited for owner Amanda Klinger and the rest of her bubbly staff to shuffle them in at the 11 a.m. opening.

We were here about six years ago,” said Alice Gardener, pointing to her daughter Christy Parmenter. “We came back and decided to make a memory. I still have my old dish at home, but these guys haven’t been here yet,” she added, motioning to the rest of the gang: Christy’s husband, Mike; Alice’s other daughter, Becky Todd, with her husband, Dan, and their children, Lily, 6, and Josiah, 4.
Photo by Kristin Blair
At 11 a.m. sharp, effervescent staff workers Dominique Natelli and Maddy Konyha led the awaiting crowd into the art room, where ceramic pots lined the walls with prices listed underneath them and paintbrushes and water bowls lay on tables, urging participants to get creative.
Prices range from $18 and up and include the time and use of the paint, brushes, stencils, stamps and sponges for one person. If two or more people would like to work on a shared pot, an additional $8 is charged per painter.
Paint a Pot carries more than 600 different pieces. The inventory is rotated throughout the year. The shop also provides nearly 100 colors to paint with.
Dogs and cats don’t have to be black or brown. They can be pink with blue swirls or orange with purple polka dots!” reminded Konyha.
Once everyone had chosen their canvas, Natelli and Konyha resumed their skit, a demonstration they had to learn when they got the job. As cheerfully as possible, they told their customers what tools to use, including sponges instead of napkins (because they like trees!) for cleaning up mistakes and spills.
If you have any other questions about mix-ups or mess-ups, feel free to ask. We’ve got tricks up our sleeves!” shouted Natelli.
The girls were thrilling. Their skit mimicked the act put on by the servers at The Show Place Ice Cream Parlor in Beach Haven, only without the singing and dancing – though it seemed if you asked them, they’d probably try belting out their best notes and busting out their finest moves.
My shop does not hold classes. It’s different from other craft places,” said Klinger. “It’s a walk-in style. It runs like a restaurant, but we serve paint instead of food.”
Besides basic pottery skills, staff members also need to learn basic sign language so they can communicate with their boss. Klinger began to lose her hearing in the late ’90s, and many people wondered how she was going to run a business. Her answer? “Just as well as anyone else.”
Equipped with Fisher Price Magna Doodles for writing down questions and comments and a flashing light that notifies Klinger if the door opens or the phone rings, she’s got it all figured out.
Having a disability isn’t a disability. It’s just a different way of living,” she explained.
Klinger opened Paint a Pot in 1999, after she walked into a similar craft shop in South Beach, Florida. She thought the idea would go over well on Long Beach Island. Fourteen years later, customers are still coming back to paint at her shop.
Klinger said she gets to watch families grow. Some people come in for a date and come back a few years later, married and with children. Other people come in year after year to stamp their children’s hands and feet on kitchen sets, which the kids can take with them to college.
Photo by Kristin Blair
The best compliment I ever received was from a mom in North Jersey around the time of 9/11,” remembered Klinger. “She said she was scared and didn’t know where her friends were. So she got in the car and drove to the shop because she knew she could find her happy place here. I still get goose bumps when I think about it,” she said, lightly touching her arm.
That’s what Paint a Pot is all about. We want you to forget about the crazy world, and just paint a pot. We want everyone to find their inner child, and finger-painting is cheap therapy!” she added with a laugh.
As families came and went, Klinger insisted I stay and paint a mug. She said it wasn’t just for kids; that many older people, for example, have come in and asked her to redraw their tattoos so they can paint them on their chosen ceramic pieces.
Obliging to the mug and choosing a few colors, I reluctantly remembered I wasn’t a very good artist. Allowing my inner child to shine through, I found a polka dot stencil. When Natelli caught me laboriously trying to paint the circles onto the mug, she suggested I trace them onto the mug first. The staff really does have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves!
Once painting awhile, I really got into the zone of things. I listened in on the conversations around me, but it was just background noise. Who knew painting circles could be so soothing!
When I finally finished my mug, holding it away from myself so I could see the entire breadth of its beauty, I waved my hands in the air – the staff’s preferred way of communicating – to let them know I was finished.
Klinger led me back to the firing room, where two giant kilns sat side by side. One was firing away at a scorching 1,800 degrees, while the other was cooling off at only 150 degrees. Opening the top to reveal a number of colorful ceramics carefully glazed by staff members, she told me that it was like waking up on Christmas morning.
It’s a very cool place to work, and it’s so fun,” said Natelli, while handing me a pick-up sheet, which informed me I could get my mug that Friday after 6 p.m. “I’ve worked here for four years. You meet so many different people,” she added, smiling.
Painted merchandise can be picked up at a later date, after 6 p.m. If you’re leaving town, the finished products can also be mailed to your home for the cost of packaging and shipping.
Photo by Kristin Blair
Paint a Pot also holds many fundraisers. Dietz and Watson and Paint a Pot paired up for a barbeque and craft center for a breast cancer awareness event last month. Part of the proceeds went to Susan G.Komen for the Cure Central and South Jersey.
Fingerpaint for Boobies” is a breast cancer awareness event held each summer for the past five years. It is dedicated to Klinger's two grandmothers, both of whom suffered from the disease. The event was held this year on Sunday, Aug. 5 from 11 a.m. to midnight.

Keep Our Foundation Strong,” a fundraiser that benefits the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies, was held on Tuesday, Aug. 14 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fifteen percent of all proceeds went to LBIF, where Klinger works at painting, drawing and sculpturing during the off-season. Some of her work has been featured at the Polynesian Resort at Epcot in Walt Disney World.

If you’re interested in checking out the shop or browsing some of Klinger's personal artwork, feel free to stop in at 2807 Long Beach Boulevard, at 28th Street in Beach Haven Gardens. Make reservations at The shop is open everyday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the summer months. Weekend hours and appointments are available during the fall and winter seasons. For more information, visit

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Barnegat Light Museum: Old place with new thrill

History is thriving at the Barnegat Light Museum, located at 501 Central Avenue, across the street from the site of the old Oceanic Hotel, which was torn down in 1919 after succumbing to erosion. The museum is the town’s former one-room schoolhouse that operated from 1904 to 1951, when the town was known as Barnegat City before becoming Barnegat Light in 1949.

The old schoolroom provided education for students from kindergarten through sixth grade, before they attended the original Barnegat High School on the mainland. Many of the museum’s members are former students of the Barnegat Light schoolhouse.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
My favorite thing about working here is chatting with everyone about the schoolhouse and the school log and the compass,” said docent Marc Lipman. “We’re very interactive here. The museum is small, but you could spend hours going through this stuff and never really see it all,” he added.
The museum opened immediately following the closing of the old schoolroom. It was commenced by the Barnegat Light Historical Society – an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization initiated by a group of people dedicated to keeping the history of Barnegat Light and the rest of Long Beach Island alive and available to the public. The museum was the area’s only historical museum until 1976, when the Long Beach Island Historical Association opened the Long Beach Island Museum in Beach Haven.
Many of the Barnegat Light Museum’s earliest artifacts were donated by Norwegian immigrants who came to Barnegat Light in the ’20s. Silverware, dishes, coffee grinders and meat grinders are some of the pieces in the exhibit.
Immigrants came to Barnegat Light to work on the area’s commercial pound fishing boats. Pound fishing, phased out in the mid ’50s, consisted of catching fish in large nets that were placed in the ocean beyond the surf line and held together by large poles driven into the sea bottom. Fishermen would motor out to the nets in Sea Bright skiffs – small boats still used today by lifeguards – and collect the fish before shipping their catch to local fish markets. A model of a pound fishing net is just one of the museum’s special highlights.
Memorabilia featuring the U.S. Coast Guard’s famous mascot Sinbad, a mixed-breed dog adopted by a crewman from the cutter Campbell in 1938, is another one of the museum’s favorite aspects. Sinbad traveled around the world as an enlisted Coast Guard member for 11 years before retiring to the Barnegat Light station. He died in 1951 and is buried beneath the station's flagstaff.

The museum’s most prized feature is the first-order flashing lens from the Barnegat Lighthouse, built by French physicist Augustin Fresnel. The lens was removed and sent to the Tompkinsville Lighthouse Depot on Staten Island in 1927, when the lightship Barnegat was stationed off Barnegat Inlet. The lens was returned to Barnegat Light in 1954 and has been at the museum ever since.

Photo by Jack Reynolds
A friendship quilt given to the first lighthouse keeper’s daughter in the 1860s was found in the attic of a woman’s house in Olympia, Washington. It was donated to the museum in 1981.
The museum is also famous for its collection of bird decoys. The decoys represent a time when bird hunting in the area was especially popular. It is said that President Grover Cleveland traveled to the Island to partake in the popular sport.
A large, pot-belly coal stove from the old schoolroom is another notable exhibit. Not only was it used to heat the building, it was also used to keep students’ lunches warm. The school’s teacher earned an extra $10 a year if the classroom was warm when the children came in.
The museum also houses the town’s old post office boxes. To this day, no mail is delivered to any of the homes in Barnegat Light; residents collect their mail from the post office on 10th Street.

Mrs. Hanson’s autograph collection is located in the back of the museum, near the old mailboxes. Hanson never left Barnegat Light, but she accrued an impressive autograph collection, including signatures from Eleanor Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover, President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford, Helen Keller and President Richard M. Nixon.
I’m very interested in history, and Hanson’s autograph collection really amazes me,” said Karen Larson, president of the Barnegat Light Historical Society and Museum.
Larson became president of the museum in 2005. She grew up in Barnegat Light. Her mother, Marion Larson, grew up in Beach Haven and married Captain John Larson. John Larson became a co-owner of Independent Dock – now known as Viking Village – which his grandparents, who were immigrants from Norway, helped build in the late 1920s. John Larson had attended the schoolhouse as a young boy and was a volunteer at the museum until he died two years ago.
The museum welcomes children of all ages. A schoolhouse treasure hunt is just one of the museum’s many fun activities specifically geared toward its young visitors. The treasure hunt starts in the middle of the room at the compass, which was used to teach students how to differentiate between north, south, east and west. The quest takes participants all over the museum and ends at the counter, where children find and can take home a sand dollar.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
The commercial fishermen bring me all their sand dollars. I could fill this room with these shells,” Larson said with a laugh.
Kids are especially fond of the “bones corner,” where mastodon molars, prehistoric walrus and clam fossils, shark jaws and whale skulls are strewn about.
Family days at the museum take place every Wednesday in July and August. Family-oriented tours of the museum and outdoor Edith Duff Gwinn Garden take place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Activities for children up to age 10 take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
The Barnegat Light Museum’s annual Historical Homes and Garden Tour will take place on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 2 to 5 p.m., featuring six Victorian homes in Barnegat Light. Tickets can be purchased at the museum. A Wine and Cheese Party will take place the same day at the museum from 3 to 6 p.m., no tickets required.

The museum is open on weekends June through mid October, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and daily in July and August, 2 to 4 p.m. The museum garden, maintained by The Garden Club of Long Beach Island, is open all year-round. Admission is free. For more information, visit

This article was published in The Beachcomber.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Eco-kayak tours: Mobile education

I recently ventured around Barnegat Bay on an eco-kayak tour, led by members of Alliance for a Living Ocean – a nonprofit organization based in Ship Bottom that is dedicated to maintaining a healthy coastal ecology through public awareness and action. What I ascertained from the tour is that the best way to learn about the estuary of Long Beach Island is to get involved in it!

Upon arrival at the Ship Bottom Marine Center, which supplied the kayaks and life vests for the event, I met eight other excited tour-goers, of which four had traveled all the way from San Diego to spend their summer on LBI.
We’ve kayaked all over the world, but we’ve never gone kayaking in New Jersey before,” said Jeffra Becknell, motioning to her wife, Liz Grossman, and her two daughters, Remy, 11, and Jordan, 9. “I grew up in Bergen County, and my mother lives in Manahawkin. So when we came to visit, we figured we’d take the girls kayaking in the bay,” she added.
Photo by Kristin Blair
Ship Bottom Marine Center staff
deliver another kayak for the
Wednesday morning tour group.
ALO’s summer programs coordinator Drew Gamils, who spent many summers as a kid volunteering at the organization with her mother, and ALO Executive Director Chris Huch, who grew up in the area and knew he wanted to be an environmentalist since the first grade, showed up minutes later, excited for the tour and the opportunity to share their wealth of knowledge regarding Barnegat Bay and its surrounding habitat.
This is my second summer as the programs coordinator,” said Gamils. “Last year was all about learning the information; I had to brush off a few cobwebs. This year it’s all about perfecting the tour. I’ve never had anyone flip over (in their kayak), but then again, this is only my second year,” she joked.
At that moment, I wasn’t too worried about going overboard. I was a bit nervous about soaking my notebook and all of my tour notes with it, but I was mostly concerned about kayaking around the bay for an hour with no access to a bathroom facility. Just thinking about it (and looking at the wide, open body of water I was about to enter) gave me the urge to go.
I quickly scuttled out of the restroom just in time to jump into the last kayak available: a one-seater with no back to lean against. (That’s what happens when you leave the house without going to the bathroom!)
I purposefully left my water bottle on the dock in an attempt to avoid absentmindedly gulping it down and later the necessary need to empty my bladder. But of course, a Ship Bottom Marine Center employee who thought he was being helpful tossed it into my kayak. Laughing, I decided it might come in handy; maybe I’d accidentally stray from the tour, my paddle eaten by a large fish, and I’d find myself lost at sea for days with only this one container of drinkable water.
Thanks!” I yelled, fervently waving back at him.
As I tried to keep up with the rest of the group, Gamils began explaining how ALO got its footing in 1987, and how the organization has helped put some of the laws and regulations of the Clean Water Act into place. That includes restrictions on ocean dumping, which protects sea life and helps keep waste from washing up on the shore like it did in 1987 – the main reason volunteers came together 25 years ago to form ALO.
Gamils pointed out the Island’s five different ecosystems – the ocean, the shoreline, the dunes, the saltwater marshes and the bay – and the different species that thrive in them.
Photo by Kristin Blair
Tour goers relaxing and enjoying
the view.
Eventually, the strong tidal current got the best of my weak biceps, and I began lagging behind. The last I could hear, Gamils was praising the Island for its nearly pristine beaches and its place as a barrier against mainland erosion – an idea I’d never actually thought about before.
Noticing my slow paddle speed and awkward steering, Huch took it upon himself to keep me updated with relevant tour information. After bonding over the fact we were both graduates of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, I discerned he was taking the role of my personal tour guide. But I knew he was just happy to be sharing his professional interest with me and was making sure I was kept in the loop on the tour.
Huch pointed out a small, dense island full of spartina – a colonizing plant species that grows on the shoreline and extends its root system farther and farther out into the water. Spartina is one of the area’s main wetland grasses. It’s vitally important for absorbing nutrients and preventing floods. Unfortunately, 80 percent of Barnegat Bay’s shoreline is now built up, and the area has lost much of its wetlands. So it’s extremely important to preserve the wetlands that remain.
After awhile, we finally caught up with the rest of the tour group. Crowding around a shallow, submerged island, Gamils and Huch said that we were looking at a cluster of eelgrass and widgeon grass. They explained that the submerged aquatic vegetation provides habitat, nursery ground and food for many different species of wildlife, including fish, crab and scallop.
They’re incredibly important to the environment here,” explained Huch. “Basically, everything here relies on them; they’re the keystone species of Barnegat Bay. If you took them out of the bay, nothing would be the same. Everything relies on them at some point. If we end up losing them, we end up losing Barnegat Bay as we know it. So it’s very important for us to protect these areas, to study them and to find out why they’re in decline,” he added.
The biggest problem for the bay has been eutrophication – the excess of nutrients from fertilizers that makes its way into the surrounding watershed through water runoff. This pollution creates algae blooms, which wind up suffocating and killing plants and other wildlife.
On our way back toward the marina, Gamils and Huch discussed the problem of CSO, or combined sewage overflow, which occurs when heavy rainfall overloads sewer lines and storm drains at water treatment plants. When this happens, water treatment plants are legally allowed to open their floodgates and let all of the water go at once. So waste winds up washing up onto the shore – something Long Beach Island’s beaches received a heavy dose of this past June.
We know it’s a problem, but we can’t do anything about it right now,” said Huch. “The only way it will change is if there’s enough public out-cry and the government decides to take control of it.”
Photo by Kristin Blair
Alo's executive director holds
up a piece of widgeon grass
to show to the tour's participants.
Luckily, ALO is continuing strong partnerships with some of the area’s other environmental groups, including ReClam the Bay and Save Barnegat Bay. By working together, they hope to offer many more educational opportunities and create an even bigger public response.
It’s a very free-flowing curriculum,” said Gamils, in reference to ALO’s Eco-Kayak Tour. “It really depends on what people are interested in and what questions they ask me. If we see an egret, I get very excited because then that opens up the whole thing about hunting. … Some people are very local and just want you to identify things and explain a little bit about the islands, or the beach replenishment project, and things like that. So I like to hit up each person on the tour, especially because as you spread out, it gets harder for everyone to hear.”
We have a limited amount of time that we can be on the water, and Drew’s an excellent reader of what people want to learn about,” Huch confirmed. “So if people ask a question that shows they’re already interested in something, she’ll veer the kayak tour toward those discussions.”
If you’re interested in getting a hands-on tour of Barnegat Bay, ALO’s Eco-Kayak Tours, voted the best in South Jersey Magazine in 2010, run from 10 to 11 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday in July and August. To register, call 609-494-7800. For more information about the organization’s other summer programs, visit

This article was published in The Beachcomber.