While most of us sat inside surfing the Internet, a different kind of surfing was taking place at the Jersey Shore this winter.
For the diehards of the sport, staying out of the water for four or five months just because of a little cold water is laughable.
The average winter temperature of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey is somewhere around 39 degrees, but this doesn’t seem to bother Steve Szymanski, a sophomore majoring in education, or the others like him.
Garbed in thick wetsuits, webbed gloves, hoods and booties, winter surfers resemble arctic seals rather than the typical image of a bronze maverick with sun-bleached hair.
“Some people think I’m nuts, but it’s one of those things you get hooked on. [It’s] more of a spiritual thing. Once you’re in it, you’re hooked for life,” said Szymanski of his winter surfing traditions. Szymanski, originally from Bucks County, Pa., has been surfing the waters of northern New Jersey for the past three winters.
Szymanski is currently in the process of organizing a surf club at Temple. He has already started an informal club on the popular college online network, Facebook.
With more than 75 members so far, he said he believes there are enough students interested to create an official school-sponsored club. The club’s plans would include organizing winter surfing trips for Temple students who want to share their love of surfing with fellow students.
“I hate going out alone sometimes when you get that ‘sharky sense,'” Szymanski said. “It would be great to get a bunch of people together, [we could] kind of start a network.”
A network of like-minded surf-stoked wave riders sponsored by Temple could even have the potential to form a surf team and compete against other colleges.
“If I don’t get my feet wet within two weeks I start getting cranky,” Szymanski said. Apparently he is not alone.
Through the winter, surf competitions such as the “Polar Bear Winter Surf Contest” on Feb 4., and the “Golden Glove” on Feb. 5, which both took place in Ocean City, N.J., are regular events with respectable turnouts by competitors and onlookers alike.
The dedication of those who surf during the winter months is a testament to the addictive and soulful nature of the sport.
With Spring Fling just around the corner, making us already daydream of days “down the shore,” be sure to remember the winter warriors like Szymanski when the water is too “cold” in June.
Ian Defeo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.