(March 13, 2020) I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently and it reminded me of how the surf is subject to change with our beach break sand bottom conditions.
He spoke of surfing “uptown” and the most telling clue as to exactly where this spot was had to do with the short distance required to paddle out to the breaking wave.
He described himself as lazy and not wanting to have to paddle too far to get to this breaking wave. With these few bits of information it was rather obvious that the wave broke close to the beach.
Generally speaking, the surf is better on the southern part of Ocean City.
An imaginary line could be drawn in the 70th to 80th Street range. This is always subject to change but a lot of the change can be due to groins or jetties that jut from the land into the water.
A lot of these groins are still visible but most have been buried under the sand due to beach replenishment.
Back in the day, the surf use to be better due to a natural flow of sand augmented by this series of groins, most of which, as was noted, are buried due to the massive amounts of sand that have been pumped onto the beach.
At times, a groin can be uncovered, usually signifying the possibility of a better breaking wave.
Remember, our beaches, and most importantly what is under the breaking waves, out in the water, is all sand.
Waves break due to this collection of sand relatively close to the shore with the assistance, again, of obstructions in the water. The obstructions in this case are the groins.
When they were exposed, on a large scale, sand would collect on the south side with a more predominant south swell direction in warmer months.
In colder months, sand would collect on the north side of groins with a more dominant north swell direction.
Heavy storm action can expose these buried groins at times and the effect won’t necessarily be in the immediate vicinity.
Sometimes, effects can be from “obstructions” miles up or down current and just as changeable due to tide and wind conditions.
So as complex as all of this sounds, the bottom line for the surfer is one of vigilance and observation.
The aforementioned discussion that opened this article is a good example.
My friend had found a spot that ostensible doesn’t break too often. He had found a breaking wave due to his observation and I’m sure a bit of vigilance on his part.
Yes indeed, subtle most of the time, the sand is always moving.