Last Friday was National Flip-flop Day. And next Sunday is Log Cabin Day. There being so many odd, fringe days of observance, it only makes sense to have an International Surfing Day, and South Jersey residents took full advantage Monday with two events focused on keeping beaches clean.
The day has been observed annually around the summer solstice since being initiated seven years ago by the Surfrider Foundation and Surfing Mag-azine. The Surfrider Foundation is a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches.
Two of the 147 - at least - events around the world celebrating the day were in Atlantic City and Ocean City.
"We're excited to celebrate International Surfing Day with people everywhere," said Laura Mazzarella, the Surfrider Foundation's marketing manager.
The Atlantic City Surf Club held an event on the beach at Raleigh Avenue. The club had planned a beach cleanup and luau to celebrate, but it was cut short by rain around noon.
"We had about 15 kids down here. We cleaned the beach, but to be honest, the casino zone is so clean now under the Casino Reinvestment Development Auth-ority that there wasn't much trash at all for the beach sweep," said A.C. Surf Club director Tom Forkin, who hoped to reschedule the festivities. "International Surfing Day gives us the opportunity to showcase those lessons and highlight the beautiful and free beaches of Atlantic City."
The rain cleared in time for the South Jersey chapter of the Surfrider Foundation to get things started at 3 p.m. on the 59th Street Beach in Ocean City. Surfrider volunteer and event director John Bonino, of Ocean City, spoke to the assembled families about the importance of the day.
"We started volunteering with Surfrider about four years ago because of our love for surfing, and it falls in line with our environmental beliefs," Bonino said. "Our family recently located here from East Vineland, and Surfrider has really helped us tie into the surfing community in Ocean City and its positive lifestyle."
The first part of the Ocean City event was a beach cleanup. Kids were awarded prizes for gathering the most trash.
The group then took to the water, with Surfrider volunteers acting as surf instructors and giving more than 50 children free lessons.
Kurt Williams, 33, from the Seaville section of Upper Township, came down with his 4-year-old son, Caleb. Williams has been surfing for 20 years, and this was an opportunity to get out there with Caleb, who stood on a surfboard for the first time.
Caleb was excited about the sport, but his father thought he got something more from the day as well.
"We've been coming for a few years now," Williams said. "The kids have a blast. We take part in the beach cleanup and the nature walks. The lessons they learn are a nice added touch. He's definitely going to want Dad to take him out on his surfboard all summer."
More than 100 people enjoyed the activities and live music. This was the biggest International Surfing Day event Ocean City has had. The event was also one of 10 chosen to be taped for an upcoming film project sponsored by Barefoot Wine, documenting the day nationally. Heritage Surf and Sport loaned soft-top surfboards for the event, and Harbor Outfitters provided standup paddleboards. Positively 4th Street in Ocean City donated sandwiches.
Bonino's 15-year-old son, Morgan, volunteered all afternoon and evening.
"This is for the kids," the younger Bonino said. "We pass on the message to a new generation and then hit the water."
The most unusual part of the day was the "tarp surfing." Started in California for fun on days without waves, this largely viral Internet phenomenon involves folding a tarp onto itself over pavement. When the air catches inside the tarp, it forms a giant barrel, like an ocean wave, that riders cruise through on a skateboard.
Opting for a simpler version, the elder Bonino used a 100-by-50-foot tarp simulating barrels on the beach for the kids to run through. He was pleased with the enthusiasm for the environment, as well.
"In the past two years, the volume of trash is down and the overall water quality is higher," Bonino said. "Surfrider does kayak tours on the backside of Ocean City, and there's little to no trash. The ecology is really improving."