The winter storms that hit southern New Jersey have been a boon to snowplowers. Surfers haven't fared as well.

"When you have an extended flat spell like this in the winter, people do get discouraged," said Greg Beck, who has worked at Surfer Supplies in Ocean City for the past 25 years and been co-owner for the past six.

"There is a bit of a cloud of frustration, but surfers are keeping a sense of humor about it," he said. "I can remember some sustained flat spells that have actually been worse."

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Since the 1960s, surfers have known the joys of riding waves in New Jersey in the winter. For those with enough commitment and neoprene, this season can offer more storms and bigger swells than warmer months. The southern New Jersey coastline hasn't seen a wave since the huge blizzard on Dec. 26-27.

The reason for the lack of waves is caused by the same weather pattern that has bought frigid temperatures all month. The position of the jet stream and the consistent flow of cold air prohibits wave potential.

The Christmas weekend blizzard would have been a huge wavemaker locally, but the path of the storm caused New Jersey to be on the wrong side of the low-pressure system. That meant two days of howling offshore winds that blew the swell down before most could even get dug out of their homes.

Whereas extreme winds and weather most of the year mean waves, the polar air coming down from Canada keeps the surf flat.

"All this high pressure just creates a trough over the East Coast," Beck said. "This is what happens when it dips down this far and cuts off those coastal lows that ride the jet stream."

Surfing in cold water certainly isn't easy, but not surfing at all is starting to get to some. When our area experienced a serious flat spell in October, most turned to other pursuits such as skateboarding and fishing.

"During these long periods of no waves, you have to do something to pass the time," said Ian Bloch of Margate. Bloch is a local pro. He hoped his winter break from Atlantic Cape Community College would have seen more waves.

"You have to go to the gym or run. I've been skating a bit."

But the best option for many is on Priceline, Orbitz or Travelocity.

"A lot of surfers are getting out if they can," said Jason Carlisi, employee at 7th Street Surf Shop in Ocean City. "They work extra hard in the summer and try to budget so they can get away in the winter."

This year has seen more surfers than usual pulling the trigger early on trips to warmer places. The blitz of arctic winds can produce waves for the Caribbean when the East Coast is flat. Carlisi notes that many are heading to Barbados and Puerto Rico, as well as Hawaii's North Shore and Costa Rica. The Pacific Ocean recently has lit up, sending significant swells to California and 20-foot waves to Hawaii.

But there is some hope for locals. Low pressure sitting over us today is predicted to build the surf and lift out by this morning, creating three to four-foot waves.

"There's an air of optimism for that'" Beck said.

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