Between buying Vicks Formula 44 for that hacking cough, salting the walkway, and drying the six-mil for the next swell, you occasionally check email and a few social media sites. Seems like this time of year every few posts is someone boasting about being near the equator – sunshine, trade swell, frozen drinks. But how many of them work part time at the family business? How many are followers of Jah Trustafari? How many are buying rounds of Imperial with unemployment checks? It often seems like the people who get the most siesta time are the ones who need a good dose of reality, and those who bust their asses log the least water and hammock time.
That’s why it was so uplifting to get out on a Central American journey to Nicaragua with the Jetty crew, of Long Beach Island, New Jersey: people who know what a work ethic is — people who miss a session from time to time because they have a grindstone permanently attached to their shoulder. This wasn’t one of those life-altering journeys of discovery or self-realization, but it had all the adventure of a good Centro American viaje - bowling beachies, landing baracuda from the panga, boat trips to remote estuary mouths, and fresh ceviche. What made this trip was seeing good friends enjoying some of those things that all surfers inherently need.
First off, you have to understand who Jetty is – a small enough grassroots operation to print most of their own clothing by hand, but big enough that they’re carried in 100 retail locations in the US and Europe. They’re not just a façade built by a carefully curated Instagram account. They’re a result of hard work. And you see that reflected in their team – particularly the riders on this trip: Tim Daley and Randy Townsend. After finishing UC Irvine with a bunch of Dean’s List and NSSA College Division surf honors, Daley returned to his native Brigantine and became a Fireman. And while it’s a job that lets him cram in the hours to get time to travel, it carries an awful lot of responsibility. He continues to be the surf idol to the droves of young Brigantine kids who are just starting to show signs of future talent.
Meanwhile, poster boy Randy Townsend, of Surf City, works as many hours as any full-timer you know. He just packs them all into five months. He starts the mayhem in May, when the Yellowfin Restaurant opens, where he is the headwaiter. Then he keeps swimmers in Harvey Cedars safe as the head of the Beach Patrol – working both jobs six days a week all summer, not to mention being a pro surfer. Townsend has been on the East Coast radar for 20 years, but 2013 may have been his best to date, with final berths at the Fosters Belmar Pro and highly coveted Smith Garden State Grudge Match.
Both Townsend and Daley have chosen demanding callings, but they’ve both mastered the balance of work and surf. And during our trip, for that window period each day when the wind and tide cooperated, they tore up, launched over, and tucked into the best waves. They’re so well traveled in this part of the world that they also knew when the wind would switch, which fish would be biting, and how to charm the locals everywhere we went. And just as Jetty relies on Townsend and Daley, they can look to the young owners for inspiration. Jetty’s three operating partners, Jeremy DeFilippis, Cory Higgins (both founding partners) and John Clifford all made it a point to get on this trip.
You want to talk about putting in time? These guys not only run Jetty, but both Higgins and DeFilippis would rather keep their bartending gigs on LBI instead of taking a living wage from Jetty to ensure that it grows. In addition to handling all the art directing duties, Clifford has dorm duties at the boarding school he and his wife live at in Ojai, California. Moreover, DeFilippis is the accountant to half the waveriders around LBI. And that doesn’t even count the way they’ve brought the surf community together, the hundreds of thousands of dollars they raised and donated after Sandy, or the work they continue to do with the Jetty Rock Foundation.
So, despite the fact that we didn’t get the endless A-frames the place is famous for during our trip, it was still a great time. Even at three-foot, the black sand beachbreak had the kind of Jersey-flavored juice we love. Daley and Townsend even picked teams on a lazy afternoon and threw an impromptu fishing tournament the next morning. And each evening, we relived the highlights and the quotes of the day over fresh fruit juices, Cerveza Toña, and grilled snapper or spiny lobster with fried plantains. Nothing has ever been handed to these guys, so it’s nice to see Higgins grab the best waves at the estuary, DeFilippis wrestling a mackerel, or Clifford making a late drop. And you can be sure that, compared to the 30-year-old surf gypsy sponsored by his attorney father, these guys appreciate every minute.