Long Beach surfers take advantage of Hurricane Irene’s waves

Beaches officially closed, residents advised not to go in water


Local pro surfer T.J. Gumiela was one of many Long Beach surfers on Saturday who took advantage of the wave swells brought in by Hurricane Irene.

With the beaches officially closed for the weekend, and lifeguards advising residents to stay out of the water due to strong rip currents and storm conditions, Gumiela said he couldn’t pass up the chance at some good surf after weeks of mostly flat waves.

“I actually just got out -- we were doing step-offs from my friend’s jet ski,” Gumiela, a venerated pro surfer in town, said early Saturday evening. “We were just on New York, and the waves are getting bigger, but it’s getting windy and it’s just becoming a storm surge.”

Despite strong rip currents, and as news media reported from the beach, Gumiela was just one of many surfers who took advantage of the swells created by Irene on Saturday. Some, he said, may even venture out into the water on Sunday.

“We may go out tomorrow, if the wind is not bad,” he said.

Gumiela, 20, of Long Beach, acknowledged that his family comes first, and that he expects to help out with potential flooding and storm damage on Sunday. Gumiela, who lives on Illinois Avenue, was one of many residents whose families have decided to stay in Long Beach to ride out the storm.

“I’ll probably be helping my dad with flooding,” he said.

Chief of Lifeguards Paul Gillespie said that even though the beach was closed, lifeguards were on patrol on Saturday, but said that there were no emergency rescues.

“Everybody is off the beach, the beach is closed officially,” Gillespie said. “We were there all morning, up until 2:30 p.m. We were there just in case. There were a ton of surfers who were in the water, but most of the guys who were in the water were experienced surfers.”

Al Cella, 34, said he surfs East Atlantic Beach mostly and was also looking forward to decent waves.

“I’m really looking forward to surfing — you obviously don’t want to surf during the storm though," he said.

Long Beach Fire Department Chief Rich Corbett advised all residents to stay out of the water. “Don’t go surfing during a hurricane, or drive,” Corbett said. “Please use common sense and safety.”

Gillespie said that all beach entrances, aside from National Boulevard, have been blocked off. Gillespie, who like many city officials is not leaving the barrier island, said that he is expecting strong winds and flooding on Sunday.

“Hopefully it won’t be as bad as what they’re predicting,” he said.

Gumiela said he hopes Hurricane Irene delivers some decent wave swells for next week’s Quiksilver Pro N.Y. competition.

“Everyone said they wanted waves and now there’s waves,” he said. “Hopefully, its not a week too early.”