If you’re what I would consider a true surfer, you need to surf as much as reasonably possible to function. You are a person who watches weather patterns almost obsessively. You calculate the arrival of each new swell to get what some may call a “fix”. To the best of your ability your life revolves around your thirst for riding moving walls of water. Some may consider this a frivolous activity. But in reality it’s quite the opposite. 

If you are a true surfer, you consider it to be a sacred ritual. In your pursuit of surfing you certainly have pissed off family members, girlfriends, bosses, friends and anyone who expects you to be reliable. When the ocean calls, caution and many times mundane responsibilities, are thrown to the wind. You find yourself off and running down the beach with your board under arm, burning with excitement as you prepare to enter your aquatic home.

Surfing for you is like being in a committed and loving relationship. It’s not a one night stand and it’s not a casual, hollow string of flings. It’s an ongoing, ever deepening love affair between you and your beloved – your board, the ocean and her waves.

Just like any relationship, you need to put in work for it to grow. Skillfully making time to water the seed of love, nurture it and bring it to ever increasing fruition.

Now, the official start of winter for the Northern Hemisphere is December 21st, the winter solstice.

I feel like winter started the moment we set our clocks back on November 4th. The loss of sunlight hours is something I’ve never enjoyed. Darkness blankets the sky by 4:30pm as the sun disappears into the western skyline. As a kid this meant I couldn’t play for more than an hour outside after school. As an adult it means I miss swells if I can’t get to the beach before work in the morning. I lose my chance to embrace my lover so to speak.

Although the water and air temperatures drop tremendously, most surfers look forward to the winter months as the frequency for quality swells increase. Overall the winter on the East Coast is unpleasant, but it’s much easier to endure when you can stay in tune with the change of season by surfing. The shortened days make it hard though, the window of opportunity is shortened by almost 5 hours.

A good southern swell with an offshore wind grooming it into perfect lined up walls peeling off a jetty is an amazing site to see. Even if the wind is howling and the water and air temperature are below freezing at best. It’s always a pretty site to see.

One of my best surf memories is coming out of a barrel, completely blinded by the blizzard that was waiting for me at my exit point. I frequently remember this moment, one of the many amazing things I’ve experienced while surfing.

This past Tuesday we had a nice swell hit, about chest high and clean with offshore winds. Not epic or all time by our standards but still a good swell none the less. I had to work 10 hours that day leaving no real window of opportunity to surf. I kept checking my Facebook page throughout the day and saw the photo’s popping up from all my photographer friends. That’s when I began to get agitated. It was as if I was in high school again and my friends were saying “you missed it!” over and over again. I felt the pain of separation from my lover as I could not feel her embrace on a day when she had shown up to meet me.

I was feeling pretty bummed out about not getting to surf. Then I remembered something a surfing mentor told me while in the midst of missing good surf. He said, “a day where you can get up and go to work, that’s a good day.” It helped me put things in perspective and created a sense of gratitude for those things I usually take for granted.

But next time my love comes calling I have no intention of missing her. I’m going surfing.

Photo by MA Spagnuolo

Shawn Zappo is a local surfer and skater who rules the stoves at Kaya’s Kitchen in Belmar. He’s also a musician and will be writing about his surf and skate related experiences as well as reviews on bands and whatever the hell else he feels like writing about.


  1. greg weber says:

    yo shawn,

    good to see you are still a force. great memory the ozzy board you showed me at blades back in my gravity days-gw

    facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Jettyrars?ref=hl

  2. Shawn Zappo says:

    How are you!?? Hope all is well.
    That was a while back, I remember that board. The Lost fish with the Sabbath art, maybe 1998???

    I miss Blades, those were good times.
    Happy Holidays.
    Peace. SZ

  3. Mike Hughes says:


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