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Check Out These Wave Runners!

August 2, 2007 By:
Ryan Teitman, JE Feature
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Stacey Marchel gets ready to catch a wave in Margate, N.J.
Stacey Marchel waits in the ocean. Floating on her surfboard, she patiently scans the New Jersey shoreline for the next decent wave. In the warm afternoon, conditions are far from perfect. But for Marchel, and the other surfers of Margate, surfing isn't about the biggest waves, it's a way of life.

Marchel, 39, lives a stone's throw from one of the community's four surfing beaches. When her 5-year-old son wanted to take surfing lessons, she explained, she decided to join in. "I could either be watching him from the beach, or I could be watching him from the ocean."

"Being a stay-at-home mom, sometimes doing laundry doesn't cut it," she added. She gets a sense of accomplishment every time she surfs, and feels that she conquers something as well.

"I like the sense of overcoming fear," she said.

This Jewish mother has been surfing for five years now, and her son is also starting to get the hang of the waves, she acknowledged. "It gives me something to do with my son that's sports."

She surfs whenever her schedule allows, for as long as she can, she said, which is often when her son is at school.

"The best time is typically in the morning; the conditions are usually cleanest," said Kevin Morris of Margate's Heritage Surf & Sport. But the bulk of surfing goes on in the middle of the day, he added, due to the fact that most people in the summer are on vacation. "Most of the surfers that are really into it are doing it in the morning or early evening."

The best conditions in New Jersey occur in September and October, when strong storm systems off the coast create swells, but don't necessarily hamper the weather at the shore.

"You have conditions where the beach is pristine," but the waves are huge, said Morris.

For Louis "Lou the Jew" Solomon, surfing is a passion. The Margate resident has been catching waves for 42 years, and for the past 25, his surfboards have carried a Jewish star and his widely known surfing handle: "Lou the Jew."

The 55-year-old has showed up at Bar Mitzvahs with sand and salt still in his ears -- that's how consuming it can be, he explained. "You make plans around it."

But the commitment needs to be there to truly appreciate the sport. "You've got to put in your time," he said. "Money can't buy a wave."

"It's part of a lifestyle," said Jay Mizrahi, 55, another Jewish Margate native who started surfing at the same time as Solomon. He gets up every day at sunrise to check the conditions.

He was previously a member of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, he said, which gave him the freedom to take to the ocean. "If I didn't want to go to work, I could go surfing."

And even when the surf isn't great, the draw is still there, day in and day out, he said.

"There's never a day you're going to get out of the water and not have a sense of accomplishment," said Mizrahi. He likened the feeling to puzzle addicts finishing the crossword each day.

While longtime Margate surfers continue to hit the waves, a new generation is taking to the boards. In addition to his work at the surf shop, the 35-year-old Morris teaches surfing at Camp by-the-Sea, run by the local Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center, and his specialty has become more popular with every passing year. For eight weeks, campers of all levels get to try their hand. "It really teaches them independence," said Morris. "There's a lot of camaraderie, too."

Part of the lure of the sea is the mystery of the unknown. "In the back of every surfers' mind, there's the possibility that something's out there," added Morris. "There's a certain amount of fear in every surfer's psyche."

Through the years, Solomon and Mizrahi have had their share of injuries surfing -- from bruises to reef cuts -- but, fortunately, neither has sustained any serious injuries.

One fear for ocean-dwellers, especially in California and Australia, is sharks, but between the two men, they've had less than a handful of shark sightings off the Jersey shore in their more than four decades in the water.

"I've seen a couple of them, but they really don't like kosher meat," quipped Solomon.

The real danger comes from the unexpected.

Mizrahi said that he nearly lost a toe to a school of bluefish, while Solomon was stung by deep-water sea nettles stirred to the surface by ocean currents -- something he had never seen before.

The key, they both agreed, is always being aware of the sea environment.

"That's something you can never forget," reaffirmed Solomon. "Respect for the ocean."


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