On a quiet street on Long Beach Island, not far from the beach, a small, nearly windowless garage stands at the end of a short, white-stone driveway. If you knock at the locked side door, someone will open it a crack, briefly bathing you in the sounds of soft music, genial conversation, and the clinking of ice in a cocktail shaker. Get the nod and you’re allowed into Disco’s Ball, the Shore’s most private party.
“Disco” is the nom de guerre of the twenty-something blonde surfer who hosts the party. It’s not a bar in the traditional sense—drinks are not for sale, and everyone pitches in to cover liquor costs. It’s cool to BYO, or you can drink what Disco, who tends bar, makes you. His specialties include the Surfer on Acid (Jaegermeister, coconut rum, and pineapple juice) and the Bay Water Slammer (spiced rum, grenadine, Blue Curaçao, and lime juice), which resembles the opaque, polluted water that separates the island from the mainland. His hand-selected “staff” fills in when he wants to mingle. The party is limited to about twenty people a night.
Inside, it still looks like a garage—furnished with cast-off furniture from summer renters. Surfboards hang from the ceiling and corners are stacked with rusted beach chairs and nail-filled coffee cans. There is standing room in the center, and one wall is occupied by a homemade bar, which is covered in the autographs and scrawled salutations of invitees, mostly surfers, lifeguards, and locals. Sharpies are always at hand.
My cousin lives and works on LBI in the summer and is a Disco’s regular. To get me in, he had to explain that I was family and ask Disco very, very nicely. “The bars on LBI are basically tourist bars,” Disco says. “I wanted a place where I could go without having to worry about Bennys and Shoobies who’ll start a fight if you spill a drink.” Fighting or disturbing the peace—inside or out of the garage—will get you banned for life. The music is almost never audible from the street.
I asked Disco more than once if he ever tried to turn a profit. “Listen,” he says. “If I was making money on this place, I wouldn’t be garbage-hopping for couches.” Although his mother lives down the Shore year-round, Disco spends his winters working retail in a Princeton suburb.
Mention his name and people will tell you that they’ve heard of him; a few lower their voices and say they’ll be stopping by his place, acknowledging the honor bestowed upon them. “It’s about respect for the people who live here,” Disco says. “I expect people who come to my bar to show the same respect to me.” —Stan Parish
Watching a large beach umbrella blow across the strand is one of the most entertaining shows at the Shore—unless you are the sap who has to chase it or, worse, the one it harpoons. Here’s what you need to know: From June through August, the prevailing wind blows from the southeast at about ten to twelve miles per hour, kicking in around 11 am. So plant your umbrella with the crown facing into the wind. Second, don’t wimp it when you’re planting the thing. Use copious amounts of sand to buttress the pole. If you don’t trust yourself, go to shadeusa.com and order an umbrella anchor, about $15 and well worth it. —Jon Coen
“Two-man beach volleyball is really exciting to watch—it’s athletic and explosive, with a lot of jumping and hitting,” says A.J. Mihalic, a six-foot-four-inch native of Wall who has been competing on the pro circuit since 2002. The Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), launched in 1983, survived some rocky finances and declining interest in the late 1990s and has been bouncing back of late. The AVP held its first event at the Shore last year in Seaside Heights. The tour returns July 5–8 for the Seaside Heights Open. Amateurs will have a chance to qualify, then comes the pro competition. Fox Sports will televise the finals. Mihalic, 30, who this spring was ranked 45 out of 646 on the AVP tour, will compete in the Seaside Open. Avp.com. —Max Gray
Gillian’s Island (gillians.com/island) in Ocean City boasts the tube-sliding Skypond Journey and the eight-story Serpentine Slide. Thundering Surf (thunderingsurfwaterpark.com) has six twisting slides rising above Beach Haven. For relaxation, try the Plymouth Rock Hot Tub Springs at Breakwater Beach in Seaside Heights (casinopiernj.com). While you’re steeping, the kids can whiz down the Cannonball. —JC
Wetlands Institute It’s a wonderland of eco-education, featuring hands-on exhibits, a “terrapin station,” nature trail, observation decks, and children’s area. After an enjoyably informative visit you will think twice before dumping trash on the beach. 1075 Stone Harbor Blvd, Stone Harbor, 609-368-1211, wetlandsinstitute.org. —Jen A. Miller
Why are Shore T-shirts so enticing that even those who drop $6,000 on a four-bedroom one-week rental just can’t resist that late August “Two for $10” Avalon bargain special? Beats us. But you’ll spy these garments all over the country and even the world. The recent Parkway-exit decal and T-shirt trend was the brainchild of Joe Muzzillo, of JerSea Enterprises. What began with an Exit 63 sticker has become a full-service screen printing operation and Exit 63 WareHouse gift shop. 307 North Long Beach Blvd, Surf City, jerseaenterprises.com. —JC
Yoga for Beachniks
Yoga on the beach may help you tune in to the rhythm of your own breathing, an integral part of yoga practice. Yoga teacher Tina Conti Pritzlaff last summer gave 7 pm yoga classes on the Ocean Grove pier. At that hour, the sun has backed off and the pier is usually deserted (fishermen prefer mornings). “We face the ocean, we’re open to the sky,” she says. “The water is actually flowing under the pilings. The sound of the ocean helps you get into the rhythm of the postures. Nothing could be more serene.” The natural soundtrack fits the kind of yoga Pritzlaff teaches—a vinyasa-based style she calls power yoga, in which the postures flow smoothly from one to the next. To find out where and when she’ll be teaching this summer, call her at 732-643-9683. —Eric Levin
Tired of sea gulls? Check out the Cape May County Park & Zoo. Its 80 acres are home to about 550 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The zoo also has day camp sessions for kids. Visits to the zoo are free, though they accept donations at the entrance. The zoo is part of Cape May County Park, which has picnic areas, walking and bike paths, playgrounds, and ponds for fishing. Route 9 and Crest Haven Rd, 609-465-5271, co.cape-may.nj.us. —JAM
For 30 years, Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River has provided refuge for animals that are sick, elderly, abandoned, abused, or injured. The result is an eclectic mix of lions, tigers, bears, sheep, pigs, and white-tailed deer. A mother and daughter horse duo, Trudy and Seven, were rescued from starvation. BooBoo, an American Black Bear, was traded to a car dealership in Iowa as a down payment on a car. When the dealership couldn’t get a permit to exhibit the bear, the local Humane Society stepped in, and BooBoo was sent to Popcorn Park. Each animal in the seven-acre zoo has a unique story that can be found on a card in front of its habitat. Humane Way, Forked River, 609-693-1900, ahscares.org. —A.V. Neglia
The Shore is dotted with fantastic inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Few have the pedigree of the Queen Victoria in Cape May. It is, simply, an 1876 gabled testament to hospitality. Each Shore community has its own entrant. Spring Lake boasts two of the best—the White Lilac Inn and the Villa Park House, whose owner was instrumental in opening W Hotels all over the country. The list of gems goes on: Island Guest House in Beach Haven, Cashelmara in Avon-by-Sea, Nathaniel Morris Inn in Manasquan. —Michael Moran