Today as I paddled out it was absolutely calm. The ocean lay before me almost like a mirror and as I stood on my paddle board it was like I was standing on the heavens with only the board between me and the clouds beneath my feet. The water was clear and that depth added to illusion.. It was a little difficult maintaining my balance because this illusion of endless sky made me dizzy looking out with no horizon. I paddled and the only sound was the lapping of the water as my board parted the perfect reflected sky before me. It was so calm I imagined my wake trailing off behind me to the edge of infinity. I paddled on like this for an hour passing squads of surfers waiting sadly for swells, and on occasion, paddling desperately for waves that were too diminutive to ride. They were silent in their vigil. I kept paddling. I had immersed myself when I started but began to sweat in the breathless warmth as I paddled. Before me was a patch of water which broke the serene surface and there I came upon a swarm of cabbage head jellyfish. They were in numbers too great to count their bells undulating as they moved in the column of water. Because there were so many it seemed they were forming ranks; bulbous like so many helmets there were lines and lines of individuals forming a phalanx of watery sentinels or maybe it was just a trick my eyes were playing on me trying to make patterns of all that I saw.
As I turned to return there was simply a puff of breeze and the world changed. The sun breached from behind the veil of clouds in the east and it was if the world had awoke from slumber. There were whoops from bathers on shore as they reveled in small waves. The surface was no longer a mirror but shattered into a more prismatic normalcy. In front of me tiny bait fish broke the surface in unison just beyond the nose of my board escaping, if only briefly, that hunger which pursued them from below. There were great swaths of ocean where I could see the effects of eddies of wind; smooth over just in front and beyond that a band of tiny ripples which extended to the edge of my vision. I listened as the world awoke, then dug deeply with my paddle, and headed for home.
I started this blog in part to give people an insight into cool things we love about living here. My wife and I enjoy trying new things but when we find things that we truly enjoy and tend to be creatures of habit. The Tiki bar at the Ocean Grill on Thursday nights is one of those habits.
The Ocean Grill Tiki bar is what’s left of what was once Center Pier located in Carolina Beach. You can see an early photo along with other old pictures of fishing piers here. In 1996 hurricane Fran finished the process started by hurricane Bertha by and truncating the pier's length to the high tide mark. After Mother Nature worked her magic what was once a fishing pier was now suited to a higher purpose of providing frosty beverages and cool vibes to the thirsty beach throngs thus was born the Tiki bar.
Now normally a Tiki bar would be cool enough but Thursday’s are indeed the cherry on the proverbial Sundae Each Thursday night, weather permitting; bands situate at the end of the pier. The joint is run by Abbie and Dave Sinclair who came up with the idea of hosting bands on the pier and are often found mingling among the folks enjoying the music.
The Hawaiian band the Da Howlies was the first band to play this venue and they generally make a yearly appearance but the stage attracts a variety of acts and genres from surf, ska, reggae, rockabilly, to bluegrass. “Dex” Romweber of the Flat Duo Jets fame shows up each summer. The music starts around 7 and is over when the weekly fireworks start at 9. This year’s schedule is here.
Since we are from the area and firmly rooted with tons of family we often come heavy. Last night my sister, brother-in-law, my other sister visiting from Germany, my brother, sister-in-law, and a cousin visiting from Prague were there just to mention family. Our neighbors from downtown were there also and coincidentally the band that Thursday, Open Field, was staying at their house on Carolina Beach. Every week different friends, neighbors, business associates, are around and we meet new people every week. You don’t have to know anyone to enjoy the scene, but if you do show up, you are likely to know someone before you leave. Also if you befriend one of us you get the bunch…it’s a package deal.
There is really no venue which can compare. Families set up camps beside the pier and children play in the surf and wade in tide pools while the adults sit and listen. Surfers catch swells just off of the two pylons that are remnants of the pier from prior fishing days. The band stands in front of a backdrop of the ocean and sky which transitions from the “golden hour” glow into starry twilight. The pier sways and even bounces with the energy and movement of the music.
At 9 PM the weekly fireworks at the Carolina Beach boardwalk burst into the air marking the end of the Thursday evening revelry. The music comes to an end and the crowd turns to the north to watch the fireworks through to the finale. With the last boom, goodbyes are said and the crowd turns and ambles into the dark night towards the lights of the headlights already headed home.