Donny's day in the park
Asbury Park, N.J., is one of the most storied seashore towns in the country. There isn't room here to get into the whole history of Asbury Park, but the short version of the past 80 years go something like: Thriving beach resort falls into corruption and race riots; a developing artist enclave becomes a ghost town; surfing gets banned; a storied music scene develops along with a strong gay and lesbian community, but the community's attempted revival has suffered due to the stubborn persistence of gangs and social divisions along economic and ethnic lines.
Surfing has played a major role in Asbury Park's modest comeback. The Surfrider Foundation worked with the city to lift the long-standing ban on surfing and their free clinics from 2002 to 2004 reached out to the locals -- mostly under-privileged minorities who weren't beachgoers -- and established a regular surfing beach. These efforts morphed into the annual "Asbury Park Day at the Beach."
This summer, Scott Szegeski and Marilyn Schlossbach, owners of the Asbury Boardwalk establishments Langosta Lounge, Lightly Salted Surf Mercado and Pop's Garage, have continued those efforts with weekly surf clinics for the Asbury Park Boys and Girls Club. The couple have long influenced surfing's role in rebuilding the city, working with artists, musicians, activists, small business owners, filmmakers and other shakers. Today, they are the fourth-largest employer in the city, offering jobs on the developing waterfront to people in the community.
With Donavon Frankenreiter scheduled to play the legendary Stone Pony this Wednesday in support of his new album, "Revisited," local surfing and music writer Timmy Donnelly asked him to lead the clinic that morning. Frankenreiter was happy to oblige. He knows his way around these lineups thanks to regular touring in the area that frequently lines up with south swells."We've been doing it every Tuesday morning since the kids got out of school in June," said Szegeski of the weekly clinics, "and the kids love it. Having Donavon here this week just adds that little something extra to it."
Frankenreiter scored again Wednesday with waist to shoulder-high bumps right out in front of the Pony. While it was nice for the groove guru to have great surf, it certainly wasn't ideal for sliding little kids toward the shore. Fortunately, eager kids don't really know the difference. They followed Frankenreiter to the beach, where he went over some basics. Then, supported by a slew of volunteers, he took the crew to the water.
Frankenreiter stole the show, stroking to the outside, nabbing waves and flashing the peace sign while the rest of the volunteers were getting punished on the inside as they worked to get kids into pummeling whitewater. But every single kid was pretty electrified about the experience.
"Surfing is one of those things that isn't that easy to try if someone doesn't give you the opportunity," Frankenreiter said.
Indeed, the social and economic barriers have kept generations of locals in Asbury Park from enjoying the waves and the beach in general.
"Sharing what I get to do every day with people is just the best part of what I do," he said.
Then he went out on some crazy bonzer by Chris Chaize, a boutique shaper in Asbury Park.
Despite rain showers, the waterfront buzzed all day. As the kids walked home across the boardwalk, they were making plans to get back down to the beach, almost as excited as all the long-hairs who showed up to see Frankenreiter at the Pony Wednesday night.