Ship Bottom: Stormy Seas Gave Its Name, Ron Jon Brought It Fame

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

Approaching storm early June at Ship Bottom beach. All photos by R.C. Staab

The stormy seas off of Long Beach Island are responsible for how Ship Bottom got its name. See the full story below, but as one can imagine, the name came from a shipwreck off the coast and a spectacular rescue.

(From the vantage point of the beachfront or boardwalk, this is a breezy overview of what you see, where to park and beach access, plus a bit or history and the latest happenings. See map below.)

Because it sits at the end of the Route 72 bridge across Barnegat Bay, everyone who visits Long Beach Island stops at or passes through Ship Bottom. It's a busy hub of commerce with a CVS, a Wawa, furniture stores, a few hotels and motels, and markets greeting driver before they even get as far as Long Beach Boulevard. Heading south along the Boulevard, there are plenty of places to eat or grab takeout foods.

East Coast surfing started here

Before the Beach Boys sang a song, before Gidget started the beach-party movies craze, Ron DiMenna bought a few surfboards from California and began selling them in front of the family grocery store in Manahawkin. His business was an immediate success. Eventually he moved across Manahawkin Bay to Ship Bottom and established the Ron Jon Surf Shop. It has become the largest chain of surf shops on the East Coast, with 14 locations, including the world’s largest surf shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Inside the store there are four shopping levels full of surfboards and boogie boards and most anything needed for a day on the beach or to star in a surfing video or Instagram post.

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Don't let anyone tell you LBI is18 miles long

The conventional wisdom is that LBI is 18 miles long. But apparently this notion was begun by the road crews who paved the first road from Old Barney to Holgate to the south. As measured by the concrete road from Old Barney parking lot to Holgate, LBI is 18 miles.

In Barnegat Light, using a simple online pedometer tool, you can see that walking the beach from the jetty to 30th Street along the beach is considerably longer than driving from the northern most point to 30th Street. It's already more than 18 miles long, and that's not accounting for the three miles of the coastline at the southern tip along the Edwin Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.

Let's set the record straight and let people know LBI is 21 miles!

Where Ship Bottom gets its name

The name dates from 1817 when Captain Stephen Willets of Tuckerton heard about a ship in trouble near the shore. Searching in the fog, Willets' crew came upon the hull of a ship overturned in the shoals. According to local historian John Bailey Lloyd, corpses hung from the rigging and bobbed in the frigid sea. But the crew heard a noise, chopped a hole in the ship's bottom and freed a young woman trapped inside.