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Ship Bottom: Stormy Seas Gave Its Name, Surfing Brought It Fame. Life Saving Site Now Private Home.


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.


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

 

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Remnants of LBI's Life-Saving Service Station

Before there was the United States Coast Guard, there was the United States Life-Saving Service. In 1848, NJ Congressman William Newell advocated for a law to establish eight unmanned lifesaving stations from Sandy Hook to Long Beach Island (including northern LBI) to provide "surf boat, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for the better preservation of life and property from shipwreck".


By 1878, the volunteer life-saving role was assumed by a new federal agency, the Life-Saving Service, which refurbished, replaced or built 40-plus stations from Sandy Hook to Cape May and many more along the nation's coastlines including several on LBI.


In 1871, a life-saving service station was built in Ship Bottom, at the same time another was built in Loveladies. The station was relatively quickly replaced with a new one in 1898. The 1871 station house was eventually turned into a private home, which you can see today in the 100 block of East Ship Bottom Avenue.


From 1871 through 1914, the Service aided 28,121 vessels, and rescued or aided 178,741 persons. It's unofficial motto: “Remember, you have to go out, but nothing says you have to come back.”

How Ship Bottom got 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.


No record exists of her name or the name of the ship, but the place of the shipwreck and the rescue became known as “Ship Bottom.”



Tips for Visiting Ship Bottom

What's New: B&B Department store has re-opened.

Access and Parking: When you head east on Route 72 and arrive on Long Beach Island, you're in Ship Bottom. Long Beach Boulevard is the main road.

Amenities: There are no restrooms available at the beach.

Beaches: Beach badges are required daily from June 18 to Labor Day for people 12 to 64 years old. Full season badges are $45 for this age range. People who are 65 years or older pay $10 for a senior badge. Weekly badges are $25. Daily badges are $10 and are available in person at the beach or via the Viply app. There is no cost for people 11 years of age and under.


Follow Jersey Shore author and expert R.C. Staab as he recounts his 2021 walk of every beach along the 139 miles of the Jersey Shore coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read all updated stories at www.JerseyShoreWalk.com.

 

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