By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Colleen Kowal watched in amusement as her two daughters, Libby, 11, and Hannah, 8, rode the waves that rolled onshore Saturday afternoon at the 71st Street beach.
“They haven’t been out of the ocean yet,” Kowal said, smiling. “They are loving it.”
Who could blame them? The girls were cooling off in 75-degree water temperature to start the family’s weeklong vacation in Sea Isle City from their home in West Grove, Pa.
As temperatures soared into the 90s in the mainland communities during an oppressive heat wave that has gripped the region the past week, the shore was seemingly the best place – and maybe the only place – to escape the steamy conditions.
In Sea Isle, the temperatures held steady in the comfortable low 80s during the afternoon. The main relief, however, came from a refreshing breeze blowing off the ocean and back bays.
Kim Pratt, of West Chester, Pa., lounged in a beach chair at the water’s edge while watching her 7-year-old son, Graham, build sand castles.
Pratt’s husband, Andy, and her two other sons, Drew, 16, and Aiden, 14, were also down at the shore for the start of a weeklong family vacation.
“Awesome. Sweet relief,” was how Kim Pratt described the soothing ocean breeze.
Pratt said she could actually feel a difference in the temperature at the water’s edge compared to being up on the beach about 30 yards inland.
“It’s 10 to 15 degrees hotter up there,” she said of the main part of the beach. “It’s crazy.”
Her husband agreed.
“From there to here is like 10 degrees,” Andy Pratt said of the cooler temperatures next to the ocean.
The Pratts could only imagine how hot it was at their West Chester home Saturday.
“We left this morning to come down to the shore. I would bet that today it is in the low 90s,” Kim said of the weather in Pennsylvania.
She looked at Graham while he was digging in the wet beach sand and asked him, “Would you rather be at home in the back yard or here right now?”
“Here!” Graham replied without hesitation.
The water was definitely the coolest place to be – whether it was the ocean or the back bays.
Sisters Emily and Lizzy McGowan were enjoying the picturesque back bay on a paddleboard. Emily paddled in the gentle current, while Lizzy sat on the front of the board.
“It was Lizzy’s idea. I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Emily said of the paddleboard excursion. “I’m glad we did it. It’s refreshing.”
Emily and Lizzy’s family has a summer vacation home in Sea Isle. The sisters have been coming down to the shore on weekends. Lizzy lives in Philadelphia and Emily in Glenside, Pa.
Lizzy was happy that she was spending the weekend at the shore instead of suffocating in the sizzling heat in Philly.
“Even if you go to the restaurants, you don’t feel any relief there,” she said. “Here, it’s much better.”
Unlike Philadelphia’s eateries, heading to Sea Isle’s waterfront restaurants was a cool experience. The Leone and D’Ippolito families took their boat for a ride from their home in Ocean City to Sea Isle for breakfast overlooking the bay.
“It’s beautiful. It’s a nice breezy day,” said Dana Leone while standing in the front of the boat as it headed out into a lagoon along 42nd Place.
“We escaped the heat,” added Dana’s daughter, Mia Leone.
Two other boaters, husband and wife Steve and Cheryl Pastore, of Mantua, N.J., took their boat out in the back bays on Saturday morning to catch some flounder.
As the Pastores pulled their boat out of the water to get ready to head back home, Cheryl noted that it was in the 90s in Mantua, compared to the 80s in Sea Isle.
“It feels about 20 degrees cooler here,” she said. “It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous. This was the best way to beat the heat.”