Jet Star Roller Coaster by Jena Ardell in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, USA

Every year since second grade, I have counted down the days until summer when it was time to visit the Jersey Shore. My dad’s friend owned a bunaglow that we would stay in for a week or two every July. There’s just something magical and carefree and amazing about the stretch of land from Pt. Pleasant to Seaside Park. When I got older, I started renting nearby bungalows. Even during the five years I lived in Los Angeles, I would come home EVERY summer to go down the shore. In 2007, I started shooting artsy Polaroids of all of the little beach bungalows I loved. By 2012, I had quite a collection. And then Hurricane Sandy hit. The storm destroyed the little beach town I always dreamed of owning a home in, and even changed the shape of the beach. Some of the bungalows I have shot in the past are now mere piles of rubble. Others are completely gutted because of mold. Now homes are being rebuilt on stilts. My little 1950s beach town no longer looks the same. When the hurricane hit, this little roller coaster (that nobody seemed to care much about during previous years) became an icon. I remember riding the Jet Star in middle school and high school. It was the coolest ride on the boardwalk, mostly because it was slightly terrifying to be on this old little coaster at the far end of the pier. You could see the reflection of the boardwalk lights in the dark ocean below the ride where this little coaster was perched. Then Sandy relocated it into the Atlantic. The coaster is no longer in the water (they finally removed it with a giant crane), but many people wish it still were there. The sight of this misplaced coaster is both shocking and humbling. Despite what we think, we aren’t bigger than nature. And we can no longer deny that our actions (and mostly inaction) are affecting our landscape.

Name:Jena Ardell

Occupation: Photographer / writer.

Preoccupation: Preoccupations include making crafty things, hugging my cat, hoarding vintage clothing and antiques.

Sum up the place you live: I live in Northern NJ. It’s lush and green and looks like this:

If someone was visiting what must they do? Wake up. Eat breakfast in the sun-room of the beach bungalow you rented for the week. Slather on a ton of sunscreen. Walk (or ride your beach cruiser) to the beach. Take a nap while listening to the waves crashing. Eat a hoagie from Wawa. Swim in the ocean. Flag down the ice cream man. Play paddle ball. Change out of your bathing suit. Fluff the sand out of your hair. Head to the boardwalk around dinnertime. (Wednesday night is firework night). Eat a sausage, pepper, onion sandwich (or cheesesteak) from Midway. Play a few boardwalk games. People watch. Buy a box of salt water taffy. End the night sharing a funnel cake with your friends. Watch the moon rise over the ocean. Get kicked off the beach by beach patrol. Sleep in your sandy bed.

What is the best thing about your spot? The best thing about Seaside is… (see above)

What is the worst? Hurricane Sandy. The Jersey Shore will rebuild and may become bigger and better, but it will never be the same place I knew.

What would be surprising about this place to an outsider? Seaside isn’t full of Guidos. Not everyone who goes down the shore are like the New Yorkers you see on MTV’s Jersey Shore. While there are some people who lend reason to Seaside being referred to as “Sleazeside” from time to time, it’s still very much a family beach town. There aren’t clubs or giant hotels on the beach (which is why I like it there). Those places are two blocks in, hidden from the surprisingly clean beaches.

Before I die I want to visit: France, both the countryside and Paris. Mostly the countryside.

Who are three of your favorite artists? David Hockney (painter), Joan Didion (writer), and Dave Grohl (musician).


Name:Jena Ardell

City:Seaside Heights

Favorite place to eat:

Ortley Fish Market. Mmm mmm mmm.

Favorite place to drink:

I’m not a bar or cafe person but Joey Harrison’s Surf Club is a popular place.

Favorite shop:

Brave New World in nearby Pt. Pleasant, New Jersey

Local Tip:

Don’t be duped: the old photo booths on the boardwalk have been gutted and revamped within the past two years. They are the crappy, laser-jet ink kind of “photo booths” now.