Back 'East of the Boardwalk'

Surf's up, and Earl Paul is all over it. Ocean City, N.J.'s self-proclaimed No. 1 beach bum says, "From Aprilto December, I'm in the water every day, catching waves. Two hours in the water is a great day."

Hurricane Irene forced Ocean City’s #1 Beach Bum to abandon his post for one day only.

“I was back on the beach by 11:30 Sunday,” Earl Paul says by phone from his sandy perch at the foot of Plymouth Place, just steps from his year-round residence.

It’s rare for Paul, who’s written a memoir about his beach career, to give up the sun, sand and surf. I wrote about what he insists is a record-breaking streak in my August 14 column.

Paul estimates he’s spent 5,000 days on the beach since 1998, in all seasons and all sorts of weather.

But last Saturday he heeded Gov. Chris Christie's evacuation order and camped out in a Days Inn on the mainland.

He's been back on duty every day since, “there’s no sign anything happened,” Paul says.

Because Irene turned less mean than feared, he’s concerned folks may have less faith in future evacuation warnings.

But Ocean City’s #1 Beach Bum is most concerned about the approach of Labor Day.

“It’s the saddest day of the year,” he says.