Mike Colombo's warm and easy going personality makes it hard for those greeted by the Right Coast Surf Shop owner to realize that just five months ago Superstorm Sandy dealt devastating blows to his home and business.
The barrier island native and father of two is still dealing with the aftermath of the destruction Sandy brought to the business he has owned for over 14 years.
"I still had shoes stocked on the floor and everything," he said about how little he prepared for water damage to the store. "I figured because we were centrally located between the bay and the ocean that it would be cool. I was wrong."
Colombo said the store had never seen any flooding before Sandy.
Even though the store looks great now, he is still paying for the $25,000 worth of merchandise he lost during the storm.
His home located in Seaside Park, where he rode out the storm, was also destroyed. Colombo recalls hearing waves from the bay crashing into homes as he watched water breach into the first floor of his own house.
"I was upstairs. There's nothing you can do. You just keep coming down the stairs checking. At that point you hope, well maybe the store isn't going to flood, I'll take that -- or maybe my car isn't going to flood," Colombo said.
However, all three sustained major damage.
Two days after the storm, the water finally receded enough for Colombo to ride his bike up to the shop to check things out.
"I just kept saying, 'please let it be dry.'"
Unfortunately it wasn't. After watching his home take on over two feet of water, Colombo found that his store had taken on about three feet.
Once the water had receded, all of the surfboards located at the back of the shop had floated to the front door and the rest of the merchandise was covered in mud.
Both Colombo and a friend, who also rode out the storm, were curious of the state that the rest of the barrier island was in.
They rode on bikes from Seaside Park, through Seaside Heights, all the way to Ortley Beach to see Colombo's old neighborhood.
The destruction was indescribable.
"It made me want to faint. I got off my bike and just sat on a log. I must have sat there for twenty minutes trying to understand what I was looking at," he said.
"Looking at the casino pier half wiped into the ocean and that roller coaster all bent up just sitting in the ocean, piles of debris everywhere -- it was a lot to take in."
Colombo spent about nine days living on the island among the destruction before he says he was forced to leave by police.
"It was spooky. At night it was pitch black and there were cops everywhere," he said.
The experience as a whole took a toll on Colombo. He didn't realize how much until he tried to go surfing for the first time, three weeks after the storm.
"I just couldn't wind down, for some reason. I was just wondering what was wrong with me because that is the thing I love the most and I was just out there wanting to go work," he said.
Once residents were allowed back on the island, Colombo would spend everyday, up to sixteen hour a day, trying to get things back in order.
"I had a picture of my little one when she was little posted on the wall of the beaten up house and any time I wanted to stop I would just look at that picture and just keep going," he said.
Colombo's kids ages 10 and 13 were also having a hard time dealing with the destruction of the town where he says they were born and raised.
Especially his 10 year old daughter.
"She was definitely a little spooked. I saw that in her face when she came over and from that point on I couldn’t enjoy surfing, nothing. I just wanted to get everything done," he said.
However, now that the store and the house are both finished, the Colombo family is finally finding normalcy within the beach town they call home.
Colombo is able to enjoy surfing again and the kids are glad to be back on the island where they can run around, ride bikes, and visit their dad at the shop.
"I'm glad to say they are back on point," he said.
As far as the kids adjusting to their newly restored home Colombo says, "Are you kidding me? The place looks like something out of Coastal Living magazine, now."