Tag Archives: surf

Between A Rock and A Hard Place: New York’s Complicated, Cumbersome Surf Scene

Note: This piece was written between September 2010 and December 2012. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written, but it never found a home. If you enjoy reading it, please share.

The Rockstock & Barrels surf competition and music festival returns to the boardwalk at 90th Street in Rockaway, Queens on a sunny Saturday in June. The beach is full of Yankees caps and dyed black hair and intentionally disheveled-looking clothes. Their owners either ride pop-outs or no-expense-spared paragons of craftsmanship; nothing in between. They take to the waves in droves.

“It’s a circus out there on the weekends. It never used to be like this,” confides Rockaway-bred John Gutierrez as he watches hundreds of surfers jockey for chest-high waves.

“You really get everyone,” local Danny Jones says. “You get Wall Street guys that wanna rent soft tops on the weekends and you’ve got hipsters that come down with their freakin’ ripped wetsuits and their weird-shaped boards: ‘Yeah, I shaped it myself, bro.’ Old-timers, young kids…”

“Dailies.” That’s what Rock locals call visitors; interlopers who care little that this is actually someone’s home. At the end of their beach days, the sand is strewn with rubbish: Bottles, cans, you name it. You’ve never seen so much sea glass before.

Danny’s camera bag and lifeguard gear were pilfered from the beach and one of his friends was jumped somewhere in the “lower-numbered streets.” The area between Beach 32nd Street and Beach 84th Street is called Arverne-by-the-Sea. In the early 19th century, this neighborhood consisted mainly of charming (if “flimsy”) beach bungalows. When New York’s Commissioner of Public Works Robert Moses tore down inner-city housing in the mid-20th century, he re-classified Arverne’s summer rentals as year-round homes and moved the displaced residents into them. They were eventually shuffled into public housing projects, and didn’t fare well so far from their jobs. Until recently, most developers ignored Arverne, and what should be some of the most valuable land in the city is largely in tatters. Through much of Rockaway, abandoned beach-front high rises back up to low-income tenements, and many of the people who live in them–within 2,000 feet of the ocean–can’t swim.   Continue reading

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Monday, September 15, 2014. 10:22 p.m. (I think.)

“Do these things work?”

I looked around, surprised. I hadn’t realized that he was talking to me. I looked some more: Tall, teal eyes, nice kicks. He glanced at my phone.

“Oh,” I said. Mobile boarding pass. Right. “Yeah, it should.”

“Okay,” he said, adding, “I don’t fly very much.”

I asked him where he was from, where he was headed.

Seattle (it’s not always rainy), Seattle (he was just visiting his brother)

“Are you flying directly?” I asked.

“I wish. Through San Francisco.”   Continue reading

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I’ll send you a postcard…

Happy belated Labor Day.

While everyone else is back to work and back to school, I’m officially on vacation. (Well, I mean, working vacation, but it’s still glorious. Because it’s that good kind of work that I mentioned.) I’m sitting at Arabica in Portland (Maine) (the original one–settled in 1633, according to the infallible Wikipedia) with beautiful people with beautiful tattoos, probably within a mile of Bill Clinton, contemplating surfboard builders and California rollers.

Tomorrow morning, I’m heading west! I was thinking, this will be my first flight in almost a year, which is insane after hopping from airport to airport on a pretty much weekly basis the year before that. It’s funny the way something can become second-nature and then slip right back into novelty territory. I find myself asking questions like, “Do I need a passport to fly domestically?” “How much time should I give myself at the airport?” To be fair, I usually do need a passport and the [international] standard 1.5 hours before boarding when traveling. I know, I know, douche jar.

Anyway, after my wicked busy summer, I’m so looking forward to reuniting with the Left Coast. And having the time and energy to write more. Look for dispatches from the West and new stories soon. Right now, though, I’m going to pack up the MacBook and go sip some Allagash, straight from the source.

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Long Hours. Short Summers.

You know when Monday feels a lot like Wednesday, which could just as easily be Saturday?

“Happy Friday!” your friends say.

“What’s Friday?” you respond. Four hours later, on your late-arvo lunch break.

Tuesday is the new Saturday. (And Sunday.) Thursday is the new Tuesday.

You have dreams about cash registers/finicky customers/spreadsheets. You don’t think it’s weird when you receive texts before seven in the morning. ‘Cause you’ve been up since five, when you jolted upright in a cold sweat, certain that you’d overslept. (You hadn’t.)

The fact that you earned the “Power Month” badge on UNTAPPD might be cause for concern if you didn’t live in a ski town and if you hadn’t conveniently surrounded yourself with people who count craft beer consumption as a valid hobby and/or part of their jobs.

Your natural state is extroverted. Presently, though, you hate everyone. You spend your Saturday nights cocooned, with catatonic-looking eyes and hands that continuously shovel utterly unnutritious food into your mouth. To boot, you’ve ceased working out. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

These are all telltale signs that work has completely consumed your life. (And, possibly, crushed your soul.) (Just a little.) It happens to the best of us. It’s alright when it’s the work about which you’re passionate that takes over your life, but when it’s the make-ends-meet kinda work, that’s another story. And it sort of makes you question what, exactly, you’re doing with yourself.

Right now, I’m running the heat in my car on my drive to work. A couple of weeks ago, I could, theoretically, get up and go for a run, shower, eat eggs, and be at work by 6 :30 a.m. This morning, I didn’t do any of that extra, productive stuff that makes me feel good about myself and I still got up before the sun. The sky, covered in bruises, mirrors morale inside the vehicle. The air on the other side of the glass is crisp. 46 degrees. It feels like fall.

Just like that, the summer has escaped me. My first Maine summer—well, my first real, complete summer. I envisioned leaping from cliffs and swinging from ropes and spontaneously swimming under the stars [more]. I didn’t really anticipate 50 [daylight] hours spent inside each week, and while I’m honestly grateful for the work, I sort of wish that I’d spent some more time hiking, swimming, boating, surfing, and most of all, writing before sweater weather returned. (It has.) Before red leaves fell into my yard. (They have.) Before pumpkin beers hit the shelves. (They, too, have.) Shiiiit.

A couple of weeks ago, the realization that summer was nearing its close hit me about as hard as Chopes likes to clock Koa Rothman.

And I know what you’re thinking: But it’s August. It’s totes still summertime.

And you’d be correct if I didn’t live in Maine, where you can (marvelously) ski six months of the year. So yeah, August is pretty much fall. And that’s fine. I mean, autumn is my favorite season and I have definitely taken advantage of the pittance of freedom that I’ve allowed myself since Memorial Day: Driving hours in every direction in the name of exploration, visiting many a brewery, blowing into unfamiliar beaches. And even breaking a bone while rope swinging. But the summer I’d imagined? Not quite.

Possibly the worst part about this is that everyone else I know is doing exactly the same thing, and maybe it’s just because, at this point, we’ve been doing it for three months straight (or more), but we’re all burnt out. Misery loves company, but not when everyone’s collectively too exhausted and too strapped for time to invest in face-to-face time. (Girls gotta have some face time—not FaceTime—sometimes.) This is summer around here, I’m told.

So I say, bring on autumn! Let’s cordially bid tyrannical, wetsuit necessitating summer and its weirdo tourists adieu. Let’s wear fullsuits during suitable months! And find time to share robust, soul-warming beers! Pull all-nighters through longer nights! Autumn: It’s the new summer.

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The year is new.

Oh, so it is. I’m usually much more on top of my New Year’s posts, but 2013 was one heck of a year and I wasn’t really sure where to start. Then I thought, I’ll just begin with what’s always closest to my heart: the food. (And drink.) And I’m gonna preemptively put a few dollars in the proverbial jar, because I’m about to sound like a… well, maybe just don’t read this if you’re prone to fits of jealous rage. Right, the food…  Continue reading

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Sap Sap Sappy Thanksgiving 2oThirteen.

This Thanksgiving Eve finds me sitting at an Ikea kitchen table that I shared with an ex, once upon a time. It’s now in my bedroom. In my parents’ house. There’s only one chair. (The other one was lost in a flood.) It’s also from Ikea. This visual gets more depressing with every passing detail. There’s even a candle. Unlit. And an opened box of Entenmann’s “donuts.” And a feline reposing in my lap. Just kidding… about those last two things, anyway.

The floor behind me is, literally, covered with books and laundry and 10 pairs of shoes and five pieces of luggage and 37 pieces of cameras and a statue of Ganesha.

So, at 28, this probably isn’t exactly where most people would want to be. But I am thankful to be here.

This has been one crazy year (so far). I didn’t realise until my mum brought it to my attention, but I set foot on five continents in eight months. That’s, like, the definition of a crazy year. But also the definition of a remarkable year.

Continue reading

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Rickety Rollercoasters.

Bali Cont’d. (Finally.)

I was relocated to a private room (complete with sheer, bamboo “walls,” immediately on the other sides of which my neighbours slept). The ocean was rowdy and the people who lurked near it were always trying to sell me silver jewelry, so I became part of the poolside décor and watched time (and yoga teachers-in-training) pass by in bulk. I eventually spoke to one of them. The yoga teachers. Her name was Steph and she was from South Australia. She invited me to join her for lunch and soon, I had 30 new friends. They told me where I could find good cafes and ATMs. The combination of good company and the (thankfully) shattered illusion of confinement made Villa Serenity infinitely more enjoyable.

One day, we went to lunch and afterward, we stopped at an ATM. This particular machine didn’t accept my bank card, so my new friend Laura told me how to find another one:

“Walk down the beach until you see a big, white building,” she said. “Turn left and keep asking the security guards until you get there. It should only take about 35 minutes.”  Continue reading

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