Tag Archives: beach

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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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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Stuck in a Corner With You: An Ode to the Claw.

The best kind of cornered. With Dot, Freddy, and B Bins.

The best kind of cornered. With Dot, Freddy, and B Bins.

The Crab’s Claw Inn. An institution. -al establishment. I’ve been familiar with the Claw for years, but I only began to properly cherish it this past summer, while working next door at Shaded Vision. (An institution.)

On Friday, the Claw re-opened its door to the public for the first time since Superslut –storm Sandy. When I arrived at 10 p.m., the place was packed with jubilant patrons, doling out hugs and high fives by the hundreds, downing Winter Ales and Yuenglings, and, mostly, smiling. So much smiling.

Houses have been flattened, gutted, renovated, rebuilt. The Heights opened its streets to… everyone. Park residents were allowed to go home. Cheese balls were served. But this? This felt like a real milestone. It felt like the mail man and the boutique owner and the bar owner and your mom’s friend and the pro surfer and the restorer were able, maybe, to feel almost normal again. Maybe. They saw each other with drinks in their hands again, in a place to which they all pledged allegiance, a long time ago, without ever saying a word.

You see, the Claw is like our Central Perk. It’s where we go after work and spend our hard-earned dollars on deliciously unpretentious fare prepared and delivered by people with heart. Where plans are made and friends are met. Where we replenish ourselves after hours in the sea. And remind ourselves that we’ll be in the sea in just hours. We go to eat dinner. Or to skip dinner. We sing and dance, talk story, talk shit, aggrandize waves and fish and babes. Everybody probably doesn’t know your name, but I’d bet that everybody knows your face. It’s where we go when we don’t want to go home, or when we can’t go home. It is a sort of home.

I know how this sounds. It’s not that we’re a bunch of alcoholic bar flies. Because the Claw isn’t really just a bar. It’s an institution. And it’s back.

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Retroactive Blogging: The 51st Rip Curl Pro Bells Easter Comp

I wrote this post about Bells a few months back…

Day 2. The sun is piercing the super translucent remnants of the marine layer mixed with wildfire haze; a virginal veil over the pristine beauty that is Victoria’s rugged coastline. It hits the gold-grey sand and wheat-coloured cliffs, refracting off of the glass-smooth faces pounding Winkipop with a deceptive grace. Overhead sets wrap ‘round the point at Rincon. Thousands of millimetres of lens are trained on the Bowl. Jet skis rear and climb peaks, dive down their spines. Julian snaps, hacks, cuts.

Day 4. Gale-force winds ravage the contest site shortly after an emotional Mick Fanning is presented with his bell trophy. As he gives an interview to Channel 9, the gusts apparently level every section of fence bearing a past champion’s photograph. Except one: Michael Peterson. Talk about eerie. The late legend was the very first champion of the Bells Easter comp in 1973.

The weather had been warm and sunny all week–atypical for Easter in Victoria, and it actually began turning during the men’s final. The clouds rolled in as the crowd on the beach shared a moment commemorating MP. “Hells Bells” played on the loudspeakers and goose bumps rose on our arms. Someone said, “It would be fitting if a ‘Cooly kid’ won this year.” This 51st year. Kelly flew and spun and stuck, but Mick rode Bells as Bells likes to be ridden–with power, style, control. And win a Cooly kid did.  Continue reading

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My new favorite badge checker. Okay, the third one I’ve ever liked.

Her: How was it–bad?

Me: No, it was fun, actually!

Her: Good. That’s how it’s supposed to be!

So true. Spread the word.

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Circumnavigating Part 2: Sydney and The Subs

You know how sometimes on those red-eye, trans-Atlantic flights, 7 hours doesn’t quite cut it? By the time you’ve had your lasagna, watched Nicholas Cage’s latest, and, finally, lulled your brain into a state somewhat resembling sleep, you’ve got to put your seat in an upright position and prepare for landing. Sleep be damned. This is not an issue on the flight from London to Sydney.

Also not an issue: The condensation of time. I leave London Friday night and arrive in Sydney Sunday morning. Just go with it. “We’re not spending much time in Saturday,” Nick says casually. Nick is the amiable British guy to my right. He and his girlfriend, Kate, will be splitting five weeks between New Zealand and Australia. They ask me how I liked London and when I hesitantly say something along the lines of, “It was cool…” they inform (as if it is a fact) me that people in England get friendlier as you climb in latitude. Interesting.

In our stout Saturday, we experience Suvarnabhumi International Airport (and what is visible of Bangkok through the windows) as hot, hazy, and lush. The sun sinks into evening as we begin the second leg of our flight, after just an hour and a half on solid ground. Qantas serves dinner, but I’m still full from breakfast. Somewhere between Thailand and Australia, in the middle of the night, I look out one of the few open windows and observe a stupendous display of lightning: It’s bouncing off the clouds and it’s orange.

Stepping into Australia is like napping on that incredible couch you used to have in that apartment you used to have: Slightly disorienting but oh-so cozy. It’s just after 7 a.m. in Sydney and I am greeted by a chatty man in passport control and a smiling customs officer. And sunshine.

After arriving too early to access my first ever hostel room, I stumble upon Darling Harbour, by which locals seem unimpressed. I think it is beautiful. I can’t believe how many fish and likely poisonous jellyfish are visible right next to the dock. By 4:28 in the afternoon, I am completely exhausted and completely enamored with Sydney.

The hostel, on the other hand, is not doing much to win my favor. The girl at the front desk gave me the wrong change for my key deposit and when I told her, she had to check the surveillance camera to see whether my claim was accurate. They don’t allow alcohol in the building. I feel like I’m back in freshman year at Rutgers. Except there are five other vagabonds in my room, I need a swipe card to use the bathroom, and I’m pretty sure the bedroom door doesn’t really lock.

With sleep-deprived eyeballs, I decide to watch Drive Thru Australia because 6:37 p.m. is clearly too early to go to bed. I don’t make it much past nine, and am wide awake at four the next morning.

The Tim Tam Chiller’s one flaw is that it doesn’t actually have any coffee in it. However, by adding a shot of espresso, it is rendered the perfect way to keep cool in summertime Sydney. Another great way to keep cool is to roam the streets and let copious amounts of wasted energy wash over you: Every shop seems to blast the A/C whilst maintaining a literal open door policy. Not that I’m complaining–I think this is the hottest week that Sydney will see all summer, and at one point, I hover in the doorway of an under-construction bar and chug a half litre of water.

In miles and miles of walking, I note that people in Sydney are damn good-looking. And they look like surfers: sun-tinted. It’s funny, though, because I don’t think the majority of them are. I’m sure there’s some kind of statistic that reveals that while 98% of Sydney residents have, at some point in time, found themselves on surfboards, only 40% of them actually surf regularly. Surf mags are also surprisingly hard to come by. And they cost $9–$14 if you get the “Air Freight” [CURRENT] issue.

Continue reading

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Rockstock & Barrels 2011

Untitled by caseybutler
Untitled, a photo by caseybutler on Flickr.

Exemplary wipeouts, comical encounters, and other good, clean fun.

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