Tag Archives: manhattan

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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Dispatches From The Eye Of The Storm. AKA Oh Sandy. Two.

On the morning of Saturday, November 3rd, I wake up at 7:30 a.m. to a dark room. The nightlight I plugged into the wall, a subtle alert to the presence of electricity, is still dim. I grudgingly push two down comforters aside and climb out of bed, wearing the latest in pajama couture: Long socks, shorts, sweats, and a hoodie layered beneath a ski sweater. It’s our sixth day without electricity and it’s 4 degrees in my house. But at least I have a house. I keep reminding myself. So many of my friends lost everything. But at least they are safe.

This headspace is surreal. I remember watching Katrina and her aftermath on the television, and being unable to process what I was seeing. Too much destruction and sorrow. Human kindness–as well as malevolence.

The night before, I sat in my friend’s living room, absorbing borrowed warmth, and watching the nationally televised Sandy benefit concert, broadcast from Rockefeller Center in New York City, where half of Manhattan still didn’t have power. Another friend who made the journey back through the Lincoln Tunnel said returning to the City was the strangest thing she’s ever experienced. It’s hard to fathom New York standing still.

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Experiment Subject Numero Uno

Name: Evan

Borough: Manhattan

Age: Probably 17 years old. (Don’t judge me. This is research.)

Description: 6’4″ish. Light brown, shaggy, ear-length hair. Black Volcom jacket over a hoodie, brown pants, black skate sneaks.

Surfdar Certitude (Vibe Strength): 54.831%

 

Okay, kids. Weigh in!

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City Surf Fix: Saturdays Surf NYC & Mollusk

I’m writing a story on how to get your surf fix while living in the city, so as part of my research this week, I’ve been visiting New York’s surf shops…

Saturdays Surf NYC is a city-chic surf shop located at 31 Crosby Street (SoHo).  The selection of goods is smallish, but they do have beautiful JC and Lightning Bolt boards of all different colors, shapes, and sizes- along with cold water wax and leashes.  The back door opens onto a courtyard, which may or may not be occupied by a humongous brown dog.

Choosing to capitalize on surfers’ coffee dependence, Saturdays put a tiny café area in the front of the shop- okay, it’s really just a counter with fancy espresso machines.  The lattes are made with love by friendly, handsome guys- something that’ll cost you extra: $4 for a small, no special requests.  It’s good coffee, however, and walking away with your understated white cup will definitely make you feel “cool.”  Unless, that is, you’re fumbling to take covert photos of the place:

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