Tag Archives: new york city

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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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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Surf Mags and Hookers

Magazine hunting in New York City is kind of like looking for a hooker in Amsterdam (I would imagine): There’s a huge abundance and the variety seems endless, but you still may not be able to find exactly the one you desire.

Scouring for surf magazines is a game of pure chance. You’ll probably see Surfing at a newsstand here or there. You may find a SURFER at Barnes and Noble–likely the one at Union Square; maybe not the one on 86th. I think they order five copies and if everyone else in the neighborhood beats you there, you’re shit out of luck. The Surfer’s Journal, The Surfer’s Path, Australia’s Surfing World. All potential scores.

Yesterday, I braved the crazies and crowds at Union Square in search of copies of Transworld and UK Esquire. And look, when I say “braved,” I’m not being dramatic like this weekend, when I was hit by a car. I mean I had to wade through swarms of dazed and socially retarded people. One of them walked up to me, stared me down (at a distance of about 12 inches), and said:

“Nice legs.”

I kept walking. But anyway, I put some effort into getting those magazines. I couldn’t find Esquire but I did pick up Transworld. Annnd I also happened to stumble across Huck and Wavelength. !!! I snapped them up and hightailed it out of that God-forsaken tourist hub.

Every once in a while, you hit it big. Totally worth the weirdness.

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Small Apartments, Lots of Stuff

One of the funny things about living in New York is the way the smallest apartments can accommodate tons and tons of shit personal belongings.

Other funny things include angry bums, happy drunks, vegan chicken nuggets on restaurant menus, wind tunnels, $14 six packs, $1 shots, incognito celebrities, cats in bars, 9% sales tax, taxi drivers who disregard red lights, PORK ROLL VOID (more like tragic), the facility of spying on your neighbors, the fact that your neighbors (and you) are shameless… I could keep going, but let’s go back to the apartment thing.

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Ship Shape: Running With Celebrities

This morning, I went for a pathetic, red-faced yog.  I’m 98.5% sure I passed Mischa Barton.  That is all.

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City Surf Fix: ¡VAMOS! (Fish Tacos)

You’re a surfer.  You know you love Mexican food (we all do).  In a city that boasts thousands of restaurants – many of them Mexican – fish tacos are not as  ubiquitous as you’d think.

Tacos de Pescado Frito (Baja)

¡VAMOS! (1st Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets) has a massive array of both tacos and tequilas.  The Tacos de Pescado Frito Baja Style are over-stuffed with beer-battered, fried fish and chipotle mayo.  They are delicious.  The menu warns of some heat, but they’re really not that spicy, so drip a little bit of that unnaturally green hot sauce on ’em for an extra kick.  Two tacos will run you about $8.

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City Surf Fix: The Sunburnt Cow

You know that saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?”  Well, since the Aussies have commandeered the ASP World Tour, I figure maybe it’s time we joined them- at least for brunch.  This is where The Sunburnt Cow comes in.

The Sunburnt Cow is a little Australian establishment in Alphabet City, which boasts some of the best specials in town: Choose any two hours, pay $20, drink as much as you can.  I swear.  For a breakfast person like myself, the Cow’s main appeal can be summed up in two words: Endless.  Brunch.  Yes, that’s right.  Endless brunch, I say.

On weekends from 11-5, $18 will get you Buttermilk Banana Pikelets (pretty much little pancakes) or Bush Benedict, PLUS (this is the best part) all-you-can-drink “Moomosas,” “Moo Marys,” Foster’s, etc.  In other words, sustenance and warmth- perhaps after an ice-cold Rockaway session and a long train ride home.

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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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ROCKAWAY November 15th, 2009

Here are some photos I took on a recent trip to Rockaway during that crazy swell:

To see the rest of the album, click HERE.

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