Tag Archives: tourists

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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How to Feel Like You Surf GOOD (Even When You Don’t)

Step One: Surf in Australia.

Many of Australia’s beaches are world-renowned, and I guess owing to the fact that Asia is so darn close, that continent’s tourists really enjoy this continent’s beaches. Now, Asians and I have couple of things in common–the most notable being unhealthy loves of both bubble tea and photographic equipment. And landmarks. Yes, those too. Accordingly, when you visit Bondi or Byron or Surfers Paradise, you will find lots of camera-clenching excursionists (I like that word) with a duty to obtain evidence that they were there. (I know the feeling.) Get ready for the best part: What cooler form could evidence possibly take than a snapshot of a real, live surfer? If you have a surfboard on the east coast of Oz–nevermind whether you are actually using it–you WILL be photographed by a traveling Asian, and then you will receive a grateful nod or wave. You will feel like a rock star. This foolishly unexpected, yet brilliant, bonus to surfing some of the world’s most famous beaches is, alone, worth the plane ride.

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