When in the “Big Apple”, you can’t miss the skyscrapers, congested streets, and digital contraptions firing lighting bolts. What you’ll experience is a sensory overload in this fast pace and “keep your head above water” environment. With all this happening the moment you step foot in “The City”, the last thing that comes to mind is the relaxing tranquility of a beach. But don’t be fooled by New York and its concrete jungle. The beach and more importantly surfing is a train stop away from Manhattan.
East of the city lies a number of beaches that are accessible to New Yorkers by train or car. But one is well known amongst the surfing community for its vibrant and cultural history, Rockaway. The beach can be linked to the band the Ramones and their song Rockaway Beach and other artist. It has also been in films such as Woody Allen’s Radio Days and Our Hawaii by Kryssa Schemmerling. If Rockaway beach were a person, he or she would emanate confidence with a never give up New York attitude.
Rockaway beach is located on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. It is the largest urban beach in the United States facing the Atlantic. In 1800, Rockaway started as two different villages, Holland and Hammels and later merged to be called the Village of Rockaway. The beach at one point was a luxury not accessible by most New Yorkers until the construction of the railroad station. Once completed Rockaway became a summer destination open for the public.
Advanced Rockaway 102
In 2012, Rockaway Beach was nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Sandy. Since then, the beach has rebuilt itself back to its magnificent stature with additional reinforcements that will help prevent the potential damage from unwelcomed hurricanes and storms.
Rockaway is well known among the surfing community in New York. Due to its easy accessibility by train, many surfers that live in the city or surrounding boroughs can easily get there. There are specific streets to surf on though and taking note of this is crucial unless surfers would rather spend money on paying fines than on getting to the beach. Surfing is allowed between the streets of 67th to 69th street and 87th to 92nd street. These areas are strictly for surfing, no swimming allowed, and open from dawn until dusk.
Rockaway Beach: 92nd Street Jetty (main peak)
Best Swell: South to Southeast
Best Tide: Medium to High (high tide is around 3:30am to 9:30am and 4:00pm to 10:30pm)
Best Wind: North, Northwest
Best Season: Late Summer to Fall for hurricane swells with larger consistent swells and less cold water (3/2 to 4/3mm wetsuits)
Wave: Good with nice left off the end of the jetties and good sandbars throughout the area
Crowd: Gets crowded in summer time since it is the closest surf beach to NYC.
Boards: Shortboard, fish, fun board, longboard
Paddle Out: Easy in summer, Moderate to difficult as swell gets bigger and stronger in the fall to spring.
Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
WHEN (Source: Surfline.com)
Large crowds make it difficult to surf, especially with surf lessons being conducted. The waves can be consistently flat and will begin to pickup closer to the end of the summer when hurricane season starts its’ tour. The water temperature can get up to 60 – 70 degrees.
Wetsuits can be worn year round. 3/2 wetsuit in early summer, and spring suits or just rashguard in July/August.
Late summer and early fall provide the best surf conditions with the hurricane season creating nice swells (estimated season timeframe is June 1st to November 31st). With Rockaway Beach’s coast facing south and hurricanes moving north, the beach can easily generate large and powerful swells.
Wetsuit: Water temperature remains amiable during this time with a 2MM or 3/2MM wetsuit adequate.
The crowd begins to thin during this time of the year with more consistent swells. Winter surfing is the norm in New York. Locals say that if you don’t surf during the winter in the Northeast, than you don’t surf. If you do decide to brave the frigid waters, come prepared with some thickness…and I’m not talking about your belly. Water temperature can get to the 30s with the breezy air even colder.
Wetsuit: A 5/4 wetsuit with 5 to 7mm Gloves and booties are necessary to prevent your extremities from being rendered useless after a session and a hood will allow you to continue to use your brain after a nice face freezing duck dive. For extra safety, wear ear plugs to prevent swimmer’s ear and a coat of vaseline on your face can help alleviate the face freezing affect. But don’t worry, with the proper gear you’ll feel like its summer time out there.
Spring brings in south wind swells with warm and impressive weather changes. Air temperature can fluctuate from 70 to 30 degrees.
Wetsuit: A 4/3 or 3/2 wetsuit is acceptable with gloves and booties still a necessity unless you don’t like your fingers and toes. A hood is optional on some days, but if uncertain wear one.
Take the A (Direction: Far Rockaway) to Broad Channel, transfer to the S (Direction: Rockaway Park-Beach 116th St) to Beach 90th Street. Walk on Beach 90th Street towards south, the beach will be right in front of you.
Rockaway Beach is a stretch of coastline where you have 10 + breaks to choose from. Do a surf check before you go in!
Travel time: 1.5 hrs
There are a number of different routes to take by car. It’s recommended to use a GPS with the destination Rockaway Beach Boardwalk. Depending on the route taken, the commute from Manhattan can take 45 minutes to an hour. Be prepared to have some dinero for potential tolls.
Rockaway Beach Ferry ships passengers from Pier 11 located at Wall Street and the East River. It’s an awesome opportunity to site see and take in the NY skyline and potential whale sighting. This trip will cost passengers up to $20 depending on age and also if additional items such as bikes or surfboards are carried on.
Lets say you live in Williamsburg and want to head to the beach with a couple of your friends but find the A train too inconvenient and renting a car not in your budget. What other options do you have? Your summer weekends are over…or are they?
The NYC Beach Bus is a weekend bus service open from Memorial Day (May 26th) to Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1st) and rides round trips from Williamsburg or Downtown Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach for $12. In addition to the affordable fare, NYC Beach Bus also provides free Sixpoint beer and Runa Tea beverages all summer long for bus passengers. Also, if you go to Rockaway ill prepared, the buses make available beach toys and sun block for our friends with low melanin. If this sounds like your type of ride, than buy your bus tickets early as plenty of hipsters will be hitching a ride.
NYC Beach Bus Pick-ups and Drop-offs
|Downtown Brooklyn/BarclayFlatbush Ave. & Pacific St.168 Flatbush Ave.Brooklyn, NY 11217||Rockaway BeachBeach 84 & Shore Front ParkwayQueens, NY 11694|
|Williamsburg – BrooklynMetropolitan Ave. & Marcy Avenue412 Metropolitan Ave.Brooklyn, NY 11217||Jacobs Rils ParkRockaway Beach & Promenade151 Rockaway Beach BoulevardQueens, NY 11694|
Surf Shops and Schools
67-20 Rockaway Blvd
During my day trip, I drove by Breakwater Surf Co. located in a small plaza a couple of streets from the beach. From the outside, the store looked deceiving with almost a cookie cutter design and a sign that matched its neighboring buildings. I only noticed that it was a surf shop because of the wetsuit sale they had outside. The store itself was not large, but once I walked in, the small store was lively with a crowd of customers and even more impressive, a staff that was on point addressing customer questions or handling shop maintenance. I give the store crew 10 thumbs up. I had the opportunity to meet the manager who took time from his busy schedule to give me some background on Breakwater Surf. The store is one of the few if not only African American owned surf shops in New York. It is also deeply involved with the Rockaway surf and skate community and is playing a major role with the beach rebuilding effort after Hurricane Sandy. They also provide surf lessons for beginners and have a variety of board rentals for anyone that wants to hit the waves (rentals are $10/hr or $40 for all day). Cool place with good people, this is a great place to get surf gear.
67th Street Rockaway (on the beach)
Locals is a surf school located on Beach 67th Street in Rockaway NY. It is owned and operated by Rockaway Beach natives’ Michael Kololyan and Michael Reinhardt, two veteran surfers with the credentials to teach you how to surf and if need be save your life. The school is NSSIA certified, an acronym for National Surf Schools and Instructors Association, which is a long way of saying they are legit. They are also CPR/First Aid certified, fully permitted and insured, experienced and open year round. The school supplies everything a beginner needs: surfboard, leash, wetsuit, refreshments, wax, shade and beach chairs. Although you can take private lessons, it is recommended to take group lessons to enhance the experience, which runs at $80.00 a person. This is a two-hour lesson with a 3 to 1 student to instructor ratio. Personal lessons will cost a student $100.00 for an hour and are more specifically targeted towards intermediate and advanced surfers looking to improve quickly. To summarize, Locals Surf School offers all the necessities for anyone looking to learn how to surf Rockaway today.
Locals Surf School is also working with the W Hotel Union Square providing a Rockaway Beach package that includes lessons from the surf school and dining at Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Weekend deals start at $469.00 with 10% of proceeds going to Graybeards, a non-profit based in Rockaway.
Art and Culture
Rockaway Beach host several art festivals throughout the summer. One that is bringing light to the recovery effort after Sandy is Rockaway! Sponsored by the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, the exhibition is recognizing the reopening of Fort Tilden (opens June 29 to September 1st 2014) and the continued revitalization efforts. The exhibition includes installations from Patti Smith, a Rockaway resident, and will show large-scale installations, photography and site-specific outdoor installations based on her personal experience from Sandy’s devastation. In addition, Argentinean artist Adrian Villar Rojas and Janet Cardiff will also showcase their creative works. The final piece of the festival is a collaboration between the Honolulu Biennial and Rockaway Beach Surf Club. The Surf Club during Hurricane Sandy was a relief center that directed volunteers in the recovery effort. The exhibition celebrates efforts of Rockaway community surfers and artists in rebuilding their neighborhood.
302 Beach 87th Street Rockaway Beach by Rockaway Fwy
Rockaway Beach Surf Club is located on 302 Beach 67th Street. The venue hosts special events and is also a restaurant and bar that serves breakfast and lunch from early morning tortilla wraps, also known as breakfast burritos, to pulled BBQ pork, and pretty much anything your stomach desires. This is one of the many places that beach goers can go to after fun in the sun and are in need of a drink to quench that insatiable thirst and also to just relax and listen to the beats of a live DJ. But Rockaway Beach Surf Club not only offers good times with tasty drinks and good eats, it is also helping the beach rebuild initiating and hosting events and fundraisers. The surf club is also culturally restoring the beach community by supporting homegrown artists, writers, musicians, surfers and everything beach related. It is working with MoMA PS1 and Honolulu Biennial showcasing several artists’ works and creations including a Rockaway Beach native.
155 Beach 95th St
“If you like Piña Colada”
Jimmy Buffet asked and Rockaway answered. Recommended from a new friend was Connolly’s Bar. Well-known for its delicious Piña Coladas, this is a great place to go to after a little too much sun exposure. Conveniently located a block from the beach, it has all the rudiments for a beach bar: AC, Wi-Fi, ATM and oh yeh great drinks and bar food that won’t cost you a board and a leash. With a relaxing vibe and cool and attentive bartenders, it is no surprise Connolly’s has a consistent local wave of people coming through their doors.
DAY TRIP AT ROCKAWAY BEACH
The first stop on the day trip was Surfside Bagels located on 95th Rockaway Blvd. The shop opened in 2008 by NYC firemen Scott Edwards and Tim Keenan and is known for providing commuters and surfers with their morning bagel and coffee. Their menu goes beyond bagels and includes sandwiches, burgers and salads. A little advice for for new comers, learn the menu quickly because people have places to go and things to do, staying true to NY culture. Intimidated by their menu, I went safe and ordered the breakfast burrito which was hearty and enough to last until a late lunch. The bagel shop was small but busy with the pastries made on the premises and straight off the press. The dining area was packed with workers, travelers to the city, and visitors such as myself. The entrance was nearly blocked with commuters having coffee and a bagel waiting for the bus, which led me to believe Surfside Bagels is the breakfast stop for Rockaway residents. For additional information, visit: http://surfsidebagels.com
9:00am 90th street
As simple as walking to the beach should be I got lost looking for the entrance. Luckily I ran into Omar, a local surfer who pointed me in the right direction and also gave me advice on where to paddle-out. The waves were small roughly one foot and difficult to catch and the frustration of non-long boarders was obvious. The beach was specifically designated for surfers, which made the beach less crowded but in turn made the water packed with boards. This potential fire hazard proved not to be an issue though as most people adhered to surfing etiquette.
2:00pm Fish tacos
After surfing, the next stop was lunch. Rockaway Taco was opened in 2008 by Andrew Field and David Selig and is well known for its fish tacos. The menu is simple with carne, chorizo and tofu tacos that a diner can get loaded and also available are quesadillas and fresh fruit juices. The shack had a beach vibe to it with vibrant colors and a mellow crowd. Behind the scenes, seemed like organized chaos with orders and people flying around one way and the food coming out the other. The line was long but moved quickly and when it was my turn, I ordered a fish taco, plantains and a pineapple mint drink. The meal was fresh and straight out the fryer. The fried fish was crisp, juicy and light with a dash of lime. The plantains were sweet and soft and the pineapple juice taste delicious, not too sweet or bland, just right. Rockaway Tacos did not disappoint.
For additional information on Rockaway Beach, visit:
From Her: Davina Grincevicius’ local guide to enjoy Rockaway Beach
I am a native from Melbourne, Australia, Davina relocated to New York City 7 years ago and now resides in Rockaway Beach. Never one to wear a watch in the water, I spend as much time in the surf and loves to share her session with friends at her local break.
Michael Kololyan’s Local guide to SURF, EAT AND PLAY at Rockaway Beach
My name is Michael Kololyan, founder of Locals Surf School.
About the Contributor: Michael Mercado
Who is Michael Mercado: I’ll have the double-double, a slab of southern ribs, and some H2O.
Where is your favorite surfing spot? Cocoa Beach, in my mind I caught every wave.
Dream surfing spot? Anywhere with good people.
Motto in life? Keep making stories.
We empower and mentor women worldwide through mind-opening experiences.