Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The History of Surfing in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York, NYC

This is somewhat of a thumbnail sketch of the history of surfing here in Rockaway Beach Queens. Before the longboard era, which is basically the start of the current era of surfing which originated in southern California and Hawaii wave riding here in Rockaway Beach believe it or not was done on ironing board's which would be thrown out by the summer people as they were heading back into Brooklyn Manhattan and the Bronx at the end of the summer season. This is going back to the 1940s. An old timer would tell me how they would rummage through the garbage by the bungalows looking for a good ironing board that they could ride! The first group of modern-day surfers started in the 1950s and these are the original guys who were surfing boards either shaped in California, or Eastern Challenger surfboards which were shaped back here. Wetsuits were either nonexistent or extremely primitive and you would have to get your wetsuits at the dive shop on Jamaica Avenue in Queens. The lineage of Rockaway surfing goes right back to these guys as they handed down to the guys who was surfing in the 1960s who handed down to the guys who started surfing in the late 60s and early 70s. At this time Rockaway Beach was able to support a surf shop and the surf shop was opened down in the 90s which sold surfboards etc. and "California Style" clothing!! This surf shop moved to beach 116th St. and is now the Rockaway Beach surf shop. The short board era came in in the late 1970s and Rockaway Beach became a real short boarders town and people for the most part surfed short boards exclusively, into the late 1980s. At this time contest surfing became HUGE and a world tour was created to crown a surfing world champion. I remember seeing surfing contests on the Wide World of Sports on network television!! It became an amazing concept that you could actually make a living surfing!! With companies like Quicksilver, Billabong and O'Neil becoming bigger and bigger, they were able to sponsor professional surfers and the whole surfing industry started to take off. I remember going into the surf shop and you would have about five different surfing magazines you had Surfer, Surfing an Australian magazine an East Coast magazine and then there was always an and coming new magazine that would last for a while. Neon became huge in the mid to late 1980s and surf style clothing started becoming mainstream! You able to get surf T-shirts baggies etc. not just in surf shops anymore but at Macy's and Walmarts!! Surfers eventually rebelled against this obnoxious commercialization and went back to straight black wetsuits and get away from all of the neon. Up Till the late 1980s, roughly 80% of the people that surfed in Rockaway Beach were from Rockaway Beach. At that time roughly 80% of the people that surfed in Rockaway Beach were born and raised in Rockaway Beach and had been surfing there since they were kids. The level of surfing at this time was extremely high, the rocks at 90th St. had a true pecking order that was respected, with native Rockawayites basically having right-of-way, and lined up closest to the Rock Jetty. Through this time, you basically had two groups: the Rockaway guys and the Manhattan guys. The Manhattan guys were anybody from Brooklyn, Queens Manhattan etc. anybody that was NOT from Rockaway Beach. At this time they were basically no women in the lineup it would be extremely rare to see a girl out surfing. I remember when the surf shops in Rockaway Beach, Long Island and New Jersey had no long boards. You might find one in the back, but the odds were pretty low. It is safe to say that the decade of the 90s was the beginning of a paradigm shift in Rockaway Beach. Long boards previously had been frowned upon but we're slowly making their way into the lot and into the surf shops. The longboard is a great East Coast board as I will waves can be on a regular basis fairly small week and inconsistent we do have our days but the longboard surfboard is a great all-around board for the East Coast and Rockaway Beach in particular. Long boards are back strong and when I going to the surf shops around town at least have to surfboards in the shops are long boards. The fish style surfboard has made a comeback it is great to see all these new shapes as people have gotten away from the cookie-cutter, professional surfer style short board and are really experimenting with different shapes and sizes. It is great to see the women in the lineup and on any given day woman can make anywhere from 30% to 50% of the people in the water. These are exciting times to be a surfer, with all the newer technology we have at our fingertips, the internet and all things on the internet being one of the greatest advancements in surfing, information at our fingertips. I remember when Surfline was actually a fax you would receive! A FAX for crying out loud!!! And that was considered ground breaking at the time! We now have 24 hour real time information and it's all right on our smartphone!! We have Facebook, and there are some of the Best Surf Schools here in Rockaway Beach, NY However...... After having said all of that, surfing is still just a board under our arm a pair of baggies, and the anticipation of the first look at the surf with our own eyes...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mark my words, Rockaway Beach will soon be the most popular beach in New York

Mark my words if you haven't heard this yet, then you're hearing it from me first: Rockaway Beach within the next five years will be the most popular beach in New York State and be the place to be in the place to be seen. I will take it a step further than that and say Rockaway Beach will be considered one of the top 10 beaches in the country right up there with South Beach, Miami and Venice Beach California. There is actually no better place for a beach to be geographically than where Rockaway Beach is. We are across Jamaica Bay from John F. Kennedy airport, we are part of New York City a city of 8 million people and a metropolitan area of 15 million people. And we have six subway stops which are literally one block to the ocean. The Rockaway Beach Renaissance has already started and we are slowly seeing laundromats, 99 cent stores and Chinese restaurant behind bulletproof glass being replaced by restaurants and coffee shops. The stereo typical Rockaway Beach local surfer, which used to predominantly be tough Irish guys, is now being joined by and eclectic group of artists, musicians and good looking women!! (I will get into my thoughts and reasons why there has been a large influx of women in the surfing community in another blog post). There are many factors that are a major part of the Rockaway Renaissance that have all kind of come together at the same time. Firstly the gentrification of many of Brooklyn and Manhattan's downtown neighborhoods which are now filled with young, active people in their 20's and 30's. The popularity of surfing and the resurgence of the long board which has been back strong now for about 15 years. Through the 70s 80s and most of the 90s it was almost impossible to find a longboard surfboard. So for the most part through those decades if you did not learn surfing as a kid the odds of learning how to surf once you were in your 20s was pretty low. Also there were no surf schools to be found, particularly in Rockaway Beach. Now there are three search schools in Rockaway Beach the premier one being the New York Surf School which has existed now for nine years. Anyway I'm going off on a tangent but the reason the Rockaway Renaissance is taking place is specifically linked to surfing and new surfers coming into the already existing surfing community. The new people coming are buying the old Victorian homes fixing them up, and really getting active in the community. What used to be the bread-and-butter of the Rockaway Beach economy which was summer rentals bed-and-breakfasts, which were on the decline and became almost nonexistent through the late 70s early 80's is starting to flourish again. Plus people are saying why be stuck in traffic for three hours to drive all the way out to the Hamptons when I can jump on the subway or get a zip car and shoot out to Rockaway Beach which is a true gritty surf ghetto and a lot of fun!!! This will be a double-edged sword, with the popularity of Rockaway Beach growing and growing and more and more people finding Rockaway Beach a desirable place to live. Rents and prices of homes will continue to rise, the amount of people in the surf lineup will continue to grow, which can sometimes create chaos and collisions in the water. Demographically I see parts of Rockaway Beach, in particular the Holland section, which runs roughly from 87th street to 96 street, bay to ocean going from being poor blue-collar and a bit of white-collar changing over to high-end white collar. In conclusion, there will be good points and some not so good points in this Renaissance that will take place. But Mark my words it will take place and within five years Rockaway Beach will be the number one beach in New York State and one of the top 10 destination beaches in the country.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rockaway Beach, A Great Home Beach!!

If I haven't said it already, get used to hearing it many times: I LOVE SURFING!! Surfing is a true Lifestyle, and I'm so happy that we can live in NYC and truly live the Surfing Life. Rockaway Beach is my home beach, everything I've learned about the ocean, I've learned in Rockaway Beach. I love Rockaway Beach. We are blessed to have Rockaway Beach as our home beach. Easy to reach from any borough by subway or car. Our water gets warm enough to surf in trunks for a good 3 months. If you're not a year round surfer, you can comfortably surf Rockaway from April till November. Rockaway and the East coast in general can be a difficult place to surf, however, when we do get a good day, it is worth it!! In general, when we travel, we are never dissapointed, as the waves where we are traveling to are usually a bit better quality!! Looking forward to sharing more and more through this blog!! Frankie Cullen

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Surfing In Rockaway Beach all 4 Seasons

One of the many great thing about surfing here in Rockaway Beach is that we get as warm as Hawaii and as cold as Alaska!!! We can surf on in August day where it's 95°F and the water temperature is 74°F. Fast forward six months and the same surfer can be surfing at the same beach and the water temperature will be 37°F and the air temperature 39°F!!! So the reality for a year-round surfer in Rockaway Beach is that they would be comfortable anywhere on planet earth to go for a surf and have the gear to do it!!! Peach season in Rockaway Beach is very special and in the coming days and months I would like to reflect and give my own personal thoughts on each season.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thirty Years Surfing in Rockaway Beach, New York City

This is the first, of hopefully many posts on my love of surfing, and in particular, my love of surfing beautiful Rockaway Beach. As the last generation of summer people through the late 60's, early 70's to moving to Rockaway Beach year round in the mid 80's, I've seen Rockaway Beach up, down and up again. These are exciting times to be a part of the Rockaway Beach surfing community. There's so much information in my head and my heart that I really look forward to sharing with you through these pages. My writing is a work in progress, so I'm hoping to fine tune and improve as the days, weeks and months unfold.