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...


At February 22, 2021 at 12:01 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

The first Surf Shop in Rockaway was the rockout Beach surf shop 1966 to 1969 run by John Gundersen who also was the co-publisher of Atlantic Surfing Magazine. The second surf shop in Rockaway was the storm Surf Shop also on 116th , from 1967 to 1969 Run by Al Seaman. John Gundersen along with the Rockaway Beach surfclub. In May of 1967 protested City Hall in order to gain legalized surfing in Rockaway John Gundersen had a meeting with then mayor Lindsey and a surfing Beach, two in fact., we're allowed. From 1967 until 2005 surfing was on a trial basis. Until completely legalized by two congressmen. Prior to The Rockout Beach surf shops opening the Schriefle btothers, Kenny and Wally drove to California and brought back Challenger surfboards from San Diego and had a outlet shop right next to the police station


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