……….so its turns out that you can surf in New York City.
Well, Long Island actually. I have had the privilege of surfing in a few pretty unlikely corners of the world. Coming from a country where a lot of folk are surprised that we have a thriving surf scene and quality (albeit inconsistent) surf, I am one for accepting the uniqueness of coastlines and the strange location of surfing and surfers. I even lived and surfed in Dubai for a while (although that did have a limited shelf life). You think “Well there can’t be surf there, I just haven’t really imagined it.” Usually this just serves to highlight my ignorance. I’ve spent a few years studying oceans, coastlines and I’ve realised that surfing has penetrated deep throughout the world. It has a very prominent culture impact and mainstream following in the most unexpected places. Any coastline open to area of ocean, sea or large body of water has the potential for waves. Inevitably a surf scene culture or core local group emerges.
I was invited to Montauk, Long Island, to work with a group of young surfers, some of which have begun a life of competitive surfing and some of who are really starting to dig into surfing to get it all figured out. A pretty mature approach for a small group of 9 to 12 year olds. So after leaving Nosara at the end of August, en route to the English surf capital of Cornwall, I spent a week just out side the big apple.
Having arrived at planet JFK international, I quickly realized that “see you at seven thirty …we will find each other” may have been a touch optimistic in an airport the size of a small country. I eventually found Janice and Selena due more to blind faith and it was smiles all round.
I was intrigued to have an introduction to the surfing life and times of New Yorkers. Driving down the spine of Long Island to the eastern tip, through the night, to Montauk didn’t really give me a physical idea of the land, but it allowed to me discover that Montauk was far enough away from Manhattan that it probably wasn’t all full of crazy city surfers (who are amongst some of the most amusing of the surfing population cross section).
Waking up the next morning in my motel and getting a ride straight to the core of Montauk surf, Ditch Plains, all previous perceptions of what it may be, dissolved. I was suddenly aware that I had been introduced to the local scene, the core if you like, the people who spend a lot of time dedicated to living and surfing locally. Watching the 5 kids out surfing before I had even met them on the first morning said enough. There is just pure stoke and we had waves.
The group of kids, Selena, Jared, Malachi (who has now has several spellings of his name) Harvey and Zack , were a little nervous, kind of unsure what was happening, but mostly just wanted to get back in the water. So the first session with the kids, ground rules were laid. I was in charge, out means out, change means change and eat means eat. I was cracking the whip of stoke. So began, 5 days of Innocent surf coaching for these kids. Two sessions a day, an hour in the water followed by a very quick hour back at the hotel breaking down the video. The attention span of 9 to 11 year olds is hilarious. You have about thirty seconds to say what is needed, but the kids took to it and were able to process, absorb, understand and enjoy without biting each other. It only took a few sessions before they were able to begin applying the techniques and concepts we were working on. Specific drills were put in place to focus this because it can be a lot of information. I was really impressed at the immediate response that the kids showed in trying to interpret all this information, and the effect it had on their surfing. They seemed to get a good understanding of the short term and long term goals which form the basis of a week of productive surf coaching.
The waves? Long Island does not sit in a particular swell window or storm track. In fact most north Atlantic storms spin the wrong way for Long Island and send the swells east over towards Europe and of course Cornwall. Long Island relies on local wind swells, winter storms and the West Atlantic hurricane season. So not a huge window really. Needless to say we didn’t have one day without ride able conditions. With one day of swell came through in the head high range and got me out of bed before dawn. That quite something given how spoilt I am living in Nosara. However being that it was Labour Day weekend, it was packed. Not so far from the city now!
I had a taste of Montauks potential for waves and I was assured that there are many spots around with surf of serious quality. It’s just hit or miss that’s all. So there exists the waves and there exist the local scene. The kids certainly spent every waking moment of daylight in sea or refuelling on the beach. Supported by the famous Ditch Witch Cafe, these kids just loved to surf. No amount of low tide rocks or less than average surf would keep them out. They are so proudly supported by their families; taking turns to keep a watchful eye all day over this group. This support has truly given the kids the ability to have a life of surfing already. This support was greatly extended to, me during my stay, with incredible hospitality generosity and inclusion, allowing me focus on my coaching with no stress, and also to experience the real Montauk.
Long Island is culturally and physically diverse, a huge agricultural space of land, peaches wine and crown, a prevalent history of fishing and whaling and a large reservation protecting the heritage of the Shinnecock Indians. A truly unique beautiful location and you can surf there.