A Surfer’s Guide to the Greatest City in the World

Photo: Sean Davey

New York City is like no other place on the planet. You don’t understand all its nuances until you live here. The random Tuesday nights out with coworkers that melt into Wednesday’s sunrise, the party you never expected to end up at, the surprise concert by your favorite band that you somehow stumble upon.

But the things that make New York City the greatest city are not things that go hand-in-hand with being a surfer. Getting up for dawn patrol after that unexpected 2 a.m. party doesn’t always play too well when you’ve got to catch the A train out to Rockaway because you haven’t owned a car for years and it’s snowing outside and you have to be into the office by 10 a.m.

The obstacles that a New York City surfer faces are unparamount in our little world. They will take the surf bug out of even the most previously dedicated.

But it is possible to overcome no car, dealing with trains, the cold, changing outside, and work to thrive as a New York City surfer that is in-tune with the Atlantic and on it every time swells happen. These are a few things to keep in mind if you find yourself as a surfer living in the world’s greatest city.

1. Set the Alarm Clock Early

The rumble of subway cars will certainly awaken you from any slumber at 5 a.m. As surfers, we’re typically up earlier than everyone else, but be prepared to do so anytime you want to get surf because weekday sessions require getting to the office by a reasonable hour still. And a word to the wise: maybe forgo that night out before going to surf that next morning.

2. Get Familiar with the A Train

Getting to Rockaway, Long Beach, Lido and even Montauk are all possible without owning a car as a city dweller. If you’re hitting Rockaway, you can take the A straight out (make sure it’s a Far Rockaway bound A and not a Lefferts Blvd one). You can either transfer to the S at Broad Channel to head to the bustling 90th street scene, or you can stay on the A and mix it up at the more low-key 68th street area.

The LIRR will get you out past Rockaway, but it’ll cost you more, too. If you have a more flexible schedule, doing so during off-peak hours will save you money and stress.

3. Bring the Right Equipment

You’re going to be changing outside. In December. While it’s snowing. So you better have the right equipment. Like a day bag that can double as a changing mat—you don’t want to be carrying anything extra on your back you don’t have to. Plus, it’s crucial protection for your board while it’s on a swaying train.

A terrycloth changing robe ensures you’re not standing bare-chested with just a towel around your waist soaking wet when the wind chill is 20-degrees. And big thermos full of hot water can help when poured in boots beforehand and for warming up when you get out.

4. Learn How to Read Forecasts

Technology is a helluva thing. Not having the luxury of being within walking distance of the beach certainly makes it difficult to know what the ocean is doing. So learn which cams are best for where you want to go and make the most of buoy wind readings.

5. Take Advantage of Sick Days

If you’re like a good chunk of people who work and live in New York City, you probably work in an office. Which means you get sick days. Stockpile them for hurricane and winter swells. And if you’re in a startup type atmosphere, make sure it’s cool if you come in every so often after surfing around 10 or 11.

6. Make Friends with Everyone

Rockaway is it’s own little slice of beach that can’t be compared to anywhere else. It’s the quickest jaunt for city surfers and it’s a task to try to be unfriendly with those around you out there. If you’re lucky, you’ll make friends with someone who does have a car, which will change your surfing life. If so, always give them gas money, pay for the tolls, and/or buy them a cup of coffee in the morning.

There are plenty of surfers who thrive living in the city, and if you can make it in New York as a surfer, you can make it anywhere as a surfer.