Ah, yes. It’s about time that we got around to this post, given how often we write about surfing. A recent sale on one of our favorite flash sale sites, The Clymb, reminded us to purchase some new surf bags, as our boards tend to get a bit destroyed without proper protection in the subway.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first - where to go. All of our local surf breaks are sandbars, which means that you can walk or swim a short distance from the beach and you’ll be in the waves. This differs quite a bit from point breaks (such as what you’ll find out in Montauk) or reef breaks, which we’d only recommend for more advanced surfers. You’ve got three basic locations in and around the city. The first, and the only one accessible by subway (the the A until you hit the end of the line, which often requires an extra ride on a shuttle train), is the beaches at Far Rockaway, which have the smallest waves of the three places we’ll write about today. Depending on when you go, they also have a fair number of homeless people that will root through your belongings on the beach, so unless you’re going with someone who will watch your stuff (yes, we’ve been stranded because we thought burying our Metrocard on the beach would stop people from stealing it), skip this one and jump on either the LIRR or NJ Transit instead. If you really want to head to the Rockaways, rent a locker at Boarders Surf Shop to store your stuff (they also do board rentals).
If you feel like heading down to New Jersey, you’re in for a bit of a trek. The train takes between one and a half and two hours to reach Long Branch (and then continue on to Belmar, which is our favorite easy-access break in northern New Jersey), and then plan on about a mile long walk. If you’re renting a board or need a lesson, we recommend Aloha Grove in Long Branch and Eastern Lines in Belmar; of the two, we like Eastern Lines better.
Our favorite break in the area - both because of the waves / beach and the nearby town - is Long Beach, an hour out of New York City on the train (take the LIRR Long Beach train to the last stop). It’s a long mile from the station to the best surf break, which is at Lincoln, but check before you walk that distance, since they change the surf areas regularly. Long Beach Surf Shop is your best bet for rentals, and Surf2Live is our favorite for lessons. For those of you who drive, our favorite surf shop in the region is the slightly ritzy Atlantic Beach Surf Shop for it’s massive selection of boards, wetsuits, and everything else; Unsound Surf, which is a local favorite, is really geared more towards younger, more talented surfers than us. If you’re heading out to Long Beach or Belmar, remember that you have to pay for beach access after 9am, so it pays (literally) to wake up a bit early, since we’ve never seen them check for payment after we’ve been on the beach (although you’ll have to pay if you leave the beach and want to come back, so bring supplies!).
Finally, it wouldn’t be a surf post if we didn’t talk about place to get your gear in the city. There is the popular Saturdays NYC, which we think is great if you’re goal is to look like a surfer, but not so great if you’re looking for a wide selection of functional equipment. And, unfortunately, that’s it - some of our favorites from the past, like New York Pipe Dreams and Mollusk, have gone under, and others are big corporate locations (like the Billabong and Patagonia stores in Soho) which only give you a selection of one company’s product (hey, surf clothes are like everything else - not everyone fits into every brand). Finally, every New Yorker’s sports paradise, Paragon Sports, does not have much in the way of equipment or surf-specific clothing (we’ve noticed that many of the wetsuits are more appropriate for scuba). But, hey - doesn’t it feel more like a vacation if you have to do all of your shopping at the beach, anyway? We think so! And remember to check the surf report before you go - we, like everyone else, rely on surfline.