From the main break at Rockaway, you have to pinch yourself. Are you really this close to the city? Looking up and down the relatively uncrowded beach, it’s hard to believe that Manhattan is only 30 minutes away. Paddle out, and it’s even easier to forget. Rockaway is more a surf destination than a Manhattan beach getaway, especially down on 92nd street.
What Makes It Great
After a long ride on the A train, it’s hard to believe you’re really at a beach, and that the ocean isn’t just a stress-induced mirage. But it’s there, and so are you. The sand is hot, lifeguards practice their saves a block down, and you can snag the best spot in the lineup because you made it there early in the day, before any of the summer crowds start to take over the beach and spread out their beach towels.
The surf is infrequently huge, and the variety of surfer talent is impressive—from a woman surfing in a wetsuit with a dress over it on a long board to a young teen shredding the waves on a short board, Rockaway brings in all kinds of people. The surf is typically between two and four feet, and can get crowded when swells are actually rolling in. Even in the summer, the Atlantic Ocean is fairly chilly, so a short wetsuit or even a full one may be a smart move if you’re planning to stay out for a few hours.
Long boards are more often usable, though when hurricane season hits, the waves are plenty big enough to play on with a short board. But if you definitely want to hang ten any given day, the long board is a safer bet.
Rockaway Beach isn’t just for fun—there’s some serious competition there as well, in particular, the Eastern Surfing Association’s Spring Tune Up at Rockaway Beach in April. And in late June, check out the free Rockstock and Barrels festival, which features surfing, skating and music.
If you’re new to surfing and want to try it out, Frank at New York Surfing Lessons will be happy to help, with a two hour lesson running only $90 down on 69th street (http://www.surflessonsnewyork101.com for info).
If you’re new to town, don’t forget your place in the lineup—with a limited number of great surf days, the locals are typically friendly but can get a little territorial at times!
Who is Going to Love It
Rockaway attracts all kinds of surfers, but it can get crowded when the swells get good. It's often more for long board riders, but totally possible to ride a short board, too, especially when hurricane season hits.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Rockaway Beach is free to the public, and right near 92nd street, there are public restrooms as well as some options for quick eats. If you want some more substantial food in an ultra-surfy environment, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club is right down the road, located on the corner of Beach 87th and Rockaway Freeway, underneath the A train line. They serve brunch and amazing dinner, and from their funky décor to the events that they host, it’s clear just how much they love the surf scene.
If you don’t have a board in the city, you can rent one just a few blocks from the beach at father-and-son-owned Borders Surf Shop, which rents lockers and surfboards as well as lessons. In the summer, you can also rent a board from them right on the beach down on 68th street.