I didn’t grow up in Rockaway, which my mermaid likes to remind me of. I grew up in Greenpoint, prior to the hipster revolution and all those cool dudes coming to Rockaway with surfboards on the A train. I did grow up learning to body surf from my summers in bungalows on Beach 87th Street in the early 1960s and then again in the late 70s on Beach 100th Street, but the thought of being over my head on a surfboard always frightened me.
Being closer to the end then the beginning, I figured why not give surfing a go. Somehow, I convinced my younger brother, his younger wife, and my mermaid to join me on this nutty notion of a surfing safari. So, we booked some time with those good guys at Locals Surf School on Beach 69th Street.
We picked the hottest day of the year, maybe the decade, this past Saturday, to jump on the bikes and head downtown. Forgetting that Locals was located at 69th Street, and not checking to see, I boldly told my companions that the ride would only be to 90th Street. Twenty-one blocks later we arrived at our destination with some grumbling about me fudging the location.
As we were all novices to surfing, and a little nervous about filling out the liability disclaimers, we made our way across the hot sand to the Locals tent set-up. A little bit about Locals: they are just that, Mike Reinhardt and Mike Kololyan are the co-founders and grew up in Rockaway. They both were way ahead of the curve on the surfing craze in Rockaway, and they have been followed by other surf schools trying to replicate their success. I like the Locals guys; they are cool dudes. When we got to the tent, Mike K. was on duty, and he could not have been nicer. He set us up with our instructor, Nick.
Nick took us to the far end of the beach where our watery exploits would be hardly noticed. He went over the basics and got us into the water quickly as the air temperature reached triple digits.
There were waves on Saturday, and they looked larger as we got closer to them. The mermaid, sensing danger, opted to head back to shore after her first try. Which by the way, saw her halfway standing and surfing. I was up next and just about made it up before I tipped into the drink. My brother, the younger, got to his knees and found the water quickly too. By the way, given the temperature, these were not bad outcomes at all. Then my sister-in-law, mermaid-in-training, got, on the board and she surfed all the way in! I guess growing up in Florida has its benefits.
Nick could not have been nicer, as he gave us all encouraging tips. And my brother and I did various forms of surfing, none as good as the mermaid-in-training. Then applying pressure on the chief mermaid, we convinced her to come back out. And with Nick’s encouragement, the mermaid surfed the hell out of the next wave.
It wasn’t long after leaving the water that we realized that surfers are strong dudes and dudettes, because all our muscles were pounding and aching from paddling and “popping-up” on the board. We must have been in the water for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours tops, but we were all spent. A great day, and a great way to beat the heat. And nobody does it better than the Locals, trust me! Give it a shot.