The sun was bright, the wind was brisk and the waves were rolling as about 14 youngsters hit the water off Beach 69th Street for Rockaway’s Annual Free Surf Day. Held on Tuesday, April 20, for kids ages 8-14, the afternoon was organized and sponsored by Skudin Surf, Locals, and New York Surf School, in partnership with NYC Parks.
Instructors from all three local surf schools were there to take the young participants through everything from how to put on a wet suit to water safety, how to stand up on and handle a surfboard, and finally take them out into the water in hopes of catching some waves.
Boards and wet suits were provided by each school.
Like others on the beach, for Sophia Szymankiewicz, age 12, it was her first time surfing.
“I’m a big swimmer,” she said, “I swam since I was four. I love the water. I think getting my balance on the board (though) will be challenging. But I think I will really enjoy surfing.”
Frank Cullen of New York Surf School commented, “This is our third year doing this,” incorporating a pre-lesson beach cleanup in previous years.
“We do this because surfing is such an amazing thing, and we’re really blessed to give back, to share that appreciation of it,” Cullen said. “The greatest thing is to be out riding the waves. The second greatest thing is teaching someone how to do it.”
Will Skudin, whose family has run a surf school for generations, explained, “When you’re surfing, you’re so in the moment, so focused, that the ocean washes everything else away.”
Besides changing lives, building fitness, concentration and confidence, Skudin noted one other reason to introduce young people to the ocean through events like this.
“You always fight for what you love, he said. “If you love surfing, then you are always going to fight to keep the ocean healthy and safe.”
Along with Mike Reinhardt of Locals Surf School, each surf school also acknowledged their seasoned staffers, who were there to give hands-on guidance once participants made their way into the water.
Dispatched in small groups, each had an instructor to guide them as they paddled out, then popped up and then stood on the board, riding the waves as they came back in.
The wetsuits came in handy with water temperatures in the 40s as each novice surfer went out again and again, each time doing a little better cruising back to shore.
All really started to get the hang of it, and there was definitely a sense of excitement and accomplishment as the afternoon went on.
One young surfer summed it up best as she skipped out of the ocean.
“I did it,” she shouted!
Photos by Dan Guarino.
By Dan Guarino
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