New York New York
WELCOME TO NEW YORK - A HOME OF SURFING…
Words and images by Mike Jennings
"Well you're looking at four surfers right here," says Ashley, one of the four bartenders at this venue in Long Beach, New York when asked if anyone here surfs. She's backstage and giddy to be meeting Ozzie Wright as The Goons of Doom finish their sweaty set. It was the last of their U.S. tour that other than the expected surf frenzied West Coast shows also included New Jersey, The Lower East Side of Manhattan and tonight in Long Beach. They found passionate surfers in the crowd at all of those shows. There are surfers all over New York.
Articles about this Quiksilver Pro generally open with a line expressing the idea that surfing is the last thing you think of when someone talks about New York. But why not? It's the centre of the world. A modern day Rome. A city where there's nothing you can't do (according to Alicia Keys and Jay Z). Plus, it's t-shirt sticky hot here, the beach is just an hour from the city by train, and the water is boardshort friendly.
"Oh yeah," continues Ashley the bartender, "there's a strong surf community here."
The group of surfers/bar tenders show photos on their iPhones of themselves on perfect six foot waves on beaches in the area. They talk about what the banks and winds are doing, what the surf will be like tomorrow and what it was like yesterday like surfers from anywhere else in the world, only they do it with thick New York accents.
"Nothing ever, ever, ever happens in Long Beach, so we're super excited about the contest," she says.
"The way I see it," says an older guy in the group, "the best thing about all this is that everyone is going to be down there watching Kelly Slater while I'm going to be at the next beach over, surfing on my own. I couldn't care less about those guys. We haven't had good waves in about a year and this week is going to be the best swell here in so long."
Outside this Long Beach bar a street full of people walk to other Long Beach bars but it seems no-one is here for the contest.
"I'm not a surfer, but I guess it's cool," says a local guy at the late night bagel shop. "We're all just bummed about the festival. We were so amped to see the bands. So it sucks that that isn't happening anymore."
That's the hurricane for you. The damage it inflicted on this coast meant that some of the world's biggest bands won't be playing down on the boardwalk as scheduled. It could have been worse. One week ago the definitive word everywhere on the internet (other than Quiksilver's website) was that the contest was cancelled.
The morning after the last Goons gig has the trials and exhibition heats running down at the contest site in wind blown one foot chop. There's no signs of the hurricane to be seen at first. But then you walk a little further along the Long Beach boardwalk and there it is. A lifeguard building, crooked and slumped against the railing like a block of leggo tipped over by a child. If it wasn't for that you'd never know and neither would the thousands standing right on the shore watching some of the world's best surfers in pitiful waves. The temporary structures have all been rebuilt, the largest of which is a Quiksilver store the size of a small Woolworths. The people can't move in there for crowds purchasing Kelly Slater apparel. At 8am there's a line at its doors waiting for it to open. At 10pm the retail staff can't get the crowd out.
What all this means for surfing is yet to be determined. That'll be clearer by the event's end. What we know now is that there is good swell coming and the locals are very, very excited. And heck, so is everyone else. They're in New York.
- Mike Jennings
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