I went to New York City this week, and I surfed. But that wasn't as simple as it might sound.
This was to be a short trip and not one for which a surfboard would seem necessary. I'd be couch-crashing an NYU friend's pad in the heart of Williamsburg — not exactly coastal — and attending the New York Surf Film Festival on "official duty." I'd have little time and no car, but I was dead set on forcing a surf into my 48-hour stint in the city. The way I saw it, if I could manage that minor coup, it would validate all the grimy urban night crawling New York seems to invite.
So, as usual, I made my travel experience a nightmare from the get-go and packed some boards.
"You know that's going to be really expensive," smirked the Delta ticket agent at LAX. It was 6:00 a.m. and, yes, I knew.
"Why does it have to be your board?" she continued. "Can't you just use one there?" I didn't try to explain, just handed over the $200 she demanded — smiling! — which was $60 more than I'd paid for my own one-way ticket. New York, I thought, had better be holding.
An on-board heart attack, a flight diversion for emergency landing, a brake scare and a United Nations security rerouting later, we landed in JFK. Really late — way late for the Ra Ra Riot show I'd planned on, and later still once I collected my boards, which had somehow been sent to the wrong terminal. I learned that cabs don't really see you when you're dragging a coffin, and it took my life savings to get me and the gear-heap to Brooklyn. On the way I was made fun of by two hipster girls, stopped and asked about Kelly Slater, and I saw an alley cat catch and kill a street rat. Welcome to the city.
Finally, around midnight, Brooklyn. With surfboards. Now what?
But the next morning was a new day. I finagled a ride to the coast from a friend, and an hour later we pulled up to fun, warm, three-foot peaks. I felt I'd beaten the game, like I'd found some cheat code to the city, which really doesn't want you to surf. It wants you to go from coffee shop to bar on repeat until your heart stops. But here I was, waxing up in New York for my first-ever East Coast surf session. Success.
I felt I'd beaten the game, like I'd found some cheat code to the city, which really doesn't want you to surf.
The waves were surprisingly punchy and I was ecstatic. Giddy. On my first right I clicked two pumps and tried an air — a New York City flyby to christen the trip — but this flight went about as well as Delta's the day before. My whole body came down on the nose, crushing both it and my spirits in a single sad instant. All the sweat, drama, money, frustration and trouble to get there was all wasted in one mistimed maneuver.
I looked over the board, assessed the damage, decided it was serious. Thought back on what it took to get there, contemplated going in — then paddled back out. I surfed the wounded board for three hours and retired it with honors upon reaching the beach. No regrets. Then I descended back into the city, untouchable.
Surfing — wherever, however — it's the thing. —Travis Ferré