This Has Everything To Do With Surfing
New York, New York. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Yellow cab, Gypsy cab, Dollar cab, holla back. New York is America’s city. The only town that matters. The beacon on the hill. The Big Apple. And SURFING editor Taylor Paul and I flew a midnight flight to New York, New York, welcome to the melting pot corners where we sellin’ rock, for the New York Surf Film Festival.
A “surf film festival in New York” might have seemed strange five years ago but five years ago was before the Quiksilver Pro and Balaram Stack and surf culture’s general fascination with all things urban. Five years ago is ancient history and now it feels lights is blinding girls need blinders perfect. Surf and New York. Two peas in a pod. Three Dice Cee-lo, Three Card Monte. Labor Day Parade, rest in peace Bob Marley.
We landed in the earliest morning and cabbed to our hotel in Tribeca and ate French breakfast at Pastis in the Meatpacking District and drank cocktails at the Bowery Hotel in the Bowery and went to the film festival’s opening night party in midtown. And even though we hadn’t slept, these streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you.
The next morning I woke up with a head full of New York, but there was a purported swell, so I also had a head full of surf. And then I paused. And I wondered, “Really, how well do these two fit? Are they really two peas in a pod? Really Three Dice Cee-lo, Three Card Monte? Or are surf and New York odd, uncomfortable bed fellows,” I had to know. I am, after all, an investigative surf journalist.
And so we ventured out with keen investigative surf journalist eyes. We went to Saturdays, the ultra-hippity-hip surf shop in Soho. The layout was less surf shop, more boutique, which, theoretically, I like, but it was missing practically all the things I truly love about surf shops. It was missing the smell of wax. It was missing the bro’d-out bro sitting on a high stool behind a glass counter filled with stickers. It was missing surfboards that made sense. Saturdays sells six surfboards. Two longboards. Two hipster fishes with wooden fins. Two high performance DHDs. Together they made no sense. The clothing was fine but very one thing. Very, “I don’t surf, but I like the aesthetic.” The magazines on the rack were not right. The whole deal was not right. It needed help.
We then took a subway to a train to Long Beach. Purported swell. There was a giant sign on the subway that read, “Surf the train, and you could get wiped out — forever.” “Surfing the train” referred to riding the outside of the subway car. Nobody who knew surf would call that “surfing.” It would be more akin to bull riding or maybe bobsledding but not surfing. It was not right.
Then we arrived at Long Beach and it was amazing. So many fun, peaky barrels. So many head-high lips. Very, very few people were surfing and those who were wore full wetsuits. The water was warm. The waves were super fun. And the lineups should have been packed with angry, naked locals. It was not right.
Surf culture needs to help New York figure out what the deal is. It needs to help New York with proper form, slang and look. It needs to help New York know that the most important part about surf culture is actually surfing (and not “surfing” on a SUP or a train). Yes, New York loves the look of surf but the feel of surf is so much better and properly informs the look. Yes, if the boys at Saturdays actually surfed they would be much cooler and their shop would smell like wax (maybe they do surf, but they don’t carry SURFING Magazine so it is hard to know. All real surfers read SURFING). Yes, if the lineups were crowded it would be a bummer for the traveler but it should always be a bummer for the traveler. Locals only!
New York, on the other hand, can continue to help surfing be more cultured. It needs to help surfers finally realize that the bottom button of a suit jacket should never be buttoned. That it is tacky to crow on and on about this new nightclub you just went to because there is always a newer, better club around the corner. That being literate is not a giant detriment. That, while surfing is amazing, living well, eating well, drinking well and dressing well is also amazing. We, surf and New York, need each other (though New York needs surf more). One hand in the air for the big city. Street lights, big dreams, all lookin’ pretty. Proper boards in the shops and proper bros behind the counters and lineups full of the right sort of folk. Put your lighters in the air everybody say, “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” —Chas Smith