Tuesday, May 17, 2011
In New York City, people are driven - it's the classic work hard, play hard. Regardless of how incongruous it may appear, with ease, ingenuity or great difficulty, you will find city residents participating in the most unlikely activities imaginable, using variants or adaptions as needed.
No mountains to climb? Then scale buildings instead (see Urban Night Climbers here). In New York you can find cross-country ski during blizzards, windsurfing, tennis, golf, farming, gardening, birding, fishing, biking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, sledding, jet skiing, sailing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, wind sailing and the flying of radio controlled jets. Of course, whether the big leagues or amateur, the major sports are found here too - football, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer.
While in Quiksilver* on Broadway in SoHo with friends from out of town, displays of full size surfboards really surprised them, particularly when they learned that they were not just decorative but that those in racks were actually for sale. I further explained that these were not only sold for those who may travel outside New York to surfing destinations but if you wanted to go ocean surfing, the real thing was available within city limits at Rockaway Beach, Queens.
Rockaway Beach faces the Atlantic Ocean and is the largest urban beach in the United States. There is a surf community and surf shops. Perhaps the most remarkable, the stretch of beach is directly accessible by subway. In the 1970s, I had a short-lived romance with surfing, influenced by a love of the tropics, the California dream, the Beach Boys, and images of what appeared to be one a way to commune with nature and one of the most exhilirating activities.
I quickly learned that surfing required more skill than I had imagined and more effort than I was willing to expend. To make matters worse, because of storage limitations, I purchased a short board, which I subsequently learned was not the board of choice for beginners. I was told that a very long board, essentially a big boat, made learning much easier. I "surfed" a few of the beaches on Long Island as well as Rockaway Beach.
In Rockaway, the train is elevated. On return from one outing, I boarded the A train in beach attire and my board. At the start of my ride back, my appearance was not particularly startling, given the proximity to the beach. However, as I approached Manhattan, the closer I got, the more bizarre and inexplicable my appearance was - evidenced by the type and increasing number of stares. At the point I reached Wall Street in a train car during rush hour packed with businessmen in 3-piece suits, I am sure the sight of a surfer in flip-flops, shorts with a wet board dripping on the A train floor, looked like nothing short of a teleportation...
*Quiksilver is based in Huntington Beach, California and is one of the world's largest manufacturers of surfwear and other boardsport-related equipment. There is an extensive clothing line and a number of stores can be found in Manhattan.