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Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Updated: November 4, 10:49 AM ET
Best Ever ... Again?

By Jamie Brisick, Mark Willis, Jon Coen

Former Surfing magazine editor, book-writer and picture taker Jamie Brisick moved from Southern California to New York City a couple years back, and here ruminates on the occasionally stoked life of an urban surfer—especially after the Best Day Ever at Rockaway Beach, October 25th, 2004.

If you're of the theory that surfing is a great antidote to high blood pressure, the need to paddle out swelling and shrinking in direct proportion to however stressed out we get, then it would make perfect sense to find your J-Bays, G-Lands, Ulus and Sunsets breaking as close as possible to hustle and bustle cities like Seoul, Sao Paulo, NYC and London. The higher hand, however, seems to have a much better sense of humor than this and the reality is most of the great waves of the world tend to be situated in places that already offer a laid back lifestyle.

Jeffrey's Bay peels across a slow, sleepy town, for example, and Uluwatu's spiraling tubes break not far from a Hindu temple, for chrissakes. Meanwhile, the high stress cities of the world, the places where inhabiting surfers might really benefit from a thirty yard bottom turn or a four second tube ride, tend to offer very little in the way of quality surf. New York City is a classic example of this, as I've come to discover over the course of the last three years.
Pipeline comes to New York State. Welcome.
The first winter I was here I never once got a surf in, 40 something degree water temp being the primary reason. That summer I skipped out to the southwest of France, SoCal, and Southern Baja to get my surfing fix. Places that are known to deliver during the warmer months. I think I surfed three times that fall—a decent day at Belmar, an average day at Rockaway, and a feeble, barely longboardable day at Sea Girt. My hopes of being an active NY Surfer were more or less shot.

And what made it worse is I was periodically checking the cams and anxiously awaiting the calls from my surf pals, and neither made much of a rattle. I did come deeply in touch with my inner surfer, however, that fella that's etched deep into the cell memory, that monkey that beats us on the back when wave riding's drifted a little too far away.

I devised a couple theories from this. One, surfing is indeed just a metaphor, a set of training wheels we need not be afraid to shed. That we can apply it to all aspects of life, that we don't necessarily need a board under our feet to ride waves. My second theory completely contradicts the first, a phenomenon I have no problem with. That is: you can run but you can't hide. Once you've had an authentic taste there's no turning back. You can take the boy out of the surf but you can't take the surf out of the boy

I realized this three days ago when I jumped in the car with a couple good mates and pulled up to eight foot face A-frames at Rockaway Beach. It came after a surfless couple of weeks, a period of typical Manhattan scratching and clawing. As far as I knew, everything was pretty much status quo. I didn't feel any major holes in my life, I felt physically fit from cycling and yoga, mentally stimulated from all things NYC, and emotionally satiated in ways that have no business being in a Surfline piece. But it wasn't until I suited up and jogged across the boardwalk that it all really hit me. My pals Pat, Vava and I were giddy with laughter when a pre-teen kid on a dirt bike stopped us to ask, "Why do surfers always run?"

Great question, I thought to myself. Why do surfers always run? I had six or seven sarcastic answers quickly flutter through my mind, a reflexive survival mechanism cultivated from a youth spent at Malibu. But I repressed them—he was just a kid.
Sam Hammer ventured from Jersey up to Long Island for the swell -- and by the looks of things, he's not dissapointed.
"We run 'cause we're excited," I said. "We run because we can't wait to get out there. We run because of that right there."

I pointed seaward at a three wave set of A-frames that turned 90th Street Rockaway into something that could stand up as A-grade surf anywhere—Oz, Hawaii, South Africa, et al. The sky was the gray, the water a dubious shade of Hudson green/brown, the crowd minimal, and the possibility of leaving the city far behind better than good.

We continued our trot to the water. Rockaway has a series of groin/jetties that give a little oomph to the surf. The same way a good piece of tofu will tend to be a little more textural and tasty at the edges, the waves here are generally better the closer you are to the jetty. And when it's thumping as it was at that moment, you can use it to jump off, saving a lot of duck dive time.

There are days that burrow their way into the memory banks, revealing themselves for years to come in that pastiche of great surf experiences we draw on when enthusiasm wanes or sentimentality abounds. One of the ways I've wizened in my long-term love affair with surfing is I can pinpoint them as they're happening. And they tend to be less about the cum shot than they are about impressions, the more subtle "moments in between" if you will.

One of the images I take away from Rockaway on Monday, October 25th, 2004 is of my friend Shayne Boyle swooping birdlike off the top of a wave that was about two feet overhead, a trifle flat on account of the high tide, and a slightly silvery hue 'cause of a brief break in the clouds. If I crop tight and pump up the color and employ enough imagination to turn the full suit into a pair of boardshorts, this image could mesh itself in with, say, a high tide Ulu top turn, a repose from the spiraling shallowness, one of those follow through snaps that happen when the wave yawns briefly before going back to its race track self. Or even an outside Restaurants carve before the wave rounds the corner and puts the pedal to the metal. At any rate, I now have Rockaway Beach filed into the "Reasons Why I Surf" drawer of my brain, alongside the G-Lands and the J-Bays and the Sunsets.

*Look for Jamie's books: We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations and Have Board, Will Travel in fine bookstores and on
Imagine waking up to this on a chilly fall morning -- better than a steaming cup of sprack, that's for sure. NY.
Surfline's East Coast forecaster Mark Willis deconstructs the tremendous run of late-October Right Coast surf:

Autumn is normally a swell filled month for the Right Coast and this year wasn't any different. Obviously August and September were high surf months for most with the abundance of tropical activity we had, but it didn't stop there. October has kept the streak alive but not quite via tropical sources.

A trough of low pressure extended north from the Caribbean and eventually was classified by the Tropical Prediction Center as "Subtropical Storm Nicole" early on the 10th. What does "subtropical" mean anyways? Well, in a nutshell Nicole didn't have sufficient thunderstorm activity or its strongest winds near the center to be classified a tropical storm. Despite these silly classification battles, it sure produced some fun surf for the East Coast with the Outer Banks getting the brunt of it.

An even less tropical type of storm developed off the North Carolina/Virginia Coast the 21st-23rd. This storm was cut off from the upper level westerlies and thus moved very slowly a few hundred miles east of Bermuda for several days. The beast contained an extremely large fetch of 25-35kt winds in the East Coast swell window. The high winds and large fetch lengths associated with the storm produced longer swell periods more in the 11-15 second band. The end result was several days of solid surf along the East Coast. However, many spots had a few days with N wind problems, leaving the more south facing beaches like Long Island in complete bliss.
Lido surf check.
And finally, New Jersey-based writer and surfer Jon Coen heads North:

There are quality waves all over the world in October. It's not too late for those Southern Hemi beasts to brew up swell. Then again, it's not too early for the North Pacific to let loose some Aleutian Juice. October is a good time to travel. You can beat the crowds and find some great deals, but you won't catch many East Coasters getting on a plane in October.

That's right. Nor Cal, Cape Town, Coolie, and Puerto can all wait. October is the ultimate month for the East Coast. Still in a light wetsuit, you have the chance of late season tropical pulse, you can get beefy occluded-front south swells, and you pray for that first big nor'easter. There's plenty of time for travel during the flatness of summer or the icy grip of winter.

This week saw an unrelenting bitch of a nor'easter develop off the coast, and take an interesting track. The low moved off the Carolinas on the 18th and the northeast winds began blowing up north slop from New Jersey to the Carolinas. By the end of the week, Jersey surfers were seeking protection from the monotonous north breeze, and finding some huge lefts.

On Friday, the storm blew up. The LOLA model was wearing some sexy reds and pinks, as the storm began tracking eastward. The usual nor'easter tracks north along the coast. This gale system, however, was more interested in shifting east, and sending a fall harvest of waves to the East Coast.
New York surfer Ryan Carlson hides from his fans after winning the Red Bull Icebreak Qualifier. Photo
By the weekend, the windswell had become legitimate groundswell, lighting up the south-facing beaches as well. Saturday morning's knee-high was waist-high by mid-day, and overhead by evening on Long Island and Rhode Island.

On a quick run up to Newport, we found ourselves surrounded by a welcoming crowd of New Englanders, all fired up about some series game, something about Boston and socks, ⬦I don't know hockey. It seems that after watching the game and a few pints at the "bah," they were all ready to paddle out together at Matunuk. We later learned that the English translation of the Native American name "Matunuk" is "old man with big canoe."

This is a soft wave, but it's an East Coast novelty. The wind was offshore for days, and solid six-foot waves reeled across the cobblestone reef. Ivy Leaguer Zev Gartner and Rhody waterman Jamie Risser lit up the lefts and ducked into the right barrels.

Long Island is not a soft wave, and the pictures of Lido Beach on Saturday, the 23rd, began circulating around the internet faster than the Paris Hilton video. Red Bull even held its NY Ice Break qualifier at Long Beach. New Yorker, Ryan Carlson, took the event.

"Lido was bigger on Saturday, just a huge drop. Long Beach was perfect, shaped like a playland. It was head-high to three-feet overhead. Ryan Carlson had a wave from jetty to jetty," said Event Director Jack Fleming.

The wind finally began to let up, as the pressure gradient decreased on Monday and Tuesday. The storm's eastward track played right into our hands, as the surf continued, long beyond anyone's expectations.
Jason Andre, enjoying Nicole in Avon.
Jersey was macking. Although the true west winds were few, Garden State surfers took advantage of Rocktober. Sandy Hook to Cape May saw countless tube rides and more than a few beatings.

"I saw some huge waves down at the south end of the Island this week. The drift was heavy, but there were some really good size waves. Everyone got a few. I got worked worse than I have in a long time," said Jason Jackovenko of Legacy Surf Shop in New Jersey.

NJ surfer Basil Ellmers (see photo) couldn't complain either: "The wind had calmed down the afternoon of the 24th, causing some semi-clean conditions and some super fun overhead waves. After hearing about how good Long Island had been it was nice to get some good surf close to home. More fun overhead sessions followed on Monday and Tuesday with cleaner conditions. Overall, this past week it's been good to be an East Coast surfer enjoying the spoils of a classic fall swell."

Ben McBrien, of Long Beach Island, claimed the longest wave of his life last weekend.

The lure of a swell of this magnitude is what keeps us coming back. There are few places in the world with more character than the East Coast. In chasing the swell through the northeast, it was impossible not to notice the oaks, maples and sassafras trees all burning with vibrant color, the fishermen hunting striped bass, and the occasional smell of chimney smoke in the air. A beautiful full moon even lit the autumn skies. This is what we live for, and this is why we stay!

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