/Surfing Remade in the Rockaways

Surfing Remade in the Rockaways

Three years after Hurricane Sandy lashed the Rockaways, the boardwalk marched down the seaside in damaged segments as the public housing constructed below Robert Moses was hemmed in by condos. Out in the surf, not a lot modified as the bathymetry returned to regular, however the predominantly white, male crowd of surfers had.

Part of that shift occurred when Louis Harris, 46, based the East Coast chapter of the Black Surfing Association in 2016.

Mr. Harris purchased his first surf board after shifting to the Rockaways in 2006. After getting his bearings in distant seashores, he joined the crowd at Beach 90th Street. “That’s when I saw B.J.,” Mr. Harris stated.

Brian James — “B.J.” — the solely different black man in the water, paddled over to Mr. Harris and requested if he wished to hang around afterward. “‘If you’re going to be a surfer, you have to take it seriously,’” Mr. Harris recalled him saying. “‘You’re a black guy. Everybody’s eyes are on you.’”

“It goes from being Duke, Hawaiian and dark to young, white and suburban,” Mr. Warshaw said. With that, the sport took on a whole new spirit.

“I wince at a lot of what surfing has stood for and not stood for,” Mr. Warshaw said. “Surfing has a terrible history with regard to gender and sexism.” But, he believed it was class rather than race that haunted the history of surfing.

Allison Marsiello, 35, who moved to the Rockaways three years ago, felt that while the scene was changing, it still had the traces of surfing’s darker side. Women had to work doubly hard to claim their place in the water, where men often cut them off, paddle around them or even catcall them, she said.

“The outdoors in general were one of the last bastions for segregation to continue to exist,” said Mr. Masekela, who is black. “Culturally, there’s been this idea that the ocean is just not for us. Where did that come from?”

Paul Godette, a 23-year-old Far Rockaway native, started surfing just last year. “Nobody really surfed,” he said of his crew, which mostly skateboarded.

For him, it began outside Boarders Surf Shop when he started talking to Johnny Knapp, a surfer who lives in Brooklyn, about the surf boards strapped to his car. Mr. Knapp, 33, promised Mr. Godette that if he got a wet suit, he’d loan him a board. Mr. Godette made good on the offer, and soon after, the two were in the water together. Afterward, Mr. Knapp gave him the board.

“That was it,” Mr. Godette said. Skating had long claimed his heart, but now it belonged to surfing.

“It changes your whole perspective,” he explained. He said he got his passport this summer and was planning a trip to Central America to surf for the first time outside of New York.

When I asked if he felt like the only black guy in the water at Rockaway, he told me no.

“Because usually, I’m not.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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