Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk

Surf, Surf, Surf Away at Rockaway Beach

Friday, July 27, 2007
No. 100

Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Assembly Member Audrey Pheffer, Surfriders Foundation’s NYC Chapter Co-Chair Erik Johnson, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, and local surfers today declared Rockaway Beach’s B. 67-69 the second surfing-only beach in the City. Surfers tried out the new location, which the surf community chose for its reputation of great waves, and taught Commissioner Benepe to catch his first wave.

"Although it’s considered a quintessential West Coast sport, surfing also has an avid following in the East…and New York City’s best waves are at Rockaway Beach," said Commissioner Benepe. "In 2005 we designated the City’s first surf-only beach and so many surfers flocked to rip up its swells that we discovered a second surf beach was needed to accommodate the die-hard surfing community. Surfing is yet another example of a new generation of adventure sports that we are adding to our ever-expanding list of recreation opportunities."

Prior to 2005 it was considered illegal to surf in New York City but Assembly Member Pheffer and Council Member Joseph Addabbo, Jr. worked to overturn a provision in the state’s health code dating back to 1850 that prohibited even visiting the beach unless lifeguards were on duty. Changing that law was the final obstacle in the path toward making Rockaway Beach’s B. 87-91 the first legally surfable beach within New York City limits. Today, in response to the increasing popularity of the sport and requests by the local surf community, Parks designated B. 67-69 the second surf-only beach in New York City.

Surf beaches are open year-round from dawn to dusk. Because of the added safety of a surfboard, there are no lifeguards on duty and no swimming is allowed. In addition to these rules, local surf organizations created the "Rules of Paddling," which are posted at both locations. Both locations are accessible by the A train—stop B. 67 or B. 90.

Over the years, the Rockaway peninsula, a barrier beach on the south shore of Long Island, has become something of a cult destination for surfers—starting in 1912, when Hawaiian swimmer, Olympian, and "father of surfing" Duke Kahanamoku visited New York City for a swimming exhibition. During his trip, he also put on a surfing exhibition on Rockaway’s shores. The Ramones immortalized the beach’s allure in their 1977 hit "Rockaway Beach" and since then, surfers have come from far and wide to catch Rockaway’s waves.

More than 2.1 million visitors flocked to Rockaway Beach during the 2006 season and Parks & Recreation is committed to meeting the needs of this vibrant, growing community and its visitors. In response to the Rockaway’s growth, last summer we appointed the first administrator dedicated to the area. We recently completed a new ADA compliant comfort station at Beach 117th street, renovated two lifeguard trailers at Beach 32nd and 86th, and installed an ADA-accessible mobimat at Beach 116th, which allows wheelchair-bound persons to approach the water’s edge. We will also be restoring the boardwalk at Beach 20-23rd and Beach 70-80th, installing new ramps at Beach 24th and 104th, and renovating the picnic area at Beach 90th. As a result of conversations with the community about their needs, we are coordinating the development of a dog run and increasing programming such as fitness activities, cricket permitting, skateboarding competitions and family events such as Movie Night. And with Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, even more is to come at Rockaway Beach with the allocation of $40 million to build beachfront facilities such as comfort stations, lifeguard buildings and playgrounds.

Surfing is thought to have been invented by Polynesians more than 1500 years ago; they would stand on wooden boards and ply the Pacific. It was also a popular pastime for inhabitants of the South Sea Islands before European mariners voyaged there during the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 1950s and 1960s, surfing developed as a sport and a part of pop culture in the United States. The first world championships were held in 1964.

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Directions to Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk

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