Last summer we rediscovered Rockaway Beach. It’s easy and cheap to get to, just a couple of subway trains, then a couple of blocks and you are on the boardwalk. Nothing like the odyssey of getting to Jones Beach where you have to take the subway to Penn Station to take a Long Island railroad train, get on line to buy a ticket for that, and then a shuttle bus to the beach. The wait for these vehicles on the way back feels so long when you have sand in your sneakers and you are sleepy from the sun.
The ocean at Rockaway is clean and the surf is strong. The crowd is what you will only encounter in New York. Teenaged boys with their bathing trunks slung down under their butt cheeks with underwear over top. Large families with multiple umbrellas and gigantic coolers on wheels that they pull over the sand. Women in hijab and flowing tunics with their pants legs tied tight under their knees as they cool their legs in the salt water. Tattooed girls in high waisted bikinis with scarfs over their florescent colored hair to keep the sun from fading it.
We are on Beach 97. The sun warms your skin in between the little puffs of cool breeze that blows in from the ocean. There are dads playing catch with small children using Frisbees, footballs and softballs. I think to myself, “someone is going to get bopped in the head”. But New Yorkers are so used to moving in their own spaces within a crowd, that it never happens. The water is still icy, so the only people in it are the surfer boys in neck to toe wet suits and little children who hinch their bodies upwards when the cold seafoam hits their ankles.
Last summer, before Hurricane Sandy, the boardwalk here had a lively scene with bike rentals, food stands and live music. The boardwalk with its faded grey wood in a beautiful chevron pattern was destroyed and swept away by Hurricane Sandy. The old plank wooden stairs leading down to the sand are being replaced by a sloping concrete ramp. The sights of rebuilding were everywhere. It was a good thing to see.
For an article with interviews from residents on the rebuilding see: Rockaway Resurrection: Rebuilding the Beach After Hurricane Sandy.