The Ramones nailed it back in 1977: “Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum / The sun is out and I want some / It’s not hard, not far to reach / We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.” The eagerness to be out on the waves, the hunger for vitamin D and the sweet simplicity of a trip to one of our city’s favorite summertime hangs. Dee Dee had it right. And the best part is the place still rocks, thanks to expansive hurricane recovery efforts and a serious seasonal scene.
Right on the corner of Beach 87th Street and the Rockaway Freeway, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club isn’t your typical boardwalk-adjacent spot. Instead, it’s a slice of life on the narrow Queens peninsula. The A train rambles above the horizon and cars whiz by out front. While the area still struggles to repair the devastating damage done in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, it remains a vibrant reminder of the neighborhood’s true spirit. The beach is just a short walk away, and the air is permeated by salty ocean water. Those sensory details aside, it’s the club itself that really captures our imagination. Inside, they’ve lined the walls and ceiling with surfboards and local artwork. Outside, bright murals depict surfing skeletons on either side of a large, colorful skull along the building’s façade, and underneath it all, a motto: “Live. Surf. Die.”
In the days and weeks after the storm, the message (quite literally) never faded away. The surf club opened its doors as a relief center for residents of The Rockaways, inviting them to pickup supplies and spreading word by bicycle while electricity, phone lines and internet connections remained down. Now, a year and a half later, it serves as something of a community-hangout-meets-sea-shack-meets-chic-modern-restaurant. Burly surfers rinse off in the outdoor showers while city folk arrive in search of brunch and beers.
One could easily add “eat” or “party” to the club’s hardcore motto, since they’ve played host to nightly happenings and a brand new food truck all summer. The latter is a partnership with Williamsburg’s Lodge, a restaurant dedicated mainly to classy stylings of traditional American eats. On the menu at the surf club, Chef Patrick Quinn is whipping up everything from grilled watermelon and peach ceviche to smoked chicken wings and shrimp po’boys.
While beach-going is relegated to the weekend for most of us, the club pulls out all the stops on most weekdays, too. They’re known to spin jams, screen movies, teach painting lessons and bust out live music long after the sun goes down over the Atlantic. (Check out the full list of events here.) And if that weren’t enough to draw crowds further out into the five boroughs, MoMA PS1 is also showing a group exhibition in the space until September 1st.
Wanna hitch a ride there for yourself? The Rockaway Beach Surf Club is open at 302 Beach 87th Street from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.