Sunday, March 27, 2016

Surf NYC, by Andreea Waters

Surfing in New York?  Yes, why not!  The culture and waves may be different from surfing in Southern California, but surfers surf, and some of them live in the Big Apple.  Photographer Andreea Waters documents New York City surfing in her book Surf NYC.

Combining stunning photography and brief statements from New York surfers, Waters highlights the differences and similarities when comparing New York surfers and surfers from area more traditionally associated with surfing.  Like surfers everywhere, NYC surfers have an almost religious dedication to the sport.  (In some cases, there's nothing "almost" about it, like the surfer who mused, "Surfing is my religion, and the ocean is my temple.")  In New York, though, given the unpredictability of conditions, the weather, and the logistics of getting to the beach, the dedication takes on another level of madness.

One huge factor in NYC surfing is the weather.  Sometimes the best waves are in the winter.  In the pictures the surfers are almost always seen in head-to-toe neoprene.  This quote typifies the attitude of openness to whatever weather conditions come: "If you've ever dropped into a perfect wave, yet complained about the falling snow blurring your vision . . . then you know what it's like to surf in New York."  A little snow?  Big deal--if the waves are breaking, he's there!

The pictures sometimes look like they could be taken at any surfing beach.  Well, except for the ones with the high-rise apartment blocks.  Given that so much of the NYC surf scene is an experience of disappointing conditions and trying to avoid the "should have been here an hour ago" phenomenon, I wish she would have included more pictures of flat seas and disappointed surfers.  Granted, that's not as much fun to look at, but it would have given a fuller picture of the NYC surfing life.  Also, I was wishing she would have identified the locations of the shots, especially the ones that have no buildings. In her afterword she explained that she deliberately chose not to give locations, to protect the surf culture.  I guess there are still "secret spots" in the most densely populated region of the country!

Surfers everywhere will delight in Waters's pictures and descriptions of NYC surfing.  I'm guess Rockaway Beach is not destined to become a mecca for surfers from around the world, but those NYC surfers who lug their boards on the subway in the middle of winter in hopes of catching some waves know there's something special in NYC.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

2016 Reading Challenge: A photo essay book

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