Dozens of surfers hit the waves on Sunday at Beach 90 Street. The ocean was put off limits by the de Blasio administration for Tuesday early on Monday. Photo by Giovani Joel Pinto for onrockaway.com
Surfers left a message written on the sand for Mayor de Blasio — “One Term Mayor.”
On Monday morning, police and fire units search for a surfer who was reported to have gone into the water on Beach 74 Street and never came out. No surfers were found to have been in trouble. Photo by Doug Macleod.
Surfers head for the water for a quick ride before police asked them to leave. Photo by Doug Macleod.
Firefighters and police who responded to the call of a surfer in trouble on the boardwalk on Monday morning at Beach 74 Street. Photo by Doug Macleod.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio closed the ocean to swimmers, bathers and surfers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in the wake of Tropical Storm Hermine, there were few in Rockaway who doubted that surfers would ignore the edict and take to the raging waves.
They were right and the mayor’s edict set up a skirmish between surfers, who see it as their right to hit the waves during times when the waves are running high and both parks enforcement agents and cops who are ordered to stop them from doing so.
On Sunday night, for example, police were called to Beach 85 Street and the oceanfront by PEP officers because “several surfers were refusing to comply with their orders to leave the water.”
Police did respond and eventually talked the surfers out of the water, but eyewitnesses said that many went right back in the water after the cops and PEP officers left the scene.
According to city records, at least four surfers were ticketed for refusing to get out of the water.
Dozens more just left the water and they went back later on.
One of them told the New York Post that the lure of the five to ten-foot waves was just too strong.
“We only get a couple of days a year for all the conditions to come together, it’s really disappointing,” Jay Harrison, a surfer and photographer from New Zealand told the Post. “I’m going to fight [the summons he received]. There’s nothing dangerous about these conditions.”
Harrison and others were hit with summonses that cost $80 for “Failing to comply with a closed beach rule.”
Some locals called the mayor’s edict “ridiculous,” arguing that surfers live to go out into the water during storm conditions and that few are ever injured.
“Surfers know what they are doing, their limitations,” one Rockaway surfer who asked not to be identified, said. “The water might be too dangerous for weekend swimmers, but we are well aware of what we have to do to keep ourselves safe. We don’t need the mayor to tell us what we can and can’t do in the water.”
“The mayor should mind his own business,” said a post on social media. “He knows nothing about surfers or surfing or he wouldn’t have closed the beaches in the first place.”
Not all Rockaway residents agree.
“They make the first responders come and put their lives in danger,” on such person said of the surfers on social media. “They put their own lives and the lives of others in danger just to ride the waves for a few seconds. That does not make any sense. The first responders should just leave them if they get in trouble. It’s their own fault.”
Finbar Devine, posting on Facebook, said, “Surfing and skateboarding are literally the only two sports (aside from shooting) that you assume automatic risk the second you pick up the board. Almost any (there is always one idiot someplace) surfer trying to get in the water in this kind of weather has a full and total understanding of what they are getting into and is making an informed decision about doing so, it’s not like these are some random urbanite that’s only been to the beach once before when they were little and thinks it’s an okay idea to go in only up to their knees.”
On Monday morning, with the beaches still closed to surfers, there was a report of a surfer in trouble at Beach 74 Street, bringing a massive response from police, fire and parks workers. While there were dozens of surfers in the water, none was found to be in difficulty.
Shortly after that incident, swimming, bathing and surfing were put off limits on Tuesday as well.