NYC Beach Day: Rockaway

For the past week, I’d kept my eye on Sunday’s weather. Each day, the forecast was holding steady at 80 degrees and sunny, and I figured it could be my last chance to hit the beach.

So I was thrilled, this morning, when I woke up to clear blue skies and sunshine. Even though I’d accidentally slept in (something I rarely do!) and wouldn’t get to the beach until nearly 1:30 p.m., I figured it would be worth it.

Rockaway is probably the nicest beach in the five boroughs. (Though, to be honest, that’s not saying much.) But it’s a trek for me—nearly two hours on the A train. I get on at one of the first stops in Manhattan and ride it through my entire borough, all of Brooklyn, and then, finally Queens.

By the time I arrive, I’m more than ready to get my toes in the sand. It helps that the stops near the shore are preceded by a “B”—for beach, of course. That always makes me smile.

b 90 street

I stopped by Rockaway Taco for an order of fish tacos, to go. Like me, they’re also in denial about the end of summer—until the end of the month.

summer's still here

I’m glad that the taco stand came back, this summer, and that Rockaway seems to be recovering, post-Sandy. Some houses near the water are still under construction, and portions of the boardwalk are being rebuilt. But the open concession stands and bathrooms along parts of the beach have allowed people to patronize the area all season long—which, hopefully, has helped the local economy, a bit.

we've some a long way

I got onto the beach on 95th Street and walked east until I found a decently empty, quiet spot.

rockaway beach

Then I happily tore into my fish tacos.

rockaway tacos

As I was eating, I realized I’d settled in a surfing section. Everyone around me had a board and everyone in the water was on one. (In fact, an NYC Parks department vehicle drove by about once an hour, telling non-surfers to get out of the water. I suppose the don’t want to worry about swimmers getting whacked by surfboards!)

rockaway surfersWatching the surfers made me want to learn how to do so. For most of my life, I’d been oblivious to the sport—I didn’t know any surfers, growing up, and it was something I associated with the west coast. But last year, when I was in Bocas del Toro, Panama, I wanted to be one of the surfers who spent all day out in the middle of the ocean—they’d drag their boards into the little water taxis, then jump out when they saw a good spot. I realized that there’s a grace to riding the waves, which is appealing to me. Plus, as someone who’s afraid of the ocean (surprise—I’m a total beach girl who almost never goes into the water), I’m envious of the fearlessness surfers seem to possess!

rockaway surfers

Maybe I’ll add surfing to my list of goals…rockaway surferAnd speaking of surfing—I still find it odd that Rockaway has become the go-to beach for surfers, hipsters and twentysomethings! When I was growing up, “the Rockaways,” as we called it, was just a working class neighborhood on the edge of Queens.

I’d been to the boardwalk once or twice, back when the Parks department ran the concession stands (no saltenas or frozen bananas then!) and the sunbathers were all locals. At the time, the only beaches I’d been to were on Long Island and the Jersey shore, so I was surprised that one existed in my own borough.

I hadn’t realized how close the beach was to JFK, either—and that’s proven to be a nice surprise, this summer. As you’re lying on the beach, you’ll see dozens of planes flying overhead, so close that you can identify the airline—Virgin, Quantas, Delta, United.
plane over rockaway

Something about that just makes me happy. All those planes remind me of great trips I’ve been on, and ones I’ve yet to take. And I imagine that the airplanes are full of excited people going on vacation, or coming back with good memories from ones they’ve just taken.

airplane

airplane over rockaway

If there’s another warm, gorgeous weekend, this year, there’s a good chance I’ll be back in the Rockaways. For me, it’s worth the four hour, round-trip subway ride!

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