Surfing, Ditch Plains Style {Montauk Edition}

Post-surfing. That is me w/the yellow crunchy hair

Surf fashion is having a moment now, in places that are nowhere near a wave. The NYT recently reported about a big surf shop opening in Times Square. Cynthia Rowley, a designer from Chicago, teamed up with Roxy to design for them.  The surf aesthetic is hot now.

Apparently these people who are into so-called surf fashion have never tried on an actual wetsuit. Nothing like a half inch of rubberized material to flatter one’s shape. (More on this later.)

I tried surfing a few years ago in Long Beach Island, NJ. It was not successful. At the time, I tried to blame it on the fact that my younger son had just been born five months prior. Bad core strength and all. Now, however, I am in prime physical condition. Well, relatively speaking. And my midwestern teenage niece and nephew wanted to go. Of course I had to keep up.

We booked lessons through a local shop in Montauk called Air and Speed. That sounds very testosterone-filled, doesn’t it? I wasn’t afraid.

We showed up in Ditch Plains Beach, the legendary Montauk surf beach. We caught the tail end of surf camp, where I watched small boys surf on what looked like fairly small waves and come smiling up the beach. Geez, if they could do it, I totally could.

Jay demonstrating how to stay on the board. This was not easy, I can tell you

An hour past the time our lesson was supposed to start (do surfers tell time by the sun? If so, it’s not very accurate) we finally met up with our instructors, two adorable 20-somethings named Jay and Tyler. They called me Aunt Cheryl and graciously didn’t laugh at us when we were practicing our “pop up on the board” maneuvers on the beach. A lot of other people were laughing, though.

Oh, but first let’s talk about surf wear. You know all those movies where the adorable waif in the string bikini paddles effortlessly out and pops up on her board and gracefully rides it in? Pure unadulterated fiction. Every surfer I saw in Ditch was wearing a wetsuit. My triathlete sister warned me about these and how unflattering they are. She also alluded to a product called “Suit Juice” which is supposed to help you shimmy into it more easily. No suit juice. Just a slightly soggy half wetsuit, which went on pretty easily. There were a lot of strange lumps made by my swimsuit, but I chose to ignore this and owned the look. OWNED IT, I tell you.

Here is "Brooke," my niece "Gabriella", and I owning the wetsuits. Um. Yes.

OK, so back to sand practice. We were taught a few basic maneuvers and then hauled out into the water. A few observations:

  • Surf boards are really effing heavy.
  • Big sharp rocks on the shore are hell on a pedicure.
  • Even with a wetsuit it is possible to scrape your arms up
  • That beachy tousled hair look? A myth. Plastered and crunchy is the reality.
  • You will be too worried about the white waves crashing over your head to worry about sharks.
  • You can paddle your little head off and will most likely get nowhere. In fact, you will probably go backwards until the amazingly strong surf instructor rescues your sorry ass.

OK, so after getting out past the waves and turned in the right direction, Tyler gave me a shove and yelled, “Paddle, Aunt Cheryl, paddle and STAND UP!”

Look! I was up. Then I went down.

Yes. Not so easy the first time. Not so easy the tenth time either. I did get vertical once or twice, but not for long. Jay told me that I had the best face-plant he’d seen in weeks. At least there was something superlative about my surfing style.

After an hour or so, we hauled our bedraggled selves up to the shore. I was ready to try out Tyler’s last piece of surfing advice: There is nothing better than beer after you’ve been surfing.

Some more lovely Montauk surf-related pics are here:


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