Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ditch Witch No More?

There are upsides to being a surfer in New York City. They are made plainly obvious to anyone within shouting distance. Great culture, constant work, good food and all those normal amenities of big city, (make that New York) life. You see things in juxtaposition with other things here you'd not see in most any other town. You get to interact and inspire and be inspired by an array of expats, trannies, locals, bizarros, fantasticos and galacticos that would not be so available anywhere else. It is truly, as they say, a cosmopolitan small town. And this, of course, extends to the surf community. You tend to know everyone, or you've tended to have seen or heard of most other surfers one way or another over the years. They are always a mixed bag of artists, artisans, white collars, blue collars, students and government workers from every spot imaginable on the globe. Every single one scratching for something, willing to be scratched for something and amped on all that weird New York City energy. It's great in all the ways you'd expect it to be. And then there's
This is indicative of all the worst things about being a New York City surfer. That feeling in the pit of your stomach that you don't belong. Grow up and surf where you grew up and you're a local. Move within a few miles of a spot, stay long enough, and you're a local. Simply move to a town with multiple accessible surf spots and you'll end up finding you're place. But New York City is different. We have a train that goes to Rockaway, those crowded, dirty couple spots that is really the only NYC "local." That's about it. Even the ride out to the jetties at Long Beach demands a particular respect for the guys and gals who live out there and make it out every day. The drive to Gilgo and environs must elicit the same respect. Anything else, further north, east and south and things get far stickier. One can't shake the feeling of being an interloper. One can't get away from the fact that you've either burned out a ton of fuel to clog someone's spot, or had enough coin to rent a short time place for a single season. And when things get hairy, the way they talk about the "Hamptonization of Montauk" kind of hairy, as a New York City surfer, you feel the crushing moral weight of it.
I've spent the last few summers regularly surfing the eastern end of Long Island, and last summer in particular, in Montauk. The best summers I've had in 15 years. But there was always that outsider sense. There is always the sense as a commuting surfer, whether you're really a "surfer" or not, whether you've just begun or whether you've surfed for years, that you just add to an unwanted and increasing population in the water and inevitably add to the crass exploitation of the surfable geography. Basically surf tourism close to home. With the possible closing of the Ditch Witch, all the guilty feelings come to bare. I simply can't, no matter how respectful, thoughtful and low-profile as I try to be, shake the feeling that I've been unconsciously part of the problem.
It inevitably elicits a fair share of internal fight-back. I have every right to surf where I am physically capable of surfing. I have every right as someone respectful of the implicit rules of the lineup, to paddle out where I can paddle out. There are good arguments for this and no amount of "locals only" chest beating can really overcome them. Still, it is equally hard to shake that carpetbagger's feeling. If this news is as true as it seems to be, there is no choice but to feel shame, however justified, unjustified or somewhere in between. And this is where being a New York City surfer gets awfully sticky.

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Anonymous said...

The email addresses of Hampton Town Council members.

ricardo said...

it's a tough one. but I think your thoughts about being an outsider apply to all aspects of our modern life as we continue to get more and more crowded.

what's happened to Ditch Witch is not much different than the way IMF and the US have treated developing countries through loans and economic sanctions, essentially crippling them from any potential progress or ability to compete in the global economy.

I've always thought of surfing as an agressive activity. as in survival of the fittest. and while this is incongruent to the aloha spirit, it seems more realistic especially as it gets more crowded.

and what role do we play as bloggers, promoting the surf in our own areas? I had this discussion with some friends yesterday. do I have the right to object to an ASP event in my area when I play a role in popularizing surfing through me personal blog?

I dunno.

EditorialBoard said...

"I dunno" is about the answer I come to for everything.

Anonymous said...

enjoy your surfing and keep it personal.

Anonymous said...

the ditch witch is staying put!

EditorialBoard said...

Over one thousand facebook supporters in one day. Who knows how many emails and calls went to those members. Crazy stuff.

Mr. Lentini said...

Im fuming..everything sucks today....I wasnt a local they didnt know me by name but I have eaten there since the first year it was is disgusting..not the ditch witch..the ditch witch is yummy

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