Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One Perspective

Photos by Donna Alberico for the NY Times

I don't know who Jon Caramanica is, but here is the text from his forthcoming review/article thing on the Downtown Manhattan & North Brooklyn surf shop scene as expounded in the New York Times.

FOUR or five guys were gathered around the counter in the back of Saturdays Surf NYC in SoHo one recent afternoon, watching surf videos on a computer monitor. They were lean, tall, sinewy. Their hair had movement, except for the one who wore a yellow Billabong cap. They were surferesque, less like surfers than like the models who are hired for GQ summer-issue shoots on the beach. They may or may not actually participate in surfing, but they certainly suggested it.

A friend of mine, who wanted to try on a shirt, stood near them, waiting for the magnetic pull of customer to salesclerk to kick in. No go.

After a minute or so, he stepped away and whispered to me, “I can’t tell who the salespeople are.”
Indeed, surferesqueness was the order of the day, for staff and customer and hanger-on alike, at Saturdays Surf, which in the last couple of years has rapidly established itself as a post-J. Crew lifestyle brand for would-be beach bums.

My friend — we’ll call him Laird — has more surfing experience than I have, which is to say that on a recent trip to Mexico he rented a board and took it out onto the water and managed to stand up a few times. At Saturdays Surf, that might have placed him in the top quartile.

There’s a rack of surfboards near the front of the store, like an art display you walk past to get to the clothes, which are, it should be said, extremely respectable basics that have much to do with the downtime before or after surfing. The clothes are handsome and neutral: a thin-stripe tank top ($48) and a short-sleeve oxford ($98) felt almost purposely unmemorable. Basic pants ($118) were beautifully cut and sturdy. A navy trench with angled pockets ($275) drew no attention to itself.

The verisimilitude was in the details. The fitting room is actually a curtain on a circular rod that juts out into the narrow store and recalls a beach shower (and which provides a show, via shadows, to other customers); the restroom has a pull-chain toilet and a door made from what looks like repurposed driftwood.

Out back behind the store, a bunch of people who had defied the hot day by buying coffee at the coffee bar inside were seated on benches, in what may be one of the most appealing after-hours/lock-in spots in the city. Inside, the racks held books like an anthology of Surfer magazine, but also fashion magazine bricks like Inventory and The New Order.

This is, in a way, one manner of surfing in New York, by shopping at a store in which the best item is a rugged and dignified-looking tote bag, made in collaboration with Porter ($299), that one uses to take things to the beach.

BUT there is a truer way, if one wishes to catch a wave. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, maybe 40 minutes by car from New York’s surfing semi-Mecca, the Rockaways, is the recently opened Pilgrim Surf + Supply. It carries, proportionately, many more things that could be worn in the act of surfing: plenty of swimsuits, some Vans you can easily kick off into the sand. Antônio Carlos Jobim was playing on the store’s turntable. There were some clothes that perhaps only surfers would wear, like the heavy plaid shirts by VSTR ($95) or the button-down club collar Bajalike popover by Baron Wells ($118).

On a previous trip to the store, I had fallen for a rain parka, a collaboration between Norse Projects and Elka, in a shade of melon so alive, so sharp, it looked like how I imagine “The Simpsons” would illustrate spent nuclear fuel. Even though it had the weight of fetish gear and fit like a caftan, I was still dreaming about it, but it was gone this time around.

Here, the surfboards were spread up against the back wall, with more options to choose from. You got the sense someone might come here to actually buy one of them, or at minimum to debate their merits; in two visits to Saturdays Surf, I didn’t see anyone linger at the surfboards, which were similarly priced, around $600 to $1,000 in both stores. (At both stores, there was a range of surf DVDs for sale, as well as surfboard wax.)

While I was at Pilgrim, someone drove up in a small truck and pulled a surfboard out of the back, which he proceeded to scrutinize with a couple of friends. I asked a salesman with a load of curls atop his head and sun-reddened skin if he wouldn’t rather be in the ocean than working the floor, and he said “Of course.”

Still, he answered Laird’s questions generously: thinner boards and those with a pointier tip were for more experienced surfers; newbies should stick to the wide, flat ones. He urged us to head out to the beach, rent a board and see what felt comfortable. He used the phrase “fish thruster” with ease. He was speaking his native tongue.

To read the original placement of the article in the NY Times click the image above.


Toddy said...

It's odd to hear an admitted non-surfer bashing on a surf shop no matter how much he's going for a sense of "authenticity." This guy obviously has some opinions about what is "real." And really it just goes to show the success the industry and culture has achieved in telling us what being a "real" anything should look and feel like. Which is sad.
The real take away, I suppose, is that wherever you net out on your opinion of the Saturdays deal (this guy surely nets out somewhere specific) his Pilgrim experience was as it should be. Nice people striving to be helpful with something they feel passionately about.

Anonymous said...

Is New York Pipe Dreams still around?

Anonymous said...

I think Pipe Dreams closed.
There are plenty of other surf shop in the area as well.
Sundown, Unsound, Atlantic, Boarders etc...
Apparently the NY Times is going for that Downtown/Brooklyn-centric thing.

Mr. Lentini said...

hilarous all the way through