Words and Photographs by Jesse James
“I MUST BE A MERMAID, RANGO. I HAVE NO FEAR OF DEPTHS AND A GREAT FEAR OF SHALLOW LIVING.”
It’s summertime and my ears are so clogged with water that everyone sounds like a muppet. The characters of Rockaway beach are in full motion. The locals, an ostentation of peacocks, a murder of crows, a tube of surfers; are all flamboyantly unique, yet stuck together like glue. I feel that the commonality of people that move to this town is that they love the vibrancy and energy of New York City, but they’re slightly too salty for the city life and have an insatiable addiction to the sea.
In the high season, the boardwalk is swarming with sunburns and flip flops and the beach transforms into a sea of umbrellas. On good surf days, dawn breaks and dawn patrol dovetails into an insatiable hunger. I weave through the crowd on my skateboard searching for my post surf banana shake and avocado toast.
One night in late June I was hanging out at a bar in Brooklyn with a bunch of goons when I got this cosmic urge to jump in my car and rush back to the damn beach. The moon was full and illuminated like a jellyfish, floating paralyzed in the sky. I ran for my board as the lines seemed cleaner than those at the bar. Dark and velvety smooth, but clear and sharp like glass. There is something so entrancing about night surfing. You can feel the silent orchestration of the man in the moon, and the moon herself has a gravitational pull so strong, it causes the ocean to bulge.
The Rockaways peak like a wave, making the winter feel like a bit of a lull. The essence of summer travels through the winter causing elemental disturbance to the surface and suddenly it breaks, releasing all the hard work from the seasons prior. Even though the waves are better and way less crowded in the winter, there is something about the summer that feels like the ultimate reward. Fish tacos, beers, burgers, bon fires, and surfing in a bikini reminds you what you’re living for.