Izzy, a 26-year-old stockbroker, gets a call from a friend. “The waves are breaking good,” is all that he hears. He doesn’t even stop to tell his boss a lie. He just grabs his jacket, turns out the light at his desk and heads for the LIRR. When he gets to his parents’ house in Atlantic Beach and realizes he forgot the key, he jimmies open the kitchen window, knocks out the screen and crawls in to gather up his surfing gear. “I wasn’t going to sit there and wait for my father,” he recalls. “I had to get out there with the dudes.”
The dudes, in this case, are 10 guys in their 20s from the Five Towns who spend most of their time surfing, or at least talking about it. They all work by day—they are dentists or architects or brokers or ad salesmen or graphic designers—but in their own minds, they’re riding the waves, that is, when they’re not making fart jokes or animal noises. This is the fantasy that has bound them together since elementary school, when they were outcasts, troublemakers and pranksters. Surfing bound them together. Surfing outlasted the dirt bikes and the skateboards. Surfing was what made them feel like kings to the rhinoplastied princesses cruising their BMWs in the school parking lot. They were to Lawrence what Spicoli was to Ridgemont High.
It is chilly on this early summer day, so Izzy pulls on his gloves, boots and wetsuit. He lugs his short board over to his buddy Justin’s idling Jeep, climbs in, and they career over to Eldorado Street, the public beach wedged between Catalina and Silverpoint, two posh clubs that hire bouncers to keep the riff raff off their sand. The surfers jump on their boards and paddle out to meet their friends, who are arrayed in the water like bobbing ducks in a carnival game. They are waiting for the big one. Waiting is something they know well, something they have mastered as well as charming their moms to do their laundry. Because the sad truth of their noble obsession is that the waves here suck.
Sometimes they get lucky with calm winds or high waves. The wind is better in the mornings, and of course hurricane season brings the better rides—waves as high as eight feet. But basically what they get here are beach breaks, short choppy waves that normally reach a height of, say, two feet. Good waves, like the 20-footers in Hawaii, come from reefs and point breaks far from shore. Nothing like that here. But that two-footer will carry you all the way to shore if you get on top of it. And if you can pick the right one. In the meantime, they talk trash.
“Hey, Izzy,” yells Evan. “Did you close the deal with KO’s mommy?” KO’s is the local Chinese food restaurant, where they hang out for the Volcano, a drink that comes out flaming, in a cup the shape of its namesake. KO’s mommy is the bartender.
“Definitely, dude,” says Iz, suddenly paddling off like mad after a wave.
“Hey, what’s out there?” asks Steve, looking toward the horizon, trying to find the ripple that caught Izzy’s eye. “You never really fully know which wave is going to be good,” says Jon, “The ocean is pretty unreadable.” But Izzy seems to have caught something, because he makes it up on his feet, and he’s riding the board just before the crest. His theory: “You stay right next to where the curl is, or get into the tube.” But the wave doesn’t stay up and neither does Izzy. It fades into the shore, and Izzy hops off, taking care to jump behind the board so it doesn’t clock him.
This two-hour afternoon session wasn’t as good as these surfers expected. As one put it, “Only chest high and choppy winds.” They missed the best waves, which came at dawn, as they do 99 percent of the time because they all have to go to work in the mornings. Nevertheless, the pals leave the water feeling good. “A day of small waves,” says Izzy, “is better than any day in the city.”
Even in Atlantic Beach, where surfing in most spots is illegal much of the year, the law’s rarely enforced. It strikes the dudes as funny, in a way, because the surfing’s just not great on AB. As a break from the rat race, however, it’s awesome. “It makes it even more appealing in AB,” Izzy says, “because it’s so comical.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 24, 1999