If you can surf in New York, Andreea Waters says, you can surf almost anywhere.
“Strong rip tides, spiky waves, and fast take off make the beach breaks unforgiving. Summers are crazy, with only a few beaches open for surfing, and everyone learning to surf,” Waters said via email.
Waters has seen that firsthand while photographing at several beaches in the New York City region. In her book, Surf NYC, which Schiffer Publishing released in February, she shares visions of a vibrant culture just out of sight for most city residents.
In 2012, Waters was enrolled in a documentary photography class at the International Center of Photography when she first started the project. She’d heard that there was a surf scene in New York City, but she’d never seen it for herself and didn’t know precisely where to find it. When she stopped into Saturdays NYC, a surf lifestyle shop in SoHo, they pointed her to Rockaway Beach in Queens.
“Driving over the bridge onto the peninsula put me in another world. I still remember my first steps on the beach, looking at the surf break and surfers appearing through the fog. That day sparked my love affair between my lens, surfing, and the ocean,” she said.
Waters grew up in Romania, and she’d never seen people surf until she came to the United States. But when she started hanging around Rockaway Beach, she immediately felt a strong “visual infatuation” to what she beheld and became determined to immerse herself in the community there.
“The idea of being an insider, photographing these transient moments and the desire to experience it was my sexy daydream,” she said.
New York City is not a surfing destination. The best waves are in the winter when it’s cold. Nor’easters, meanwhile, can bring world-class waves—but only highly experienced surfers can ride them. Still, she said, New York surf culture is unique—“an electric contrast between the high stress lifestyle of the city, beach freedom, salt air and ocean intoxication.” The people who love it are as diverse as the city itself.
“The city surfer is everyone: Men, women, pro-surfers, incredible artists, firefighters, and people of every ethnicity. It’s New York, a wealth of humanity, and it is brilliant.”