I lived in New York for 25 years before I realized that I lived next to the ocean. Yes, I can read maps–it’s just that growing up on the Upper West Side, Cape Cod seemed closer than Far Rockaway. But when I got into surfing and moved to Brooklyn, I was determined to find a place where I could catch some waves. And that’s how I got hooked on that magical place- Far Rockaway.

It wasn’t just the surf– yes the beach is beautiful– but the break was always overcrowded and the splintered pilings created a dangerous obstacle. For me, it was the boardwalk. Those beautiful wooden slats became an elevated sidewalk, bike path, or living room- whatever you decided to make it.

From the 91st St. break, the boardwalk would lead me to the Rockaway concessions and my favorite juice stand. I loved to sit there for hours making conversation, and feeling absolutely no rush to be anywhere else. I would devour a tostada and guacomole from Rockaway Taco, sometimes catching the pop-up sushi stand, and always washing everything down with a beer from the Low Tide Bar.

The boardwalk also led me to Boarders, the local surf shop owned by a guy named Steve, who was always happy to watch my car keys, loan me a wetsuit, or give me some extra wax, free of charge. It was a hub of weekend hipsters, local skateboarders, and French tourists signing up for lessons. The shop is a few blocks away from the beach, so I’m crossing my fingers that it isn’t too badly damaged.

I hate speaking in the past tense about the Rockaway Boardwalk, but the fact is that the area is irrevocably damaged. Thank god there was no loss of life, but the loss of people’s homes and history is truly saddening. I can only hope that when the boardwalk is rebuilt, it will be exactly like the one we just lost. Because that Far Rockaway was perfect.

More from the author at www.NeonMamacita.com
All photos shot by the author over the course of a few summers

Want to help out? Here are a few resources, I will update them the more I learn:

Volunteer: How to Volunteer
Donate: Mayors Fund to Advance New York City
Stay Informed: Rockawave, Rockaway’s local paper
Follow: Rockaway Relief on Facebook
Occupy: Occupy Sandy