The Pipeline: New York Surf School

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 You paddle out and wait for the right moment. With a little help from an experienced instructor, you find your perfect wave. With all your power you paddle towards the shore and wait for the cue to “pop-up.” Before you know it, you’re standing up, with only a board between your feet and the ocean, and you’re riding the wave. The feeling of accomplishment is unlike any other, that is, until the wipeout, but, hey, no one is expected to be perfect the first time. But those at New York Surf School have perfected the art of sharing the stoke.

NY Surf School, owned by longtime surfer and Rockaway resident, Frank Cullen, is the longest-running surf school in Rockaway, and it almost started by accident. Cullen originally started playing around with a “longboard aficionado website.”  After learning to build websites himself, he decided to create a site where he offered surf lessons. “I made the site and I started getting calls,” Cullen said. “I was so happy when I taught my first lesson and someone got up. I couldn’t believe it. It’s so amazing to watch someone get it. It’s almost as fun as surfing yourself. You know they feel the way you feel when you ride the waves,” Cullen said, and with that, NY Surf School formed in 2006. “At first it was just me and one board. But the calls started coming in and I bought more boards and hired more instructors and it kept expanding,” he said. NY Surf School, certified by the National Surf Schools and Instructors Association, is now comprised of about 50 boards and 14 instructors who are CPR and first aid certified.

NY Surf School operates seven days a week and offers everything from private lessons to group lessons, surf camps and yoga and surfing classes. Each lesson includes land instruction to go over the basics of surfing, safety and surf etiquette. Then the rest of the time is spent in the water with instructors who help set you up to catch the perfect wave and let you know when to stand up to ride it to shore. NY Surf School uses high-quality equipment and wetsuits to make the experience even better. Cullen says that some have utilized his surf school for special events like birthdays or bachelorette parties and big brands like Nike, Patagonia and Corcoran Group had utilized them for company outings. They’re also helped train actors who never surfed a day in their life to look like pros just in time for commercial shoots.

On a sweltering Monday mor­ning, there was no better place to be than in the water. After applying plenty of sunscreen suiting up, I was paired with the friendly and knowledgeable instructor Kat McNamee. We spent about 15 minutes in the sand as she spoke about safety and the basic positioning and moves that would later help me ride the waves. Before I knew it, I was in the water with a large group of everyone from kids to adults, who were already putting their skills to the test. I was provided with a vinyl-topped foam board that Kat applied wax to as we got in the water. She made sure to mark off exactly where I should lay on the board so I could use it as reference each time. I had taken a few surfing lessons previously, but with it being at least two years since I tried the sport, I wasn’t feeling extremely confident. So it came as a pleasant surprise when Kat set me up on my first wave of the day and I was able to stand up and ride it all the way in. Throughout the afternoon, with the help of Kat, Frank, and the other instructors, I was able to stand up on all but one wave. It was an incredible, fun afternoon and after such success, I may have officially caught the bug. I can’t wait to practice on my own time, taking what I learned at New York Surf School with me.

New York Surf School is located at Beach 69th Street. Walk-ins are accepted but reservations are encouraged. Check out www.surflessonsNewYork101.com or call or text 718-496-3371 to set up a lesson. You can also like them on Facebook or follow NYSurfSchool on Instagram.

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