I'll cut the suspense! It's New York City!
(I’ll admit… it is late in the afternoon here and I am tired and not drunk buuuuuut never mind. I wanted to write something fresh and good buuuuuut… and while I was Googling “best surfing towns” I saw that Surfer just finished their honorable and serious but maybe a touch conservative list (Haleiwa, San Clemente etc.) and I also saw an old Stab piece from five years ago written by yours truly. No, the best surf town in the world is not Haleiwa. It is New York City. And right now it is pumping thanks to Maria. Please forgive the hotel/restaurant recommendations in the following. Five years ago = 1000 years ago in New York. Otherwise…. enjoy my lazy!)
New York is the only city on Earth that truly matters. Paris is grand and London is nice and Sydney is chic and Los Angeles is a dream and Cairo and Beijing and Helsinki and Tokyo but New York is New York and all other cities prostrate themselves before her.
New York is broken up in to five distinct neighbourhoods, called boroughs. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Rappers croon about the Bronx. Robert Mapplethorpe made very suggestive art in Queens. Staten Island stars in Good Fellas and hipsters have recently embraced Brooklyn but when Stab speaks of New York it only speaks of Manhattan.
Why here? To be frank, I don’t know. Young Jack Robinson’s father, when he gets your ear, will talk on and on about how the rocks in Western Australia have certain magnetic properties and those properties, when channelled and honed, will produce surfing phenoms like Taj Burrow and his son. He sounds off, but Taj is Taj and Jack is Jack just like New York is New York. Maybe Manhattan has particular chemical properties. Maybe the earth’s tilt focuses on the five boroughs and especially on Manhattan. Maybe who knows. But when you get off a plane in New York. When your train arrives you will feel it. There is the top tier and then there is New York. The food is the best. The hotels are the best. The art is the best. The shopping is the best. The architecture is the best. The streets are the best. The music is the best. The women are not the best. That is what Los Angeles is for.
Where to stay: There are too many places. The Standard, the Standard East Village, the Ace, the Jane, the Gansevoort but Stab chooses the Bowery above all else. It is located in the lower east side, which used to be grimy but is now so hip that it hurts. The Bowery will cost $400 or so dollars a night but it is worth the dent. The rooms are generous, in space, which is rare for New York. They have great old windows, some floor to ceiling that peek out over the city. In-room linens are comfortable. The public spaces are stripped down and built to party in a very sophisticated way. It makes great cocktails. Again, $400 a night may seem hefty but New York demands your dollar and will reward them with the best time. Do not stay cheap. Do not stay with friends. Do not stay cheap.
What to see: Manhattan has sights for days. Each little nook of the island is filled with treasure for the discovery. The meatpacking district is fine for higher-end shopping. Tribeca is fine for cocktails. The lower east side is fine for hip buys. Central park is fine for thoughtful meanders. Soho is fine for all of the above. Downtown is fine to watch Patrick Bateman go to work. Walk, don’t ride or even subway. In walking, you will discover the textural nuances of Manhattan. But you will not see any beautiful women. Unless you are in Soho and then you will see models.
The shivering, blinding contrast of life as a surfer in NYC. Early Autumn hits in water still trunk-able and…
Where to eat: Everywhere. There are too many places to eat in New York. It hurts the head to ponder possibility. Do not listen to the hip New York crowd. They will crow on and on about Momofuku or the newest this and the newest that. Their tastes have become spoiled by excess. They no longer know what actually tastes good. Start with Pastis in the meatpacking. Order a chilled Sancerre, oysters and a steak plus frittes. Go from there.
What to dodge: Do not set foot in Brooklyn. When in New York, the same hip crew that tells you to eat at Momofuku will also live in Brooklyn and tell you to stay in/visit Brooklyn. It is trendy. It is hip. It has better restaurants and more refined boutiques. And this hip crew may be right but for you, and for me, Manhattan is enough. Manhattan is, in fact, too much. And so do not confuse yourself by ultra hip Brooklyn. Leave it be.
Culture: The best museums in the world dot the island. The best museums and priceless works of art and also hipster hovel museums boasting the next Andy Warhol. Art is fabulous, art is divine, art can be dull. Season to taste. Broadway, literal Broadway, hails from New York. The latest most wow musical theatre. Musical theatre is the worst. Do not touch. Simply being in New York is enough culture. Soak in the surroundings. Don’t look shell-shocked. Look slightly jaded.
Work: Who knows? Waiting tables? Moving other people’s things out of their walk-up apartments into other walk-up apartments? Selling magazines from a rack? I don’t know what people do for work in New York. I don’t know how people have time for work with so much culture and fun around.
Surf: You will surf at Rockaway Beach and on Long Island. You will surf during Hurricane season and during the winter, if you feel like wearing a 5 mm wetsuit, a hood, booties and gloves. It will be shit, except for the three days a year surrounding the right hurricane. You will surf because it is a novelty to New Yorkers and you will get appropriate stares, nods of approval, questions. The models in Soho may even talk with you.
Weather: Cold in the winter, humid hot in the summer, perfect in the spring and fall. New Yorkers love it when seasons change and they are right. It is loveable. Enjoy the nuances of each. Dress appropriately for each. Dress appropriate always.
The Good and the Not-So-Good
+ If you can make it here, as they say, y’can make it anywhere. Truth is, having NYC on your CV makes interviewers just melt. Shit don’t stop in the Apple and now it even turns on in what used to be crummy burbs like Brooklyn. Waves, as y’mighta seen on the Quiksilver webcast, can be as good as anywhere. It’s also the centre of the universe, culturally and financially, which is pretty much the reason it got hit so hard and so well by fanatical muslims, so maybe that ain’t such a plus.
– Cold, inconsistent and when the novelty wears off, ain’t that diff to any other dirty big city.