Tales From the Outer Bar - Surf Fire Island

10/19/16  An Amazing Fall of Waves in New York

What can I say about the Fall of 2016 here on Long Island?  For one, my eyes are still salty and my arms are noodles. Its been anywhere from "Good to Epic" it seems since Labor Day. Hurricanes stalling, light onshore winds that didn't mess things up. Full days of offshore winds…generally unheard of around these parts. Couple all this with warmer than normal weather and water temperature and you have the makings of a Fall to remember. It's been amazing and we aren't even through October. Next up Nor'easters!  YEW!!!


2/25/16  Missing Otis, Winer Storms, Army Corps of Engineers Folly


     It's been a tough beginning to 2016 for me and my family with the unexpected passing of the one and only Otis, our beloved yellow labrador.  Otis, as many of his adoring fans know, was the reason www.surffireisland.com was created.  The surf report was in a lot of ways just a picture of Otis with the waves in the background.   He was a very photogenic dog.   Many of his photos seem to depict him in deep thought.  His appreciation of the beauty of Fire Island always came through.  He touched people who he never met.  When Julie and I posted his passing to social media we were both overwhelmed by the reaction.  People from Hawaii, Europe and all over the continental U.S. showered Otis with thoughtful eulogies and shared how just seeing Otis on the beach "made their day."  We are so grateful for all the memories we shared with you.  

     Julie and I were reminiscing recently about how many sunrises/sunsets Otis saw in his life.  We did some crude math.  We had Otis for almost 11 years.  In that time I took him to the beach just about everyday.  So, 365 days in a year.  Figure about 100 of those days perhaps there was rain or clouds...maybe I was hungover and didn't make it down to the beach a few days. So we settled on around 250 days a year X 10.5 years.  That makes 2625 days.   Two thousand, six hundred and twenty five sunrises/sunsets!!  We both got a good laugh at that.  He lived a charmed life!   He left us at the beginning of a new year, after seeing all his family at the Holidays…and at a time when our newborn son Jack was just getting to know him.  He chose to" burn out not fade away" as Neil Young put it.  Rest In Peace Otis and Thank You for coming into our lives.

   After a relatively quiet start to winter in the Northeast, 2016 brought a series of blizzards and wild weather.  Winter storm Saturn hit during a astronomically high tide, which led to another round of severe erosion on our barrier island.  Two other storm systems also did significant damage to the beach after that storm.  This is occurring while the Army Corps of Engineers is doing a "beach replenishment" project.  Each of these storms (and you know there will be at least one or two more before spring arrives) took the sand that they pumped onto the beach back out to sea.  It is beyond doubt that this project is a joke and a waste of time/energy/money.  What is the answer to protecting our beaches from erosion?  I don't know.  I do know that stealing sand from the outer bars off of Fire Island and attempting to raise the beach 5 feet is like putting a bandaid on a slit throat.  Sea level rise is real, climate change is bringing stronger storms to our coast.  The writing is on the wall.  Enjoy the little slice of heaven that is Fire Island while you still can….


10/15/15  Joaquin Swell, Long Island surf rant, Surfer or Photog?/ Rest  In Peace Terrance Hassard

     Well, I've finally had a chance to catch up and process what was an amazing run of surf for Long Island.  A three week stretch of significant waves tested my surfing, family and work relationships!  Much appreciation to my awesome wife, Julie, for understanding that being in the water allows me to be a better husband and father.  Ditto to my mother-in-law for pitching in during the swell and keeping little Jack happy!  


     With a run of swell like we had and the mostly favorable winds for Long Island there were a lot of people surfing here.  Being a middle aged surfer  (damn I'm almost 40!) I've seen the progression and popularity of being a New York surfer change many times.  From my childhood learning to surf when very few did, to the peak of "surfing is cool" with the Quicksilver Pro N.Y. , things have definitely changed.  What I would like to comment on is the almost universal lack of  desire for "the search".  It amazes me how so many people can go to one spot time and time again.  Whatever happened to thinking outside the box and seeking your own spot.  Growing up it was how we did it.  There is a unique stoke that goes with finding a wave off the beaten track and sharing it with just your buddies.  It seems lost on this next generation... the idea of the "hunt."  Instead they all go to the same spot, crowd the lineup, catch one or two waves and then bitch that it's crowded.  While other spots may not have been as clean or "perfect", they were empty and fun.  I would take that over crowded clean waves all day long!

     Another thing I've learned through this Fall  of waves is that I am still a surfer first.  I can't seem to be pulled out of the water when the waves are firing.  Perhaps that is what is holding me back from taking my photography to the next level but I can live with that for now.  Surfing is such a powerful and calming influence for me and I want to surf at the highest level I can for as long as I can.  So check out the Joaquin Gallery.  There are only a few shots but that's because I surfed my brains out and chose to catch waves not clicks.  Here's to more waves and maybe some bass as well in the Fall of 2015  


As a side note, I was surfing on one day of the swell and ran into a baby sea turtle.  It was sleeping in the lineup and I actually was able to sit right next to it.  It was the first time I've seen one alive while surfing and it was really cool to see.


     Lastly, I want to share some thoughts on the passing of Terrance Hassard.  Terrance and his buddies (Rob, Dakota, Derek and others) are much younger than me.  I guess you can call them the next generation out on eastern Fire Island.  Terrance always had a big smile on his face,  was respectful and truly knew how to charge.  He will be missed in and out of the water and his passing is a reminder that there are no guarantees in this world.  Life is to be lived and each moment should be appreciated.  I know Terrance knew that and believe his soul is surfing the universe.  To his friends and family….I wish you peace and love.  Terrance will always be with you….


6/3/15  Jack's Sea Life bedroom

Leading up to the birth of Jack, my wife and I wanted to create a baby room that would be different and inspiring.  We didn't know the sex of our child so we wanted to do something that a boy or girl would love...it was an easy decision to go with a sea life theme since we both love the water and assume (hope) our child would also.  For once, Facebook helped.  I reconnected with an old High School friend (20years later!) who does custom Murals for a living.  Melissa Digiose did an amazing job from start to finish.  She came up with the concept, asked us for feedback and things we wanted in the mural and did a professional job in under 4 days.  While Jack is still too young to fully appreciate his room, we do take him up there and he does stare at the sea creatures.  We can't wait till he is older and can imagine and have fun in his ocean room.  Check out Melissa's work on her website and give her a call if you want a Mural in your home!  http://www.mycustommurals.com/index.html



An Ode To Otis

A lot has changed for me in the past year.  Since I last posted a blog in July, my life has most definitely transformed.  Sometime in the next few weeks my amazing wife Julie and I will be having our first child.  For 10 years it was just us and our dog Otis.  As we enter a new chapter in our lives I wanted to share how much I appreciate what Otis has done for my wife and I.

When we bought our house 10 years ago one of our first priorities was getting a dog.  Julie had her heart set on a chocolate labrador but I said, lets just see what happens.  What happened was Julie's Uncle knew someone getting "rid" of a yellow lab that was "too much to handle."  We showed up at this house and see "Sparky" (Otis' old name).  He is sitting there waging his tail and all sorts on anxious to check us out.  We take him in the backyard and  I knew this was a good dog.  Within a hour we are taking "Sparky" home.  "Sparky" was 5 months old and had lived a sheltered life.  He was shipped to New York on a train from a breeder out west.  He was taken home by this family at Christmas and was given to us because the owner didn't realize how big labs got...

We took "Sparky" to the beach that afternoon.  I will never forget the look he gave me upon seeing the ocean.    An instant bond formed.  From that first day till now Otis (we changed Sparky to Otis two days later) has been our best friend.  His companionship, loyalty and spirit are always brightening up our lives, especially when we need it most.  

Otis' favorite thing is that morning car ride to the beach.  Its been just him and me for these past 10 years in the truck.  The other day we put the car seat in the truck for the baby.  We went for a ride to the beach with Otis now sitting on one side of the back seat.  He didn't seem to mind as long as he was going to the beach.  

I can't wait for Otis  and our baby to become best friends and I thank you, Otis, for being the most amazing dog I've ever known.  Here's to 10 more years of dawn patrols with your new best friend!

Check out Salty Dog Otis' gallery here



Tropical Storm Bertha lives up to it's name

Here on the East Coast things usually get slow (surfing wise) in the summer.   This summer has seen it's fair share of fun surf… waist high wind swell, small, glassy peaks in the morning, wind chop/slop in the afternoon etc.  As July turns to August and the peak of the hurricane season in the Atlantic arrives, New York surfers begin to dream of tropical swells filtering in.  Hurricane Arthu provided the perfect example of how fickle these swells can be.  The forecast for Arthur looked good in the days leading up to it.  Unfortunately it didn't' live up to the "hype".  It was a quick hit swell that popped up as quickly as it disappeared.  If you were on it when it went from waist high to overhead in a matter of minutes you probably were stoked.  But overall it was a bummer.

With  Arthur's letdown fresh in mind I didn't get overly excited about Bertha…especially when it barely reached Hurricane status (for like 12 hours).  It did have a classic track for Long Island's south facing beaches though.  Couple that with favorable winds and I became cautiously optimistic.  So when I woke up on August 6th to hear pumping waves in my backyard I knew it was going to be a good day.  To boot the next day was almost more fun, with smaller but perfectly groomed waves hitting Fire Island's outer bars (SEE PHOTO BELOW).  There were even a few waves left on the 8th!

So here's to Bertha…and to a fun Hurricane season that has only fish storms throwing us waves for days here on the "Right Coast."  


Bertha "leftovers"


The Power of Surfing/The Summer of 2009

     This first entry isn't about some epic hurricane swell or Nor'easter storm surf.  It isn't about lazy summer days on Fire Island or a rant on how tourist suck.  No, this is a story about how surfing, and one amazing person, brought a ragtag bunch of misfits together one summer in 2009.  

      Surfers in New York are a funny breed.  Like surfers everywhere we can be defensive, take our hobby way to seriously and even get jaded about everything from the lousy surf, to that new guy in the water who shouldn't be there.   Fire Island is considered the "Central"  area of the Long Island surf scene (geographically speaking….Montauk and Long Beach get all the fame and glory it seems).  It's a thumping beach break that, more often than not, is a closeout or a mush burger.   For the most part, you surf alone on Fire Island or with only a handful of friends.  Of course, this is not true in the summer when the island gets invaded by everyone and their dog trying to cramp in a year's worth of memories before it's winter again in the Northeast.  The summer season is when Long Island's dedicated year round surfers really get annoyed.  The waves are mostly flat, the beach is covered with yahoos and their garbage while piping plovers have more rights than people.  So the summer of 2009 should have been no different….but it was.

     I will never forget meeting Kristen Bednar.   I mostly knew her in the water at first.  She was always the most stoked person in the lineup.  Always smiling and always creating a great vibe in the water.  She charged hard.  She took poundings and had a NO FEAR attitude when paddling for waves.  We all seemed to quietly admire her from a distance….hoping she would paddle back out next to us and say hello and flash that amazing smile.  Most of us would have been happy enough to just know her as that nice girl who surfs with her husband.  Instead she reached out to us (she actually challenged us).  

     Kristen would make the effort to get to know you.   Not the surfer, the person.  She  was always trying to bring everyone together.  She organized beach parties where everyone was invited.  She accepted everyone.  There was no judgement.  She would laugh and snicker when we would say things like, "I don't like that guy."  Before you knew it her contagious kindness started rubbing off on us.  By the 4th of July in the summer of 2009 Kristen had successfully brought an entire beach community together.  Even if we didn't all like each other we would "tolerate" one another because of her.  She would often remark to my wife, "I created this!" when all of us were together having fun and sharing waves.  It was true.

     When news struck early in the morning on New Years Eve that we had tragically lost her I went to the ocean.  I remember looking at the waves and crying.  The waves were kind of fun that morning, around waist to chest high and semi-clean.  I looked around for a spot that might be breaking with the approaching low tide.  Straight ahead there was this nice peeling wave.  Nothing special but I couldn't take my eyes off of it.  Right behind the wave a seal popped up and looked at me.  I said to myself, that is where I am going to surf.

     Twenty minuetes later I was in the water in that spot all alone.  I cried again I think.  Slowly the word of what had happened began to spread and surfer after surfer started showing up at Smith Point shocked and not knowing what to do…besides surf. By mid-day I think there were over a dozen of us in the water, trading waves and screaming out Kristen's name with each wave caught.  Amazingly, the seal was there the whole time, peaking its head out of the water occasionally but consistently.  The seal never left that day.  We all took it as a sign.  I will never forget that session if only because it reaffirmed to me why I surf.  The feeling of hopelessness I felt paddling out had been replaced by inspiration.  

     That is the power of surfing.