2003-07-18 / Sports

Surfing Stars, But Not In Rockaway

By Elio Velez
Surfing Stars, But Not In Rockaway By Elio Velez


Team Tsunami’s  Ray Wilkins, Barbara Ott and Michael Caiazzo pose with their trophies.Team Tsunami’s Ray Wilkins, Barbara Ott and Michael Caiazzo pose with their trophies.

Surfing on the beach is a national pastime but no other place than Rockaway on the east coast can provide the waves that attract surfers from all around the city and the world. The most famous surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, gave surfing exhibitions at Beach 38 Street in the early 20th century. For Rockaway and other surfers, the waves attract surfers all year round from the summer heat to the wintry cold.

But there are some problems that go along with surfing. The issues have always with been surfing on an official designated beach, which has been debated for years on Beach 88 through 90 Street. Another issue has been that though there are many good Rockaway surfers, not enough kids and adults may take advantage or know how to get involved in the sport. William Acosta would like be one of those people who could help try to solve the other problems that surround the beach.

Acosta is the owner of the Tsunami surf shop on Beach 92 Street and he is looking toward the many ways Rockaway would benefit from surfing. Though he is not a surfer, Acosta talked about how he saw people go to the water in subzero temperatures in the middle of the winter. "Every morning I went to the beach (Beach 88-90) and I saw the guys changing in the street and not having a place where they could call their home. I wanted to help."

With help from local surfers and volunteers, Acosta opened up his shop as surf shop in front of the store with his investigative service in the back.


Barbara Ott surfs the waves of Tiana Beach in Long Island.Barbara Ott surfs the waves of Tiana Beach in Long Island.

Acosta wants to attract surfers and those with swimming experience to the beach. "We have a community with a lot of retired firemen, police officers, EMS and city workers with their families who have had experience in the waters and who are surfers", says Acosta, a retired police officer. "It’s a good way to get the community together and do something positive."

For most surfers, the only competitions are held in places like Long Island, where the Tsunami crew headed last weekend to compete. At The ESA/Peconic Paddle Off at Tiana Beach on June 28, many members of the team won medals in the many categories. Winners included Barbara Ott, who placed second in shoreboard girls 17 and under division, Luke Thomas, who places first in the masters’ longboard competition division and Michael Caiazzzo, won second place in bodyboarding.

Acosta has been in discussions with the Eastern Surfboard Association President Rick Anthony, the Parks Department and Councilman Joe Addabbo’s office to introduce an annual tournament here in the Rockaways.

Addabbo is very supportive of surfing as being beneficial for the Rockaways. "It (surfing) is a way of life and it helps to promote out beautiful beaches. We are definitely aware of the issues of surfing year around especially at it increases in September, October and November."


William Acosta, owner of the Tsunami Surf Shop.William Acosta, owner of the Tsunami Surf Shop.

Another member of the team is Ray Wilkins, who placed first in men’s master (25-29) shoreboard, is a resident who grew up and surfed here. Wilkins entered his first ever tournament with the ESA competition because he wanted to meet people and surf on great waves. "I started surfing out here when I was seven years old". I was a bodyboarder and I ran into my friend Buddy Sammis, who was older. I asked him to use his surfboard and that was it, as soon as I got on it and I fell in love."

Buddy Sammis is one of the volunteer coaches along with Dave Moastersky, Umberto Carbonell and Fernando Pires, who Acosta has asked to help kids and adults on how to surf, bodyboard and other activities. The volunteers are not getting paid and children and adults who may be interested can learn for free. Acosta also would like to help minority children who may not be able to swim, afford a surfboard and teach them how to properly surf the water. "A kid that is involved in sports will be an excellent adult because he won’t have time to hang out in the corner looking for something to do."

Acosta is not only wants to contribute to a safe and viable for environment for surfers, he is hopeful that people from the outside will want to invest in to the community and the beaches. "We have the best waters in the world. The richness of the sea, the Atlantic Ocean is amazing". Education about how to use the beach and keep it safe and clean is also a very important ideal for Acosta.

Acosta has a lot of optimism that surfing will zoom to a higher popularity here in the Rockaways. Acosta does not want to take credit or hog the spotlight because his intention is for all of the community to come together and use a great resource as the beach. "We have the best surfers in the world in this beach. They are so dedicated".


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