2010-11-19 / Front Page

Fighting For His Life

Wooden Pylons Blamed For Near-Drowning
By Howard Schwach

A Rockaway surfer clings to life after his ankle tether got snagged on some unused underwater pylons that should have been removed years ago, fellow surfers say. 

One of the firefighters who made the rescue changes from his Scuba gear back into his clothing. One of the firefighters who made the rescue changes from his Scuba gear back into his clothing. The 20-year-old surfer who was identified only as Josh, nearly drowned on Friday, November 12 while surfing at Beach 92 Street at about 4:36 p.m.

Fellow surfers and fire department divers swam out to help the distressed man, whose ankle tether – a line that ties a surfer to his board – got snagged on the submerged wooden pylons that were part of a longremoved jetty system.

“The pylons are super dangerous,” said a surfer who witnessed the accident. “It’s only a matter of time before they kill somebody.”

Near the same jetty, an area that surfers call “The Sticks,” a 36-year-old surfer died exactly a year ago when he was knocked from his board into nearby rocks.

Shaun Reen has lived in Rockaway for 57 years. He says he has been surfing the area for 45 years.

“I understand the initial need for the construction of the wooden jetties,” Reen told The Wave this week. “History has proven that they did not save the beach as they were intended to do. Now, dilapidated and pointed, they only pose a hazard to surfers. Ten years ago or so, the Army Corps of Engineers filled in the beaches and cut off the ends of the jetties so the coastline might look more like North Carolina. Now, most people have no idea where the jetties are, red flags notwithstanding.”

“I grew up with these jetties,” he added, “but now they have to go.”

Reen said angrily that if the city won’t remove the “sticks,” then the surfers should be given the go-ahead to do it for themselves.

“It’s not surfing that kills us, nor the waves,” he argued. “In this case, it’s the city that allows these ‘sticks’ to remain in place.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Parks said that an erosion study is underway and is expected to include recommendations for the future of the pylons.

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