Local Surfer Has Beach Saving Ideas
As Rockaway waits to hear how the government plans to protect the beaches and the peninsula after Hurricane Sandy, residents have been doing some brainstorming of their own. Taking his experience as a longtime surfer, Rockaway resident Alexander Karinsky has some ideas that would provide protection for the peninsula, while making the beach a prime surfing spot.
Karinsky responded to The Wave’s request for ideas in the MoMA dome in early April. He proposed a combination of suggestions which include a manmade reef system and a promenade which doubles as a beach wall. Together, he believes these features will serve to “provide shoreline fortification, protect the edge of the coastal element, promote sea life and not interfere with the current water conditions.”
Having spent much of his life surfing around the world, Karinsky highlighted some islands in Fiji and Tahiti which are surrounded by naturally occurring reefs. He explained how these reefs take the impact of waves and suck the energy out of them, which means that bigger waves crash far off from land, keeping the coastline safe from major flooding or sand erosion. However these natural reefs also provide some of the best waves in the world with 20 to 30 foot swells.
While the reefs of Namotu in Fiji and Teahupo’o in Tahiti are naturally occurring, reef systems can also be added. Amalgamate Solutions and Research (ASR), a world leader in the design and construction of multi-purpose artificial reefs, has made it possible in places like the Boscombe shoreline in Dorset, England and in Kovalam, India.
Karinsky suggests building artificial reefs off the shores of the peninsula. The reefs would be built out of granite or as ASR uses, sand filled geotextile containers. They would be about 300 yards off shore and would only be about six and a half feet tall. Karinsky says the reef wouldn’t be built as one long wall that runs parallel to the shoreline but would have intermittent breaks, as this would turn the shallow waters into a lagoon, effectively eliminating all waves from hitting the shoreline, while large waves would only break on the reefs.
Understanding that non-surfing beachgoers might want some wave action in the more shallow waters, Karinsky suggests building these reefs with channels in between them. This would allow some wave energy to pass through, leaving “world class waves” of about 30-feet to break on the reef for the surfers and six to seven foot waves in shallow waters for the boogie-boarding fans.
As an avid surfer and the producer of the late 90’s surfing show, NYC Wipeout, Karinsky sees the benefit of creating these reefs for surfers. The reefs would create “umpteen fantastic, different waves,” which would attract more surfers to the area. With great waves breaking along the entire peninsula, hundreds of surfers wouldn’t have to fight for the waves on Beach 92nd Street, Rockaway’s designated surfing beach. With more surfers around, business would be boosted and there would be a “per head cost benefit to the community for maintaining the surfing breaks,” Karinsky said.
Karinsky says these reefs would not interfere with the natural water flow from east to west. He claims that lining up perpendicular jetties along the entire peninsula would affect the water flow, which could have a negative impact. “If they propose building jetties, they’re playing with nature,” Karinsky said.
Citing the success of some of ASR’s projects and the naturally occurring reefs in Tahiti and Fiji, Karinsky believes this system would be successful in Rockaway. With the reefs reducing the wave energy hitting the beach, the peninsula will be better protected and the sand won’t erode so much, which would save the City time and money on constant beach replenishment.
Karinsky’s other idea for keeping the sand on the beach includes a promenade running along the peninsula. His old hometown beach in Australia, Bondi Beach, “never had to pump sand. They never had to replenish,” Karinsky said. That’s because Bondi has a promenade that runs along the entire beach and also doubles as a beach wall.
Karinsky presented different examples of promenade designs in France and Spain, but he said he would prefer to see a promenade in the style of Bondi’s. The mile-long concrete promenade has ramps which allow for handicap access. The high wall of the promenade keeps the sand and potential flood waters off the land, while providing a large space for visitors to walk, bike and run on. Above that promenade is a second level which is strictly used for parking. Karinsky says the City would like this feature in particular as they could charge visitors for parking if they wanted to.
He suggested that the promenade should be built 13-14 feet high as this would create a large beach wall that could help prevent flood waters and sand from invading the streets in the event of a future large storm. He recommends that the promenade should run along the entire peninsula, including Breezy Point. The promenade could be beautified so that it would be aesthetically pleasing instead of just being a large chunk of concrete.
So who would pay for this grand idea? “The City and feds have money from the relief bill to rebuild but they don’t have to use all of that money for this,” Karinsky said, noting that only a portion of the Sandy relief bill could go towards his suggestion. To cover the rest of the costs, he suggests that large companies step in.
Companies may want a way to help Rockaway after Sandy or they may want a creative way to get their name out there, so they could sponsor the reef or a section of it and have their logo placed on the structure, making it visible from an aerial view. The reef could also be named for a company, like Kodak Reef in Hawaii. Some companies may also take pride in the fact that the reef that they sponsored would create world class waves, Karinsky noted.
To start, one or a few of these reef walls could be built in a pilot program to show the community their effectiveness. A company like ASR could take on the project or different reef manufacturers can all partake in the building of this system.
Karinsky believes that this system could have prevented the damage that occurred during Hurricane Sandy and he had this idea brewing in his brain even before the storm hit, but he’s not sure how open the rest of the community would be towards this project.
“Everyone got damaged in different ways. Their scars are different. Some will want it and some won’t,” Karinsky said.
Karinsky is hoping to present his idea to The Army Corps of Engineers as they conduct studies to determine what methods would be most effective to protect the peninsula.
“This idea makes sense. I traveled to all those spots where there are those reef systems and I always marveled at how well the coastline is protected. It’s a no brainer. Combine that with a fortified concrete promenade and beach wall, with a walkway that can be beautified; it’s not going anywhere,” Karinsky said.