2013-09-27 / Community

Hosts Rockaway Surf Club Surfing Retrospective

By John W. Roberts


Inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club’s “Talk Story: The History of New York Surf- ing” Inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club’s “Talk Story: The History of New York Surf- ing” On Saturday, September 21st, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club on Beach 87th Street hosted “Talk Story: The History of New York Surfing.”

Included in the retrospective’s festivities was a showing of vintage surf photographs of the “elder statesmen” of the Rockaway surf scene who were the guests of honor.

There was an exhibit of vintage surfboards from the longboard era of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Big wave legend Rusty Miller came in from Australia to attend and autograph copies of his book Turning Point. A screening of the vintage surf film “Morning of the Earth” was projected on a big screen in the club’s courtyard.

The event was the brainchild of Brandon D’Leo a 43 year old surfer and working artist and his Australian girlfriend, Davina Grincevicius


John Roberts, Brandon D’Leo and Dee McLean John Roberts, Brandon D’Leo and Dee McLean The Surf Club itself has an interesting history.

D’Leo’s Surf Club partner, Brady Walsh, works for the FDNY. Walsh and D’Leo first met in Colorado and then serendipitously reconnected years later on the same street in Rockaway Beach. They had a seminal idea to create a place where people could work on projects such as building surfboards, skateboards and making beach accessories. They also saw it as a place to host events and have workshops on topics like surf etiquette. Their original cliental was from Rockaway Beach. The surfers from Brooklyn and Manhattan started coming on the A train to go surfing. This gave them the idea first developed by Steve and Christian Stathis of Boarders Surf Shop to build and rent lockers so boards and equipment could be stored locally. The evolution of the Rockaway Beach Surf Club and its mission had no definition other than to see what happened and where it would go. D’Leo felt that surfers today did not have an appreciation of surf culture and history. He wanted to bring back vintage surfboards and show their lineage and provide a sense of connectivity to the origin of surfing in Rockaway. Slowly, the concept caught on by word of mouth.


Carol McNelis and Lou Romas enjoy the exhibition featuring vintage photos, boards and other memorabilia from the New York surfing scene Carol McNelis and Lou Romas enjoy the exhibition featuring vintage photos, boards and other memorabilia from the New York surfing scene During Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club became a relief center for the area. It served as a conduit for 5,000 volunteers helping with demolition removal and cleanup of 730 basements between Beach 67th and Beach 116th Streets. D’Leo still very much believes in the Rockaways, including the surf community. His vision is that Rockaway grows and that businesses open in a thoughtful way. He hopes that Rockaway doesn’t lose its charm.

The reason for hosting “The History of Surfing in New York” he said, was, “to provide a sense of connectiveness between the new wave of surfers and the old vanguard who preceded them.”

“Talk Story” guests of honor included the elder statesmen of Rockaway surfing, Buddy Sammis, Dee McClean, Dennis McClean, Dennis Farrell, Don Eichin, Ed McCabe, George Lintz, John Roberts, John Beattie, Winfried Breirer, Lou Romas, Jerry Reen and Pat Reen. They came to “Talk Story” which is a Hawaiian tradition of remembering the past and preserving it for the future. It provides a sense of history, culture and appreciation for surfing.

Old acquaintances were renewed and surf stories were told. The music of Barry Flannagan and his Grammy winning group HAPA was played, providing a connection to the pure Hawaiian language, culture and music. A great time was had by one and all.

Dee McClean, a local surf legend whose classic photo of him “hanging ten” was displayed, has seen the ebb and flow of Rockaway surfing over the past decades.

He said, “the Rockaway Beach Surf Club is a wonderful group who loves the community and worked tirelessly during Sandy to help rebuild it.”

T.A. Fitzpatrick who contributed old photos and a quiver of vintage longboards noted, “they are a 100% asset to the Rockaway community.”

You can get in touch with the Rockaway Beach Surf Club on their Website, Rockaway Beach Surf Club.com. Their email and Facebook address is RBsurfclub@gmail.com.

They will be holding events every Saturday through November 9th. It is a must see place with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The “Talk Story” exhibit will bring you down memory lane and connect you with the past.

Asked why he is honoring the old time surfers of Rockaway Beach, D’Leo responded without hesitation that, “I hope when I am older, someone will remember and honor me.”

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