Summer in New York is all about choices. You can drink daiquiris by a rooftop pool or eat brunch in an air-conditioned movie theater, row a boat on Central Park Lake or catch a Broadway matinee. If you’re wellness minded, you can even have yourself a mini-retreat down at Rockaway Beach.
The Surf Club is run by Stephen McManus, the managing director of Three Jewels – an enlightenment studio based in the East Village. Three Jewels opened more than 20 years ago as a Buddhist center, and now pairs Dharma (Buddhist teachings) with meditation and yoga for an integrated path to higher consciousness.
While running a winter retreat in Nicaragua for the studio, McManus started to get excited about summer back in New York. He enlisted the help of a friend to create a kind of condensed version of the Nicaragua trip: a morning of yoga and meditation, followed by a delicious vegan lunch prepared by the friend at her home (which happens to be a block from Rockaway Beach) and then everybody grabs a board and heads down to the ocean.
New York has a thriving surf scene. Midwinter, when the water is wildest, is the preferred season for diehard surfers – dedicated souls who slither into wetsuits and paddle out to catch morning waves at Rockaway. The surf may be less powerful during the summer months, but there are still opportune days, especially for beginners.
The Surf Club has a Facebook group that it uses to arrange meet-ups. McManus keeps an eye on forecasted conditions and if the waves look promising he’ll post a message inviting people to join him by the sea. New faces are welcomed and experience isn’t necessary. You don’t even have to surf if you don’t want to; you can just come to hang out on the beach and socialize.
The yoga and meditation portion (which costs $40, along with lunch) is a solid precursor to a surfing session. It loosens the muscles and quiets the mind, preparing you for action as well as those motionless between-wave moments.
“Like any sport you do, it’s improved when you’re not distracted by other things and you can just be in the zone with what you’re doing,” says McManus. “You’re keeping your mind [focused] for a period of time, increasing your attention, increasing your awareness and feeling more embodied in everything that you do.”
When the sun begins to set, get a margarita and tacos at the famous Rockaway Beach Surf Club – home of the serious surf crowd – or take the subway back to the city. This is summer in New York City, after all: you could still catch an outdoor movie screening or secret backyard gig before bedtime.