Street Surfing & SUP Skating in Brooklyn
By Dominique (Nico) Klimek
I walked into the office with blood smeared across my knees and a smile stamped across my face. My lunch break was spent Hamming the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn; riding past apartments, coffee shops, parks and graffiti colored walls. Carving and gilding across a river of black, I coasted down the streets with nowhere I needed to go. I just wanted to ride. My Hamtime ended with a wipeout in the middle of the street and I had enough adrenaline pumping to mask the scrapes and bruises. Proud of my newly earned battle scars, I looked down at my bloody knees and could only feel an even greater pull towards Hamboarding.
When I moved to Brooklyn I knew that getting to the water or mountains on weekdays was not going to be possible. I also knew that being a boarder, I’d need something to feed my hunger.
While surfing the world wide web, I stumbled across the Hamboard website and knew I needed to get one of these boards. They looked like surfboards and in the videos I watched over and over again, the riders even looked like they were surfing.
After speaking with one of the founders about which board would be the best fit for me, I anxiously waited for it to arrive; and when it did, I was in awe. My first board was the Fish and coming in at 4’5” it’s only a foot shorter than I am and about twice my width. When I went out on the streets to test my new ride I was shocked by what I felt. The board allowed me to carve and ride like when I am surfing or snowboarding.
I had caught the feeling I was chasing after. It’s the hair down, sun stained skin, sand embedded in our scalp approach to life that frees and empowers us. It’s so much more than cruising down the street- it’s riding to the rhythm of a culture. This culture of waking up well-rested and hungry for the sunrise. Paddling out while everyone else is asleep and knowing that there are choices we can make. Waves? We’re going surfing. Flat? We can SUP with the sunrise. And now, even when water isn’t available, the mornings can still be ours on the streets.
SUP Skating is a way of life- charging the day and leaving everything on the streets, water and mountains. We are constantly stoking our internal fire by getting new toys, exploring unfamiliar streets, and embracing new opportunities. These things that come so naturally to a Hamboarder guide us and push us towards the best people and memories.
On summer weekends I always head out to Rockaway to spend my time surfing and soaking up the sun on the beach. When the water is crowded I’ll SUP out past the congestion, finding peace of mind as I push across the ocean’s surface. In Rockaway the surf and urban cultures merge together. The main street set a couple blocks back from the water has walls painted with colorful murals and construction barricades sprinkled between buildings. Planes dot the sky as they shuttle people around the world and the train drags itself along elevated tracks, marking the horizon. Between delis and cafes, small surf shops nestle in and suited up surfers with boards under their arms weave their way to the beach.
It used to be me and a buddy or two making our way to Rockaway with just our surfboards along for the ride, but since acquiring my Hamboard we have another passenger. I now spend lots of time on the boardwalk, cruising up and down beside the sand. The massive size of my board in comparison to standard skateboards and longboards always makes heads turn. And now with the new addition of the Street Sweeper SUP Skate paddle I can see people’s eyes bulging out of their sockets.
“What is that?”
“Is that a surfboard?” “What is she riding?”
“Is she paddling?”
Hamboards are still fairly new to the board world and with their buttery turns and surfy board shape they evoke a lot of curiosity from boarders and non-boarders alike. I always find myself meeting people and chatting with strangers when I’m out Hamming. They want to know what I’m riding and are in awe of the trucks and the massive size of the wheels. The Street Sweeper gets passed around as SUPers examine its’ handle and admire its’ flex. So we chat about the board, about Rockaway and anything else that surfaces. The lax nature and ease of conversation rolls along.
And as the day winds down I know I’ll run into some of the new faces from the boardwalk and waves at my favorite bar in the area, Rockaway Beach Surf Club. It is a feeding ground for taco-loving, margarita drinking beach goers. There is always a migration that takes place around lunchtime and happy hour as the hungry and thirsty drag themselves off the beach to the local watering hole. Here, anything goes- wetsuit, bathing suit, tee shirt- it’s whatever. Sand is still clinging to the ankles and feet of most while sunburned noses seek refuge under the umbrellas. The music here is usually a perfect balance of hip-hop, r&b and reggae and the smell of tropical sunscreen hangs in the humidity. Tired hands cling to tall, cold glasses and boarders chat and laugh in this NYC oasis.
(Photo Credit: Michael Kehoe)
This past summer I unfortunately had to hitch a ride into Rockaway Beach Surf Club from the beach via piggyback. My foot looked like it had been hooked up to a bike pump and my ankle didn’t even exist. That morning when I was out surfing I jumped off my board and as soon as my foot hit the sand (that felt like concrete) I knew I had done some damage and was hoping a watermelon margarita could ease the pain. I later found out that it was a high ankle sprain--- I just got benched for the remainder of the summer. When I was finally allowed to free myself of the giant boot I had been marching around NYC with I was ready to get back on board- literally. However, I quickly found that I had lost a lot of movement and flexibility in my ankle from keeping it so stiff over the past couple of months. On the Hamboard I wasn’t yet ready for the pushing; it was too much strain. This is when I had my first real introduction to the Street Sweeper. The Street Sweeper is a land paddle for SUP Skating and before my injury I hadn’t given it much thought, but it would become my magic wand.
The Street Sweeper gave me the power to propel myself forward without either of my feet needing to leave the Hamboard’s surface. And what’s more, I found that it could give me way more momentum than the standard foot pushing. The Street Sweeper took Hamboarding from parking lots and sections of boardwalk to long rides- going for miles, just cruising down the streets and boardwalk. I felt like I was in training; my core burned and my arms could’ve fallen off. I was rebuilding my strength and stamina and my bum ankle wasn’t taking the brunt of it.
Even though I had lost most of my summer to injury, I still felt the heartache when September snuck up- like an inevitable breakup that’s been waiting to happen. I’ll have to say goodbye to the long, warm days in the water and clutch to memories that will come by way of photos and stories when friends and I will reminisce. As difficult as it is to say goodbye, the pain has been a bit less sharp since I started Hamboarding.
When the air turns crisp and the leaves become tie-dyed with colors of red and gold, I SUP Skate through the avenues - taking in the smell of fireplaces ablaze and listening to the crackling of leaves that I roll over in the street. The music may change, but the rhythm continues on. Bikinis and Sunscreen are replaced with beanies and Vans and our burnt noses turn into rosy cheeks. But we don’t stop the carving, and cross-stepping as we Ham through the changing seasons, dancing under street lights and moving to the curves of our own roads. By taking SUPing to the streets, I can hold onto the surf and SUP feeling in the colder months.
And when summer does comes back, I’ll be the first one to kick off my shoes and open my arms. There is no way to emulate the joy that comes with thick, summer soles from walking in bare feet and the blisters our paddles build up on our hands. We still feel the waves at night as we lay down, letting them carry us to sleep. Sand is held hostage in our cars and our sheets and the sun beams leaking through our windows are the alarm clocks of the summer. And when night falls the stars twinkle overhead and everyone is silently wishing that time could stop. We know that it won’t and so we push onward, boards in hand, making the most of each day, and embracing every earned set of blisters and bloody knees.
(Photo Credit: Chelsey Estridge)