Rock- Rock- Rockaway Beach

Posted by Robin Hill on

From the moment I read that the co-authors of ICE CREAM HEADACHES: SURF CULTURE IN NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY had met whilst surfing Rockaway Beach in Queens NYC, I couldn't get the Ramones song of the same name out of my head. At least that one part... "Rock- Rock- Rockaway Beach".

Ramones songs are invariably genius and infamous for being infectious to the point of annoyance. This is one such instance of the latter.

One of the fascinating things about Ed Thompson and Julien Roubinet's Ice Cream Headaches book is the disconnect in most people's minds between New York and surfing. If you mention New York to most non-natives they might think of the myriad of tourist attractions or the birthplace of Rap music or the stock exchange or whatever. But chances are their minds won't jump to surfing. And for me, mention New York and usually some relic of the late 70s downtown scene will come to mind; Keith Haring, Blondie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Hell or the Ramones.


Get your copy of ICE CREAM HEADACHES from The Golden Rays now!

So having that immediate connection burst into my brain (and drill it repetitively for the subsequent hours) really brought home that disconnect between New York and Surfing. And why Ice Cream Headaches is such a fascinating document.

Whilst the Ramones were definitely far more likely to be hiding under the boardwalk sniffing glue than getting wet in the hunt for barrels, their song was a direct response to The Beach Boys' "Surfing Safari". In his weird and deluded, but ultimately genius, way Joey Ramone was convinced that he had written the East Coast version of The Beach Boys' 1962 hit.

 As Joey Ramone pontificates, "It's not hard, not far to reach, we can hitch a ride to...", Rockaway Beach is probably the most accessible surf spot for most of sprawling New York City. The result is that when it works it gets crowded. And not a mellow sharing crowd. A brawling rowdy New Yorker crowd that fight and jostle for position as the easterly Atlantic storm swells break on the sandy bottom. 

[pic by Aaron Austin @a_a_r_o_n__a from the Surf Collective NYC blog here]

And whilst the west coast urban surf culture glamourised by the Beach Boys in actuality spawned the gritty reality of Venice or Dogtown and the showboaters paradise of Malibu's First Point. The urban surfing phenomena of New York feels all the grittier when soundtracked by the Ramones' "Rockaway Beach". Flicking through Ice Cream Headaches and seeing plenty of photos of surfers clad in 6mm hoods ducked inside very brown barrels really hammers home the fact that surfing NYC is just that little bit rougher.

Appendix:

Below are some images of Joey Ramone "surfing" from Punk Magazine's Mutant Monster Beach Party comic, in which Joey uses his surfing prowess to seduce Debbie Harry from Blondie before battling some killer mutants. As printed in The Surfer's Journal No. 27.2

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