New York City isn’t all rich guy condos, pizza joints, and subway rats. It’s also a beach town, believe it or not, complete with surfable waves accessible by bus, train, bike, and car, of course. In recent years the city seems to have finally remembered this, and as a result NYC’s surf scene has exploded. While this means the beaches of Far Rockaway, Queens erupt into Kookcity like clockwork each June, the surf camps are nowhere to be found in the fall and winter—coincidently when the best swell often comes in. As such, heading into each weekend our eyes are always on the forecast. And while this recent weekend didn’t promise much wave wise, the unbelievable upper 60s temps had us jonesing for a dip, so we gathered a couple friends, tossed some logs on the old Volvo, and headed east for a proper dawn patrol mission.
Who are you? Graham Hiemstra, writer, photographer, and founding editor of The Field, a digital publication for lovers of good design and the great outdoors.
Where did this Mizu Mission take you? For this Mission a couple friends and I took advantage of a rare, unseasonably warm February Sunday and went for a quick surf here in New York City. A regular dawn patrol mission out to Rockaway Beach, Queens.
Why did you pick this location? Many people don’t know it but there are a handful of accessible surf spots within an hour’s drive of downtown Manhattan. We went to Rockaway though because it’s the closest, and because there are two fun skateparks within minutes of the surf spot.
What’s a must see and/or do at Rockaway Beach? In the winter, a simple stroll down the boardwalk is worth a visit. It’s deserted and iriee. In the summer, the beach gets crazy crowded, so get up early, skate the miniramp on the boardwalk then jump in the ocean or go for a surf. From there it’s best to enjoy some cold ones in reusable cups and lie back on a beach towel in the sun.
What was your routine on this trip, what time did you wake up – what did you eat? We were up well before the sun, at around 5:30am. I rode my bike to my friends’ apt where we loaded up his wagon and hit the road. We snacked on some granola bars from the local market then hit Surfside Bagels. It’s not an NYC surf trip without bagels.
What was so special about this trip? The simple fact that you can wake up in your apartment in Brooklyn and within 40 minutes be at the beach. That will never get old.
Is nature an important part of your creative inspiration? Absolutely. You’ll never be bored in nature.
What was the biggest challenge on this adventure? The swell decided not to really show up, which was a bit disappointing. We caught a couple little ankle biters though.
What tips do you have to reuse your Mizu or choose reusable over single-use while on the road? All you have to do is be conscious of what you have. If you pack multiple reusable products—water bottle, camp cup, cutlery set—you’ll feel like you almost need to use them or risk feeling like you overpacked. From there it’s natural.
What was your favorite Mizu product on this trip and why? The camp cup for sure. We actually had a bunch of Miss goods on this trip, but the mug seemed to just follow us around. The coffee never seemed to get cold.
Do you often see a lot of trash on your travels? Sadly yes. Single-use plastics are a huge issue in NYC especially. If you were to buy a banana at a corner store bodega, they’d try and double bag it for you. Most people don’t even think twice. It’s a real shame.
What inspires you to get outdoors and see the world? Past experiences and stories from friends. There are always more places to visit. Plus, if you stay in NYC for too long without leaving, you might lose your mind.
Your work takes you to many exciting places – do you have a personal favorite destination? Iceland is always atop the list. But also, the PNW, where I grew up. Every summer my dad, uncle, and cousin and I go on a new backpacking trip. Sometimes it’s an hour from where I spent 20 years, and yet it’s like discovering a new world. There’s so much good stuff right in our own backyards that’s often overlooked.
What’s the craziest story you can remember from one of your past adventures? While riding motorcycles across the country in 2014 we got caught in a gnarly thunderstorm in Nowheresville, Texas at the end of a 600 mile, 15 hour day. Visibility was less than 10 feet, making gauging speed impossible, and standing water on the road made going any direction but straight a bad idea. After an hour of white knuckling the three of us outran the storm and made it to Marfa. I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure we’d make it out of that in one piece.
What advice can you give to those who want to travel but can’t seem to pull the trigger? Ask friends and people you look up to where their favorite travels have taken them. Nothing makes me want to travel as much as hearing of someone else’s wild adventure.
Who are you inspired by? Anyone not letting work get in the way of having fun.
What has traveling taught you? That I don’t really know shit. And that if you never question your beliefs or the way you were taught to do things, you’ll never grow as a human or become a real individual. Engage with the locals and remember that nobody chooses where they’re born.
What does “enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind” mean to you? In addition to the obvious meaning that we shouldn’t litter or leave waste behind, I think it means to travel with an open mind. Enjoy the unusual, and don’t push your beliefs on anyone else (unless that believe is that single-use plastics are bad, in which case, preach on).