Stay & Surf At The W Union Square
You may not think of the concrete jungle as a surfing getaway, but next time you’re planning a weekend trip, skip Montauk or the Hamptons for the Rockaways.
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It’s Friday afternoon, and skipping out of work a bit early, I hop on a Metro-North into the City, transfer to the 4, and head down to Union Square. I walk a few bustling blocks and into the W Union Square’s swank lobby, where I’m greeted with a welcome sip of Prosecco. The stress from a long week begins to rise from me like the bubbles in the glass.
I head up an old-school looking elevator to the 11th floor and into my room. The aptly named Spectacular Room is modern with orange and white accents that ease into warm blue walls. I gaze out the oversized window framed with silver drapes, drinking in the view of One World Trade Center peaking out over the rest of lower Manhattan. Looking out at the pulsating city, it’s hard to believe I’ve come to the concrete jungle for a surf lesson. But the W’s Stay & Surf package is, after all, what’s brought me here today, and tomorrow I’ll be heading to the Rockaways to catch waves with Locals Surf School, one of the most esteemed surf schools in the area.
But stomach growling, I head downstairs to meet a friend at 21 Bar and Restaurant, located right off the lobby in the W. We quaff whiskey-filled drinks between bites of juicy tomato- and aioli-topped beef sliders and pizza with perfectly salty prosciutto atop a vodka-like sauce. We continue drinking in the W’s plush-couched living room, watching as tourists and off-the-job business people hustle in and out of the bar. After drinking my fill, I head back up to the 11th floor, admiring the city view a few more minutes before crashing into the pillow-topped king-sized bed.
The next morning, I spring out of bed early for a 7:45 am car service to the Rockaways. The W’s lemon-scented soaps, followed by its free coffee in the lobby, help undo last nights drink session. I head out, grabbing my W-branded beach tote (included in the package) stuffed with AMAzonia Coconut Water and other goods. A 50-minute car ride brings me into a completely different world. The Rockaways has a laid back, grass-root surfer vibe, different than that of Montauk or the Hamptons—the two spots most New Yorkers getaway to. But it’s smack dab in the City, evidenced by the A train rolling through, and perfectly blends surf and urban cultures into one amazing destination.
I make my way over to a black tent on the beach emblazoned with the word “Locals.” After throwing on a wetsuit top, me and four others hit the beach with Locals founder Mike Kololyan for some in-the-sand basic tutorials. Kololyan’s permanently baked-in tan and fit frame is evidence of 15-plus years surfing the local breaks. He points out the parts of the board—the nose (front), rails (sides), and tail (rear). Then we practice paddling and popping up (hands directly under the shoulders away from the rails, feet not hanging off the tail, one fluid motion hopping up into a wide stance, crouching “but not twerking,” for those trying at home).
Then we head to the water. I paddle out about 25 feet or so from shore, and awaitmy first ride as two to three foot waves pass under me. Kololyan grabs my board’s nose, pointing me forward. I lay on top of the board for a couple minutes until Kololyan picks out a wave. “Oh, this is a good one, start paddling,” he tells me. I start to paddle, and he gives me a little push. “Pop up!” I hear him yell. I try to replicate my on-beach pop-ups and—oh shit, I’m riding the first wave of my life. It’s a mix of adrenaline and exuberance as I ride to shore. The next two hours fly by as I have the best time of my life, catching a dozen or so waves, wiping out here and there.
Though bummed the lesson’s over so quickly, I’m sore and a bit parched from all the paddling and popping up, so I head to Rockaway Beach Surf Club. It’s a 10-minute or so walk down the newly rebuilt boardwalk. The Surf Club is a combo indoor bar, outside food truck serving everything from wings to grilled watermelon to burgers. I sit down on one of the outdoor wooden benches with a burger and a beer, surrounded by other tanned, just-off-the-beachers. The burger is deliciously juicy. The cold beer washes the saltiness of the sea from my lips. The Pink Floyd record playing in the background adds to the laid back vibe. I’m perfectly content in this little slice of beach heaven in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Details: The Stay & Surf Package starts at $469 and must be booked ahead of time. The package includes a weekend stay in a Spectacular Room; a personal surf lesson from Locals Surf School; car service to/from Rockaway Beach; W-branded beach tote bag featuring AMAzonia Coconut Water, a map of Rockaway Beach hotspots, and a W-inspired summer playlist; and post-surf lunch and cocktails at Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Ten percent from each package will be donated to Graybeards, a charity whose mission includes helping the Rockaways recover from the damages of Hurricane Sandy.
Contact: 201 Park Ave S, New York, NY (212) 253-9119; www.wnewyorkunionsquare.com