Ardent surfers on Long Island face some challenges. Finding an affordable home near the ocean can be tough. A job with flexible hours is a necessity since, when conditions are right, you want to sprint for the beach. This isn’t sunny California, so locals have to brave icy waters to get any action in the wintertime. Even finding a place to store boards and wetsuits can be tricky.
Still, the Zen-like peace of the ocean coupled with the thrill of catching a great ride make it all worthwhile.
LIDO BEACH LIFESTYLE
“There’s something about being physically displaced from land,” says Andrew Lerner, who along with his surfing wife, Jeanette, bought a condo in Lido Beach to pursue their passion. “Land is tied to work and home and all the things that stress you out. When you’re out in the water, you can be with your own thoughts.”
Surfing came to Long Island in the late 1950s, says Charlie Bunger Jr., owner of the Bunger Surf Shop in Babylon, one of the country’s older surf establishments. The sport began to get people's attention on Long Island with the first East Coast championship tournament at Gilgo Bearch in 1963. Other tournaments followed, spreading the word and drawing top-notch competitors through such contests as the Quicksilver Pro tour held in Long Beach in 2011.
“Long Island isn’t always the most consistent when it comes to waves, but when it’s good it matches up with some of the top breaks in the world,” says Bunger.
Conditions here are just right for Andrew Lerner, 34, a jewelry maker who grew up in Manhattan and began riding waves in the Rockaways. His wife, 27, a real estate agent, took up the sport during a family vacation to California and never looked back.
“You get addicted pretty quickly,” Jeanette Lerner says.
Evidence of this isn’t hard to find in their duplex. A homemade driftwood sign on their wall given to them as a wedding gift proclaims, “The Lerner Surf Shack.” A watercolor of a surfing scene created by a local artist was commissioned by them for their home. Jeanette collects beach glass, which she displays in jars.
The very reason they bought their Lido Beach condo for $275,000 this past January was because of its location and amenities. They especially like the storage area for their boards downstairs as well as the residence’s two bathrooms. This allows them to soak and dry their wetsuits in the tub on one floor while reserving the bathroom on the floor above for themselves.
Another selling point was the location, which created the work-life balance they were looking for. Manhattan is an easy commute for Andrew when he works in the city. Jeanette’s real estate office is close by, so getting to the beach isn’t hard. This allows them to pursue a dedicated surfer’s routine, which often starts at dawn, when wave action is at its best. Then, it’s off to work, which is fine since the sea is quieter during the day. At quitting time, they grab their boards and hit the beach once again, often lingering until dusk.
“I’ve been 500 feet away from whales and watched dolphins swim by,” says Jeanette. “I’ve never seen that happen anywhere else.”
SURFING OUT OF GLEN COVE
Brian Torres, a video producer and documentarian, has a longer drive to catch the waves from his two-bedroom apartment in Glen Cove, where he lives with his fiancee, Ximena Kruger. He moved to Glen Cove from Colombia to stay with friends of relatives. He is more comfortable living miles from the ocean because of concerns about storms and climate change and also to be close to his son, 12, who lives nearby with his first wife.
He keeps his boards in one room and has pictures on the walls of himself surfing. And he never misses a chance to experience the “magic” of the water -- even in the winter, when die-hards such as himself layer up with wetsuits, hoodies, gloves and boots.
“One time the water was so cold, I felt like I was going into shock,” says Torres. “But it makes you feel stronger every time you do it.”
CATCHING WAVES FROM PATCHOGUE
His friend Johnny Caceres, 45, a commercial electrician and well-known veteran of the sport who also teaches surfing, has a quicker trip to the sea from his Patchoque condo, which he and his wife, Donna, 50, bought two years ago for $400,000.
Inside he keeps 11 boards, each one specially designed to allow him to adjust to different wave patterns. One board surfs only the wall -- an old-fashioned wooden model he found on a beach and painted with likenesses of his wife and their two dogs, Angel and Darla. Caceres, who is originally from Peru, also keeps a 2-foot-tall replica of a classic surfboard from Hawaii around the house and a tiny surfboard with a clock built into its middle.
“They’re small things, but they remind me that I live close to the beach,” he says. “We are so happy here. Surfing is my therapy. Whenever I feel bad or sad or angry, I go into the water.”
GILGO BEACH PARADISE
Few people have a better setup when it comes for the sport than Tomas Infernuso, 40, a veterinary surgeon whose house sits on Gilgo Beach, with South Oyster Bay on one side and the ocean on the other. He bought the home, which had been badly damaged by superstorm Sandy, in July 2016 for $360,000 and spent another $330,000 fixing it up, including adding a second story for a lofty water view.
The storage shed on his porch contains 20 surf boards. Five belong to his friends. The other 15 are his.
“I’m not kidding,” he says. “That’s the crazy part.”
Infernuso grew up on an Italian island close to Capri, and he realizes other countries may have better waves. But they can’t match the economy here, he says. His work as a traveling veterinary surgeon allows him to hit the beach often. At home, surfing photos and paintings hang on his walls. He keeps his best longboard over the fireplace.
The outdoor shower surround on his deck is made out of a surfboard. More old surfboards are screwed into the exterior walls facing the deck, along with pieces of driftwood and a hammock. It’s all to create a certain ambience.
“It looks like one of those surf shacks you see in the Caribbean islands,” he says.
His surfing friends are welcome to drop by anytime.
“I like to keep it simple,” he says, adding that his friends use the outdoor shower to wash off. “You just want a place where you can hose off and hang up your wetsuit and grab it the next day and head for the water. The most important thing about a surfer’s house is that it is a comfortable place where you don’t have to worry about things getting dirty.”
It’s the life he always wanted, he says. One he doesn’t foresee leaving. Ever.
“This is where I am going to die,” he says.