The Inertia

It seems like Rockaway has been either epic or pond flat this entire winter. So when the initial reports read in the 3- to 5-foot range, I wasn’t expecting much. To wake up on the morning of March 5th to see the barreling, double overhead waves was certainly a surprise. My friend Dylan Thompson recalled a vibrant sunrise and how “all you could see in the ocean was perfect peeling lefts, spitting out like a Pipeline imitator.” The conditions were unexpectedly shaping up for a memorable day.

Over the years surfing Rockaway, I’ve seen some world-class waves come through. Definitely quite the rarity, but those days happen from time to time. Generally, when Rockaway starts firing, they’re definitely not the easiest waves to surf, but they sure have made for some memorable experiences.

Rockaway local Paul Imperio shared with me his experience on this magical March afternoon. “I remember being ecstatic about having some head-high, rippable waves to ride,” explained Paul. “Upon arriving to the beach, to my surprise, I was welcomed with these massive arching behemoths of waves with faces maxing out at 10-12 feet. Now I’ve surfed waves that big before, but something about the way Rockaway handles a swell like that feels like it multiplies the sketch factor. After taking a few on the head, drifting several blocks, and almost getting impaled by the wood pilings sticking out of the water, I managed to punch through a few slabs in triumphant fashion before linking up with the rest of my friends and surfing something a bit more manageable for my palette. Definitely a day to remember!”

The lineup got crowded as the day progressed, and Paul wasn’t the only surfer enjoying this early March swell. My friend John Koltai relieved his experience.


“I’ve still been getting used to duck dives and wipe outs in 35- to 40-degree water, but I was just so excited to see these bombs coming through that the cold wasn’t as much of a factor that day,” said John. “A lot of the session I was focusing on finding some elusive Rockaway rights and was able to catch a few gems before heading to a left breaking jetty where my Rockavilla housemates were charging. A great day of winter surf!”

March hasn’t shown us anything near as epic in size and consistency as January and February yet, but I’m looking forward to what might come, as is my friend Sangik Tsedenov.

“For me, surfing in Rockaway is something special, said Sangik. :The waves are not really easy to ride for beginners or even for more advanced surfers. I always get super excited when the forecast shows from 4-6+ ft in Rockaway and sometimes I have to call in sick from work to surf all day. On March 5th I paddled out with the first light. It looked fun from the beach, but once I caught my first wave, I pulled in and then after a 5 second ride the lip smashed me so bad and sent me down to the sand bar. That was a good wake up call. To be honest, I only caught a dozen waves that day with my bruddahs and just to be out there watching these guys making suicide drops was priceless. I hope we get more days like that!”

See more of John’s photography on his website and Instagram.


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