NEW YORK (AP) — Happy holidays, bro.
The combination of record-setting temperatures and gnarly waves had New York City surfers absolutely stoked on Friday, drawing more than two dozen to the popular summertime surf spot Rockaway Beach on Christmas morning.
With temperatures nearing the 60s, some surfers were wearing thinner-than-usual wetsuits without customary winter hoods and gloves as they enjoyed the best of Christmas presents: nearly 5-foot waves breaking just so into the Queens shore.
“Santa gave us waves this year,” said Ryan De La Cruz, 31, of Manhattan, as he bounded into the water just after dawn with his surfer pal Matt Muro. “But I have to be done before my girlfriend gets up to open presents.”
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The National Weather Service said Friday was the city’s warmest Christmas ever recorded, breaking the previous record from 1982. And the unseasonably warm weather made it less jarring to duck dive into oncoming waves and linger longer in the Atlantic waiting for the perfect swell, said Mike Reinhardt, owner of Locals Surf School.
“It’s ungodly warm out there,” said Reinhardt, 26, after taking a break from the action, his winter hood pulled down. “I’m overheating.”
Water temperatures measured in the low 50s on Friday, cold enough to warrant full wetsuits and boots, but not as cold as previous years.
Avid surfers paddle into Rockaway waters year-round, braving frigid temperatures and freezing wind chill to catch good waves. Just days after a blizzard smacked the Northeast last January, surfers walked along the snow-caked sand beaches searching for the best spot to surf.
But the warmer temperatures have drawn even relative newcomers to the beach so far in 2015.
“Everyone’s bugging out about the weather being pretty solid,” said local surfer Matt Kisilenko, 25. “It’s become a known spot now.”
Experts said that while the Queens waves, which for water lovers rival Christmastime destinations such as the tree at Rockefeller Center or the famed Macy’s windows, should be enjoyed by more than just dedicated locals, beginners should learn the rules first before diving in.
“A lot of these people come down here with no clue, get down here and just paddle out,” said Bradach Walsh, 42, owner of Rockaway Beach Surf Club. “It’s super dangerous for them and for people who have been surfing for a long time.”
On Friday, fog enveloped the shoreline as surfers in wetsuits enjoyed some of the season’s best waves so far. Morning beach walkers stopped to watch.
Holiday or not, “we come here as much as we can,” said Ken Ishimoto, 37, with his surfing buddy, Kazu Imafuku.
Imafuku, a Manhattanite by way of Tokyo, said it’s therapeutic to escape to Rockaway, especially when the waves are good.
“Just to stay connected with nature,” he said, before jumping into the water. “It’s beautiful.”