Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
At the tip of Long Island, ten miles past the last of the overhyped Hamptons, the small town of Montauk offers rugged coastline, wide-open beaches, and arguably the best surfing on the East Coast. Seven Montauk surfers give you the lowdown on one of the premier surf towns.
Because the surfing is so good, and because it’s so close to Manhattan (three hours by car or train), Montauk can be a madhouse in the summer. But come September, the lineup thins out, the town reverts to its sleepy fishing-village roots, and hurricane season brings the prospect of ten-foot waves. Stock up on surf supplies at Air and Speed Surf Shop on the main drag. For lodging, book a room with Rob McKinley, who co-owns the Surf Lodge (from $450 a night; thesurflodge.com) and this summer opened Ruschmeyer’s hotel (from $425 a night; visitruschmeyers.com). While the former is all surf, all the time—surf movies on large screens in the lobby, surf art on the walls, and a 1982 Swiss Pinzgauer jeep that shuttles guests between the lodge and the beach—McKinley, 35, describes the latter as “nautical camp for adults.” Spread out over a wooded lakeside property, Ruschmeyer’s is reminiscent of Dirty Dancing, with an on-site tepee and a Ping-Pong table in the outdoor sand-filled beer garden.
On Rob: Shadow plaid button-up by Vince ($188; vince.com); 510 trousers by Levi’s ($58; levi.com); textured knit hat by John Varvatos ($168; johnvarvatos.com); The 51-30 watch by Nixon ($450; nixonnow.com).
If you’re lucky, you’ll find singer-songwriter Dustin Franks playing acoustic guitar at McKinley’s Surf Lodge or Ruschmeyer’s hotel. (He’s at the Surf Lodge Tuesday and Thursday nights through September.) Franks, 29, is a San Clemente, California, native and former competitive surfer who now rides and designs boards for Noll Surfboards. “In September,” says Franks—who released his first album, D. Franks, last year (hear it at dustinfranks.bandcamp.com)—“Montauk really becomes an ideal place to be a surfer.”
On Dustin (above): double-layer striped jersey crew by Vince ($140; vince.com); raw-edge unlined knit jacket by John Varvatos ($1,498; johnvarvatos.com); Evol Thoughts jeans by Quiksilver Skate Collection ($65; quiksilver.com); Premier leather sandals by Rainbow ($46; rainbowsandals.com); vintage hat
(Top Left): Probst hoodie by Quiksilver Limited Collection ($150; quiksilver.com); 511 Skinny cut-offs by Levi’s ($50).
Perched on the tip of Long Island’s South Fork, Montauk draws in Atlantic swells from three directions, offering up a variety of breaks for beginners and experts alike. The most consistent is Ditch Plains, a classic longboarder’s rocky beach break. That’s where you’ll find Corey Senese most days. Senese, 29, and his wife, Kristin Angiulo, met on the beach in Montauk as toddlers and together founded CoreysWave (coreyswave.com), a surf-instruction company that operates in Montauk in the summer and early fall. Senese, who had the talent to go pro and is now sponsored by Xcel, finds teaching more gratifying. “We started CoreysWave because I realized how fulfilling it is to light someone up by getting them their first wave ever,” he says. Come winter, Senese guides clients to surf destinations around the world, from Hawaii to Costa Rica to Tortola. “Surfing lots of different waves takes you to a new level fast,” he says. Still, he loves coming home. “When the surf is really good here, it’s insane,” Senese says. “World-class.”
Former pro-surfer, Lifeguard
If the forecasters were right, an active hurricane season should be delivering some great waves right about now. Competition great: the ASP World Tour makes its first-ever stop on the East Coast this year. September 4–15, the Quiksilver Pro New York takes place at Long Beach, two hours west of Montauk, with a record $1 million purse. Montauk resident and former pro surfer Lee Meirowitz will be judging the trials. The 27-year-old waterman lifeguards at Hampton Bays, works with East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue, and recently started Hydrophilic Origins (hydrophilicorigins.com), which makes surfboard bags. Sponsored by Solid Surfboards, Meirowitz concedes that Montauk has gotten more crowded of late but says “the fishing soul will always be here—if you know where to find it.”
On Lee (above): Crusoe shirt by Quiksilver Limited Collection ($55; quiksilver.com); Ranger crew sweater by Tommy Hilfiger ($98; tommy.com); Canyon cotton cargo pants by Polo Ralph Lauren ($185; ralphlauren.com)
(Bottom left): 2MM Hoplite short-sleeve wetsuit by Matuse ($279; matuse.com)
Surfs Secret Beaches
Montauk’s eclectic lineup includes everyone from Wall Street weekend warriors to local young guns to celebs (like Jimmy Buffett and Coldplay’s Chris Martin). Clothing designer Bethany Mayer, who owns the Surf Bazaar store at the Surf Lodge, is easy to spot at Ditch on her eight-foot-six-inch Channel Islands board, partly painted neon orange and pink. You’ll have a harder time finding John Termini on Montauk’s beaches. “I love those days when just me and my buddies go to secret spots,” says Termini, 28, who works in real estate in New York City and has been surfing Montauk since he was 12.
On John: short-sleeve crew-neck burnout tee by John Varvatos ($89.50; johnvarvatos.com); Slim denim shirt by Acne ($230; acnestudios.com); Ridgecrest wool jacket by Polo Ralph Lauren ($995; ralphlauren.com); Trooper pants by J Brand ($231; jbrandjeans.com); Six o’ Six Convertible boots by John Varvatos ($698); belt, his own
On Bethany (left): gauze tunic by Surf Bazaar ($150; thesurfbazaar.com)
The town also boasts some outstanding locals gone pro, like 16-year-old Quincy Davis, who recently finished seventh at the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in Peru, and 23-year-old Leif Engstrom, who won the pro-am division of the 2009 Volcom Stone Catfish series in Puerto Rico, where he spends most winters. “It’s amazing the amount of talent you see in the water on any given day,” says Danny DiMauro, 41, a hairstylist who lives and surfs year-round in Montauk.
Surfing isn’t the only reason to come to Montauk. With stellar local chefs—like Surf Lodge’s Top Chef finalist Sam Talbot—and a town full of fishermen, the seafood is world-class, too. Inlet Seafood Restaurant (inletseafood.com), partly owned by local fishing captain and standout surfer Charlie Weimar, serves sushi fresh off the boat. Duryea’s (duryealobsters.com) has the best lobster rolls in town, and its deck, overlooking Fort Bond Bay, is a great place to watch the sun set. (Tip: it’s BYOB.) Another local favorite is the Ditch Witch food truck, just steps from its namesake beach. That’s where Kristen Brady worked during summers growing up in Montauk. “Get the Ditch Witch panini or the breakfast burrito with sauce,” says the 22-year-old longboarder. Brady, who recently graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, is back in town working as an instructor with CoreysWave for the summer. While she misses the California coast’s consistency and warmer temps, “the people are the best in Montauk,” she says.