Everyone has his or her own list of ‘things to do in New York.’ But another, similar pleasure is often overlooked: finding those “Am I still in New York?” moments.
Stand up paddleboarding (or SUP-ing) on the tranquil waters of Jamaica Bay on a summer afternoon is one of the latter. Glide along the salt marshes and the unoccupied stretches of sand and it’s easy to forget your proximity to Times Square, or even to Rockaway Beach, which sits on the edge of the peninsula, just far enough away to feel undiscovered.
On a recent weekend, we took the subway to Beach 116 St and rented a couple of boards from A-Team Paddleboarding (no longer in business). Andrew and Amy, a husband and wife duo who recently opened a surf and SUP shop called Station RBNY, offer board rentals as well as solo and group classes out on the bay throughout the summer.
“People enjoy the paddle board classes but our most popular class is definitely SUP yoga,” says Amy, as we motor along the Rockaway Peninsula to the launch site. After we received a handful of pointers from Amy, like proper stance and balance and forward and turning strokes, we launched straight into the bay, under the nose of the Rockaway Point Yacht Club.
Jamaica Bay is an ideal place to learn to SUP in New York City. Out in the bay, the sea grass sways, the horseflies buzz, planes drift into JFK. It is a unique scene, amplified by the skyline of Manhattan, visible in the distance through the offshore haze.
Back on the beach we sit on our boards, exhausted but content, watching the horseshoe crabs scuttle along the sand like giant sea cockroaches while the Forster’s Tern birds cut tight banks over the water’s edge. Jamaica Bay is the city’s largest open space, home to more than 300 bird species. But perhaps its most noteworthy feature is that, as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, it forms the bulk of the only national park in the United States you can reach by subway.
And on an early summer’s day in Jamaica Bay, with yachts and pleasure cruisers bobbing on the inside edge of the Rockaway Peninsula, about 15 miles from the center of Manhattan, this could be almost any place in the world but New York.
How to get there: Take the Far Rockaway bound A Train and change at Broad Channel for the S to 116th Street. Rentals start from $30 per hour, private and group lessons from $50 per person.
Gordon Macrae is a travel writer based in Brooklyn. He is currently writing a travel guide to the beaches of New York City and around. He is less Scottish than you think.