The waves were low, but spirits were high over the weekend as people flocked south to hang ten — or just hang out.
The Sixth Annual Rockstock and Barrels Surf Festival, held on Saturday, June 23 in Rockaway Beach, celebrated the surfing culture that has been revived in the area, along with hosting competitions in surfing and skate boarding, and live music.
The event was founded with the intent to be an unofficial start to summer, said Steve Stathis, owner of Boarders Surf Shop and one of the fest’s organizers. Nike sponsored this year’s surf race, which included a $3,000 prize; Red Bull sponsored the Manny Mania skateboard competition. This was also the first year the festival featured a paddle-surf competition, sponsored by H2O Generation — a shop that makes retro 1950s and 60s surfboards.
“We did this so young kids could surf and play,” said Walter Hornung, who coordinates the live music side of the festival. Ten to 12 bands will normally perform, Hornung said, all local and all original music. Toy Sugar, a local, young band opened the music portion of Rockstock and Barrels, and closed with a cover of The Zutons’ “Valerie.”
The popularity and the number of participants has grown over the years, the organizers said, especially as surfing has once again become popular in the Rockaways.
“Every year it just gets bigger and bigger,” said Jimmy Dowd, another organizer and owner of St. James Clothing Company. Dowd said there have been several times where people will come to Rockaway Beach, come across the festival and develop an immediate interest in surfing.
Erick Daschagas, who normally surfs at Rockaway, said it was good there was a festival that brought attention to the small surf culture that exists in south Queens. “I think it’s good in itself for the surf culture,” he said.