Surfin' Manhattan

Times Staff Writer

OK, so like this dude who I used to shred the tube with at Zuma moved to Manhattan. And he phoned up to say some really rad restaurants and clubs were creating monster waves in the concrete canyons, and everybody was surfing down Broadway.

Well, my first thought was that I didn't want to get wet in a way lame place like New York City. Like the last time I was there, I had to go a whole week without getting any UVs. And then I had a really grody thing happen to me--my bitchen tan faded.

But the dude insisted we'd have an excellent session. So I threw some aloha shirts and baggies into a suitcase, grabbed my Road Warrior wet suit and said goodby to my pals down at Surfrider Beach in Malibu. The trip was as bad as riding the mush, especially when LAX airport security wanted to know if my Becker board was a weapon. "Yeah," I told them, "it's a killer."

Malibu Long Boards

When I got to Manhattan, we climbed into the woodie (OK, like it was a gray BMW, but what do these dudes in New York know anyway?) and headed to Lucy's Surfeteria at 106th Street and Broadway. So the first thing I spy is a really bitchen Coca-Cola cooler and dozens of long boards from Malibu and Maui. Like the walls are covered with surf murals and pictures of palm trees, and everything is painted in Hawaiian colors of hot pink and lime green. And there's way lots of pictures everywhere, including one I really thought was unreal--this autographed picture of model Elle MacPherson from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover.

All the waiters are like wearing jams and T-shirts. And apparently their boss told them they had to act Californian because they're pulling up a chair to the table to take our order, and I'm like going, "Whoa!" So after a while I decide that this place is like bogus and intended for gremmies. Like the silverware comes wrapped up and labeled Surf Tools, and the drinks all have lame names, like the Mudslide, the Malibu Gorilla and Sex on the Beach (vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice and peach schnapps). But the food is So-Cal caloric--Pacific Coast Highway Ribs, Topanga Canyon Kabobs, Surf Turf and Chicks for starters. And like we're really stoked when we hear the stuff doesn't have grody preservatives.

The Duke's Board

Then, for sure, we begin to notice like all these boards hanging from the ceiling are from really awesome surfers, including one that belonged to The Duke himself. So I genuflect. (And like I have to explain to our waitress that Duke Kahanamoku was this really rad dude from Hawaii and the "Father of Surfing.")

That's when general manager Peter Winter tells us that these three-way stoked surfing dudes opened Lucy's Surfeteria in January. And that they'd already had mucho success with Lucy's Retired Surfers Restaurant and Bar at West 84th and Columbus Avenue the year before. "The problem with a lot of places in New York is that they have attitudes, and surfing doesn't lend itself to having attitudes," Winter told me. "So we decided to give New Yorkers a California environment with a relaxing atmosphere that was down-to-earth but still a lot of fun, healthy upbeat yet not pretentious."

Like awesome. And Winter tells us how all these really rad celebrities like to make the scene--Bruce Willis, Kenny Loggins, Dan Fogelberg, Eric Roberts and David Keith. And that Jimmy Buffett saw some dude wearing a gnarly T-shirt for Lucy's Retired Surfers Restaurant and Bar in Australia. Like that's even farther away than San Diego!

Finally it's time to make bail, and we paddle out to the Surf Club on East 91st Street in search of some tasty waves. Well suddenly we're in the middle of this really lame scene, up to our necks in Ralph Lauren shirts and Brooks Brothers jackets in this big room that looks like my old man's country club, filled with umbrella tables and a coupla long boards. Like it's almost as bogus as wiping out on Sunset Beach.

Scott O'Donnell, who works at this joint, describes the gremmies who hang out here as "a definite East Side crowd." Well, the place reeks of money because so many dudes are like bankers and lawyers and stockbrokers. Gigi Henderson, a Security Pacific banker making the scene, calls them "Wall Street yuppies." Apparently they like each other because we couldn't help noticing the really gnarly condom machines in the bathrooms.

Visit to the Big Kahuna

OK, so we decide we'd rather get head dents than go back inside, so we decide to make the scene at the Big Kahuna at 622 Broadway near Houston Street.

There's an unreal line outside the door, but the doorman thinks we're really bad and lets us in. Well, we're greeted with "aloha" and a really rad shot of surf mist. And we know we've come to the most excellent place to hit the lip in Manhattan when we see a blackboard posted with all the California surf conditions and this really monster wave made out of fiberglass coming at us along one whole wall. And like we half-expect to see Tommy Curren sidling up to the driftwood bar, which is really stoked because it's carved with all sorts of surfing graffiti like "Follow the Sun."

We order two Fuzzy Navels and some Hawaiian chips from the bartender, a blond surfer dude with this really bitchen set of earrings. And, for sure, if there isn't genuine sand under our feet. Like whoa! And then we wander around the place, sort of scratching for outside sets, when we see that these dudes are serving teriyaki burgers and other goodies out of this excellent RV. And that a whole bunch of urban surfers in shorts are dancing on picnic tables. And that a pro shop is selling gnarly wet suits by Body Glove and even tanning lotion. And that the bouncers look like they worked on their pecs at Gold's Gym in Venice.

After a while, we start talking to some of the locals. Phil Peer tells us he's a computer software salesman (I guess he hawks Pac Man and stuff) who boogie boards on the New Jersey shore. So does Pete Vollers, a Fordham student who could use some more UVs. "We try to make our own scene, but we don't have the greatest surf or the greatest beaches," Vollers says. "So we come to a place like this because it's the closest we can get to the real thing."

A Degree of Authenticity

General manager Gary Bernstein says the Ark restaurant group spent about a year building the Big Kahuna "and a lot of money to get some degree of authenticity" before opening last September. "For the most part, it was just happenstance and luck and timing, but the sales in the beginning were double and triple what we had projected," he claims. "In one sense, the Big Kahuna is a surfer bar. But in another sense, the tropical beach theme attracts a lot of people who might not be surfers themselves but just find that sort of thing attractive."

Bernstein claims celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve have made the scene, as well as a bunch of awesome dudes from the Jets and Mets, who we bet are better at sliding than they are at surfing.

OK, so now we have a really righteous buzz on what with all this good surfer talk, and we're like wiping out with homesickness. Manhattan may not have the tasty waves of Malibu or Maui, but it's beginning to really up the amps in the surfing department.

On the other hand, it's still filled with a lot of gremmies who think watching Bruce Brown's movie "Endless Summer" 100 times qualifies them to be seeded on the pro tour this year.

But whaddaya expect from a city that doesn't sell Corona? Like I hope their tans fade.

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