A year after Sandy, New York's Rockaway surfers ride on

Tue Nov 5, 2013 4:23pm EST
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By Edward McAllister

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wyatt Earp was first into the water, followed by Captain America, the Statue of Liberty, a nun and a gorilla. As the surf barreled in, Superman, Beetlejuice and dozens of others followed, struggling through the white water, out to the waves.

The recovery from Superstorm Sandy's devastating passage a year ago is far from complete in New York City's Rockaway Beach, but celebrations like the annual "Nightmare on 90th" surf contest quicken the healing.

Watched by a crowd of spectators, costumed contestants paddled into the sunlit ocean last weekend accompanied by rock music blaring from speakers on the beach in south Queens.

In Rockaway and countless neighborhoods along the New York and New Jersey coastline, many residents remain displaced from their homes. Others have left the shore for good.

The gathering provided respite for tight-knit Rockaway, including many who have surfed here all their lives. It also gave them a reason to party.

"It brings some psychological recovery for the neighborhood," said Will Hallett, a stocky surfer who grew up in the area and organized the contest.

"This gives everyone an excuse to get out here and have fun," he said, standing between concrete pilings that had supported the beach's wooden boardwalk before it was washed away by the storm.

Around him, surfers prepared themselves for competition, making last minute adjustments to their costumes. A matador waved his red cape; Catwoman put on her mask.   Continued...

A participant dressed as Captain America surfs during the third annual Rockaway Halloween surf competition at Rockaway Beach in the Queens borough of New York November 2, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer