The Hamptons – Learn to Surf – Fall Travel 2009




"Dude, we’re gonna find you a mellow wave, ’cause you’re kind of new at this." This was Jesse, my instructor, talking as we floated on our boards off the coast of Montauk, known for the best waves on the East Coast. Jesse was straight out of central casting: curly blond hair, totally calm vibe. Me? Well, as surfers go, I was anything but typical, seeing as I’m 45 and have acid reflux and my body no longer bends in ways it once did. But surfing isn’t one of those things you do to act your age; surfing is one of those things you do to get the caffeine hit of feeling 18. My wife, however, didn’t see the appeal. ("I’m bringing a neck brace," she mocked.) Yet not once did my board bop me on the head; not once did anyone need to call a medevac. Which is not to say I was any good at this. No, Jesse found me mellow wave after mellow wave, and pretty much every time, I splashed face-first into the Atlantic. But, look, as the dude said, I’m new at this.

Get surfing lessons from Air & Speed Surf Shop in Montauk (a pristine beach town on the tip of Long Island that has, no exaggeration, the best surfing on the East Coast). Cost for a one-hour private lesson (board and wetsuit included): $100. Air & Speed Surf, 631-668-0356,

Gurney’s Inn (above) is a family-run resort on the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic, with terrific ocean views and a nice mix of single rooms and larger cottages that can sleep up to eight. Weekend rates in September start at $275. Gurney’s Inn, 631-668-2345,

Make an appointment at Gurney’s Sea Water Spa, where they offer a full range of treatments that utilize seawater and seaweed (perfect for your aching, post-surfing muscles). Or check out the Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum, on the very tip of Long Island; it’s 137 steps to the top, but worth it for the incredible view of the water. Montauk Point Lighthouse and Museum, 888-685-7646,

You can’t beat the simply prepared fresh seafood at no-frills Lobster Roll in neighboring Amagansett. The menu is classic fish-house fare (fish and chips, steamed lobster, crabcakes), and the restaurant caters to an intriguing mix of locals, big-money Hamptonites, and occasional celebs like Woody Allen and Brooke Shields. For breakfast or lunch, try the homey MTK Café on Main Street, with great omelets, sandwiches and Greek specialties. Lobster Roll, Amagansett, 631-267-3740; MTK Café, Montauk, 631-668-6852.

Drive, but keep in mind that it might not be a quick trip. Without traffic, Montauk takes about four hours and 15 minutes from Philly. With traffic? Well, think about it this way: You’re going surfing. You’ll get there. Just relax.

Just wear your swimsuit for your surfing lesson; Air & Speed will provide a wetsuit if the water is icy.

Back in Philly: Hone your surfing skills down the Shore. Check out the 7th Street Surf Shop in Ocean City (609-391-1700), where group lessons run $35 per person.