When it comes to the Rockaways, The Ramones knew what they were singing about. The sand and surf of Rockaway Beach are not hard or far to reach—just an A train ride (and, for the busiest parts of the beach, a transfer to the S shuttle) will get you there. On summer weekends, the New York Beach Ferry and the NYC Beach Bus become options. Once you arrive, there's no shortage of summer fun.
If you'd like to load up on gear—and learn to surf—your first stop might be Boarders Surf Shop. The neighborhood institution, owned by a native father-and-son team, sells custom surfboards and skateboards and hosts surfing camps for kids. They also offer board rentals at their summer pop-up store at Beach 68th Street on weekends and surfing lessons at Beach 69th Street through New York Surf School.
Another popular surf school, Skudin Surf, is named for competitive surfers (and brothers) Cliff and Will Skudin, whose expertise will have even novices hanging ten in no time (OK, you might fall off the board a few times before you figure it all out).
If you're ready to go with your board and wetsuit, you can head straight for the water. The two surf beaches are located between Beach 67th and 69th Streets, and Beach 87th and Beach 92nd Streets, and they're free to the public. Those looking for a quick, fun way to get from place to place (note that numerous sections of the boardwalk are being rebuilt, an estimated three-year project) may want to consider renting a set of wheels from Paul's Bicycle Shop on Beach 116th Street.
Food and Drink
If you get hungry at the beach, you'll find plenty to fuel your continued surfing. Tacoway Beach, a new version of the legendary but now closed Rockaway Taco, has set up shop in a shipping container located in the backyard of the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, serving fish tacos, quesadillas, fried plantain chips and fresh guacamole. There are those who say its offerings are on par with the Mexican food you'd find on the west coast. Nearby, there's also DiCosmo's Italian Ice.
Other worthwhile spots for dining and imbibing include Rippers, run by the same people who brought you Roberta's in Bushwick. Here, you can load up on the likes of hamburgers, cheese fries and beer. So maybe take your mom's advice and wait till after you're done surfing and swimming before eating (to be fair, they also have fresh juices). If you're just looking for a quick place to get a bite and relax, consider Cuisine By Claudette, where you can sink into a comfortable couch and sip a coffee while nibbling on a French pastry.
There's fun cocktails and family-oriented fare on a new menu by NYC chef Daniel Cipriani at the Playland Grill. Uma's, which opened in 2013, features authentic Russian cuisine and projects surfing videos more or less constantly. Finally, Thai Rock offers Thai food, a full bar, live music and even kayak and jet-ski rentals from their dock out back.
Also, throughout the summer, there are free events, fitness classes and even concerts taking place on or near the Rockaways beaches. For current details, check out the NYC Parks Rockaways page.