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To a very small part of the population, New York has been a surf city for decades. An hour-long subway ride from Manhattan lands you at Rockaway Beach in Queens, a strip of sand at the end of the JFK runway that pulls in waves from the Atlantic year-round. Most New Yorkers don’t know you can surf here, but those who discover it often become hooked.
That's what happened to the small group behind Yawn Patrol, which started as a group text among a handful of city surfers who commit their early mornings to the beach. The thread is a lot of chat about surfing, questions about wave quality, and logistics of where and when to meet before heading out to Rockaway. At the center is designer Hoshi Ludwig, who over the years has turned the group text into t-shirts, stickers, a website, and other branded merch. This past month, he's released a hardcover book of black and white film photographs documenting countless mornings at Rockaway.
"It’s early mornings, friendships, party waves, aging skaters, and an ocean that sometimes feels more like a lake."
The book is called YAWN and in Hoshi’s own words, “It’s early mornings, friendships, party waves, aging skaters, and an ocean that sometimes feels more like a lake. It’s city beaches where the surfing conditions are by no means world-class, but it’s the local—and for a small part of the day, we have it all to ourselves.”
[Ed Note: Profits from book sales will be donated to Laru Beya, a nonprofit empowering underrepresented youth in the Far Rockaways through surfing.]
When I moved to NYC in 2013, I met Hoshi and he quickly became my closest surf buddy. That relationship connected me to a bunch of other city surfers that have become close friends over the years. Hoshi is the magnet in the middle for many of us, and the most dedicated surfer I know. If there’s a chance of a wave hitting shore near the city, where decent swell and a reliable forecast are shoddy at best, he’ll be at the beach. Early.
" If you’re looking for stunning images of perfect blue waves, this book ain’t it."
Surfing in NYC is accessible but challenging. My experience with Yawn Patrol has been a lot of early mornings through dark and cold winters—usually starting at Bagelsmith on the corner of Lorimer and Metropolitan with the after-bar crowd as we seek a coffee before carpooling to the beach. Forty-five minutes later always feels too soon to slide into cold neoprene on the sidewalk before the first hint of daylight.
The waves at Rockaway usually suck, but once or twice a year you hit that special morning when it’s perfect—magic, world-class waves. Those are the days that have continued as conversations in every ride to the beach in the back of Hoshi’s Toyota Prius over the months and years that follow. It isn't just those moments but every moment and memory I have of surfing in NYC that I revisit when I turn the pages of YAWN.
It's fitting then that the entire book is shot, designed, and self-published by Hoshi. From 2018 to 2020, he packed an old, inexpensive 35mm film camera to the beach every morning and strapped it around his neck when he paddled out to the lineup. If you’re looking for stunning images of perfect blue waves, this book ain’t it. Rather, it’s emotion, memories, and a visual experience of the in-between moments that explain why living in NYC and surfing with your friends at ungodly hours in the depths of winter is actually a damn good life.
The next time you look at a Long Island swell forecast or wonder if there’s a surfable wave at Rockaway Beach, know that Hoshi and his Yawn crew are already out there. And that they got there way earlier than you did, coffee and bagels in hand, ready to shout each other into all the mediocre waves this city has to offer.