Surf Montauk

Laura Rubin, founder of the creative agency Left Left Right and the creator of AllSwell notebooks, tells us how to surf Montauk. Photo by River Jordan 

By now, the faint echo of surprise that, yes, there is surf culture to be found in New York, has long since faded. In its place is a quiet appreciation for the culture and culinary offerings at the beachside escapes favored by city dwelling surfers. One such coastal respite? Montauk, New York, a surf town at the end of a two-lane highway that runs along the Atlantic know by the locals simply as "The End."

It's a favorite hideaway for creatives like Laura Rubin, who, by anyone's standards, is busy enough to deserve a little rest and relaxation (she's the founder of communications agency Left Left Right, the executive editor of MTK Magazine, and the creator of AllSwell notebooks). "[Montauk] collects a cast of unusual characters who have an affinity for its remoteness," she says. "It isn't precocious or haughty like some other Long Island beach communities, and the surf is consistent. It isn't always 'great' but there's almost always some bump out there, an excuse to go get wet."

And since we'll take just about any excuse to get the local beta on new surf destinations, we tapped Rubin to show us around her favorite East Coast retreat.

surf montauk

Charming hotels, fresh seafood, and small and steady surfing draw weary city dwellers to Montauk in all seasons. Photo courtesy of Haven

Getting there: Anyone familiar with going "out east," which is how locals like Rubin refer traveling to eastern Long Island, (or anyone who has watched “Sex and the City”) has heard of the Jitney, a bus service that runs out to Montauk. "Riding the Hampton Jitney is a right of passage of sorts, but bare in mind it's really just a semi-fancy name for a bus," jokes Rubin. "The width of a Jitney is 100 inches, so you can do the math of what size boards can fit in their cargo section."

Alternatively, you can take an off-peak-hour Long Island Railroad trip from Penn Station with a transfer at Jamaica station. "When it seems like nearly everyone is getting off the train, that's your cue to do the same!" Rubin stresses. "I once made this mistake, and it's a remarkably big hassle."

surf Montauk

Haven in Montauk is a rustic and charming hotel along the ocean. Stay here by night and surf Montauk by day. Photo courtesy of Haven

Hit the hay: Up until recently, Rubin would steer out-of-towners toward East Deck Motel, a "legendary" spot in Ditch Plains that is currently being renovated as a private club. In its place, she recommends The Atlantic Terrace for its proximity to both the beach and town. "This is a heavily localized spot, so please be respectful in the water," she says. "If not, don't say I sent you."

If you want something a little more tucked away and chic, book a room at Haven, which is on the bay side of town and just a stone's throw from a beautiful swimming beach. A "surf taxi" can ferry you and your board to one of the breaks.

surf Montauk

Head to South Edison for the best fresh oysters and clams in town. Photo courtesy of South Edison

Grab a bite: "Personally I'm a big fan of sitting at the bar rather than at a table," says Rubin, who has no shortage of recommendations for a savory tour of Montauk. On your first night, stop by The Dock Bar & Grill. "I don't know what they put in their broth (unicorn tears?) but these are the best damn mussels I've ever had," she says. "Just don't bother ordering the soggy fries. Mop up that goodness with bread instead." Try the raw bar at South Edison for locally cultivated oysters called Montauk pearls, or ask for the fresh catch of the day at the newly renovated Salivar's Dock. For small bites, you can't beat Crow's Nest. "The mezze platter and grilled octopus accompanied by a Negroni equal Happy Place," says Rubin. "Toast a marshmallow for dessert by one of their open fires." For a cold beer? Rubin says Montauket at sunset should be your only option.

Wake up early: for a hearty breakfast before you hit the surf. "Roll up to the Ditch Witch and grab a bagel, sit on a bench at the beach and watch the waves," Rubin suggests. "If you're smart, you'll be quiet and listen to the salty crew that assembles there. Usually a good story or two gets swapped—some tall, some short." On weekends, call ahead and place your order at Joni's Kitchen (cash only) or Naturally Good so you can dodge the perpetually growing lines.

Surf Montauk

Surf at Montauk isn’t always consistent, but it’s there. Photo courtesy of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce

Love a left: "I'm regular [stance] and Ditch Plains is mostly lefts," Rubin explains. "So, when it's working, North Bar by the lighthouse is my favorite spot to surf."

Spend time outdoors: trail running along the bluffs, hiking all over Montauk (check out the premier issue of MTK Magazine for more information), and checking out local skate parks, golf courses, and tennis courts. "My favorite sanctioned outdoor activity is a bonfire on the beach at night," says Rubin. "Unsanctioned? That's another story."

surf Montauk

Fishing, hiking, golf, and tennis all await Montauk visitors. Photo courtesy of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce

Grab your wallet: To peruse the selection of coffee table tomes from local writers at the recently revamped Montauk Bookshop before swinging by Martine & Juan, a boutique stocking eclectic global wares and a gallery of works from up-and-coming artists like Nick Weber and Lola Schabel. Rubin gets her yoga fix at LOVE Yoga, which stocks Brazilian bikinis by Yoga for Bad People, Sea and Spell sculptures, and, of course, AllSwell notebooks. Rubin's newest obsession? A stop at Johnny's Bait shop to stock up on fishing supplies. "It has what you need and is as real Montauk as it gets," she says. "Do not expect service with a smile."

Jot it down: Since journaling has become something of a lifestyle for Rubin, we had to ask for the best spot to doodle. "There's no bad spot to journal!" she says. "The more you do it, the better if feels. Inspiration can find you in the oddest places—some of my better ideas have arrived mid-suds in the outdoor shower!"

surf Montauk

The process of creating AllSwell notebooks has made Rubin appreciate a minute of analog time. Photo courtesy of Rubin

Do: "Just stop. Take a moment to do absolutely nothing and connect with yourself," says Rubin. "Put your phone down. Breathe in the ocean air. Use your eyes and ears." 

Don't: Wear a fedora to the beach—Rubin's seen it happen.

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