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Summer Splash

Eight ways to get wet—from kayaking in New York Harbor to canoeing on the White River.

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Updated June 2005; Originally published in the 2002 and 2003 Summer issues of New York Magazine


Montauk's Ditch Plains.  

1. Surfing Montauk
Amped? Stoked? Otherwise afflicted by a desire to ride fast-moving barrels of churning ocean water? Montauk will cure what ails you. There, at the easternmost end of Long Island, you’ll find the Right Coast’s answer to California dreamin’—dramatic hundred-foot-tall bluffs; clean, consistent waves; and an appealing mix of old-school surfers and young, adrenaline-crazed shredders. Working east from the town of Montauk, there are more than a half-dozen well-known breaks. On days when there’s a robust swell, the waves at Ditch Plains, the area’s most popular spot, break both left and right, and the rides are fast and long. Next comes Trailer Park (much like Ditch Plains), Big Rock (usually a left slide), and Cavett’s Cove (below the spot where the retired talk-show host’s Stanford White home burned to the ground). Surfers looking for bigger waves head to Camp Hero, a rock-studded patch of right breakers beneath the cliffs on which a World War II gun battery once stood, and Turtle Cove, the farthest east and perhaps best Montauk break, just below the Montauk Lighthouse. After sundown, wander to the Shagwong Bar and Restaurant on Main Street for burgers and beers (visit shagwong.com). Grizzled commercial fisherman sit at the bar. Surfers sit behind them at the tables, lying about the size of the waves they caught, and staring at the TV for news of summer storms. Montauk’s Air and Speed Board Shop (631-668-0356) sells and rents surf gear and offers lessons. New York Pipe Dreams (1623 York Ave., between 85th and 86th Sts.; call 212-535-7473 or visit newyorkpipedreams.com) has plenty of gear, but if you want to look good using it, go to Woody's Surf Shop in Shirley, Brookhaven (44 East Surrey Circle; call 631-281-0008 or visit woodyssurfshop.com), where $55 is all you need to get two hours of training and a long, hard lesson on how to show the ocean some respect—so you can get some back. — GREG DONALDSON AND JADA YUAN

2. Scuba Diving
Village Divers (125 E. 4th St., between First and Second Aves.; call 212-780-0879 or visit villagedivers.com) will hook you up with scuba equipment, courses, and a list of boats that cruise out to Wreck Valley, a stretch of some 1,000 shipwrecks between Long Island and South Jersey. — JADA YUAN

3. Kiteboarding in Napeague Harbor
In 10 knots of wind—a velocity so low it makes windsurfing nearly impossible—a kiteboarder can cruise at nearly 20 miles per hour and jump up to 15 feet in the air. Just six years old, this "xtreme" equivalent of wakeboarding without a boat has already generated enough buzz to spark a territorial war on the hallowed windsurfing ground at Napeague Harbor, Amagansett. Main Beach Surf and Sport (328 Montauk Hwy, Wainscott; call 631-537-2716) will point you in the direction of experts offering by-appointment lessons on how to avoid getting dragged out to sea (Skatoor's International Kitesurfing School; prices start at $275 for a three-hour lesson and $575 for an eight-hours; call 203-984-1097). — JADA YUAN

4. Kayaking in New York Harbor
Colby and Tina may have painted logs and called it surviving, but we bet they wouldn't have lasted two minutes kayaking in New York Harbor. Intrigued by the challenge? Start with a Paddle Basics course ($160 for three and half hours on Saturdays and Sundays starting at noon) and practice tours from the Manhattan Kayak Company (call 212-924-1788 or visit manhattankayak.com) out of Pier 63. Next, try battling jet skis and unpredictable currents in water temperatures that don't rise above pretty damn cold until August or September. Fight your way to open waters, though, and you'll taste Zen calm. — JADA YUAN

5. Kayak in the Berkshires
The Deerfield River’s fun but forgiving rapids and consistent summerlong flows make it a perfect place for the beginning kayaker. Zoar Outdoor, run by former world-champion paddler Bruce Lessels, provides boats, experienced instructors, and hand-holding (call 800-532-7483; prices start at $235 per person for the two-day novice camp or $120 for one-day). The turn-of-the-past-century Brandt House Inn, in nearby Greenfield, offers king-size feather beds, sunny, richly furnished rooms—with garden-picked flowers daily—and a glimpse into the Berkshires (rates, $95-$295; call 413-774-3329 or visit brandthouse.com). — TODD BALF


6. Canoeing on the White River (Green Mountains, Vermont)
The Best of Vermont River Sampler, a five-day, inn-to-inn trip, run by BattenKill Canoe, takes you to a handful of mellow, ridiculously scenic rivers. The classic White, banked by lovely farmland and full of clear swimming holes, usually caps off the outing. At night, you’ll stay at historic country inns, such as the Autumn Harvest Inn in Williamstown (prices start at $1,275; call 800-421-5268 or visit battenkill.com). — TODD BALF


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