Dive Long Island
Unless you have $250,000 to drop on a Virgin Galactic flight into space (orbit not included), scuba diving is pretty much the only way you’re going to experience weightlessness. Think of how good that will be for your self-image! Besides that, committing to getting scuba certified this summer will parlay beautifully into exploring the waters in a whole new way. Plus, you’ll be among the elite few at your next luxury getaway who can take to the serene depths of the sea.
First, the fun part. When visibility is good, the waters off our sandbar offer some top-notch diving. Boat wrecks dot the shore on both the north and south sides of the Island—so many, in fact, that LI is part of “Shipwreck Alley,” a famous stretch of prime Mid-Atlantic dive locations along the NY and NJ coasts.
Next, the fun part. Check out dive centers like Scuba Network Long Island in Carle Place, Tiedemann’s in Levittown, Port Diver in Port Jefferson or Hampton Dive Center in Riverhead to book an outing, get equipment or earn your certification so you can embark on a dive any time you choose. Scuba Network LI has an online option for the classroom portion of their certification training, though pool sessions and the four required open water dives and snorkel dive must be completed in person.
Among the many wrecks off our shores: The Andrea Doria (known as the “Mt. Everest of diving”), Prohibition-Era bootlegging ship the Lizzie D, the Oregon, USS Ohio, Coimbra and the HMS Culloden off Montauk.
Push the Pedal Test Your Mettle
In real life, you cannot race other cars. You cannot cut people off at high speeds. And you definitely cannot, under any circumstances, smash into other motorists. Of course, technically you can (and sometimes, you probably do), but we all know that acting on road rage is not among the wisest of decisions.
Enter go-karts. Like bumper cars on steroids, go-kart racing is the choice activity for venting aggression brought on by enduring painful summer traffic or even, more simply, capturing your inner child. These little racecars provide about the only legal opportunity to drive full speed around a track and smash into anyone who dares drive too close or attempt to pass.
Karts Indoor Raceway in Ronkonkoma is the Island’s first indoor go-kart track, but its fleet of vehicles is far from a bunch of rusty antiques. These rides are smooth and easy to handle with four racing speeds and enough power to slide around turns. Best of all, the spirit of competition is strong at Karts, which offers racing leagues on Monday and Tuesday nights for juniors, men and women in the Open division and “experts” in the Turbo division.
Two Wheel Pin-Up
20th Century Cycles is a modern museum in an old Ford Dealership on Audrey Ave (Oyster Bay). It houses a unique collection of motorcycles spanning the last five or six decades. A neon jukebox full of iconic biker music, a cappuccino machine and flat screen streaming classic MC movies set the tone. Founded by the ultimate bike aficionado, Billy Joel, the museum has limited hours on weekends. Best check 20thcenturycycles.com before going.
Enjoy the Rally
You’ve been watching the Serbs, the Williams Sisters, assorted Russians and even a few Americans cream that little yellow ball and you have Grand Slam envy. It’s ok, we know, you can admit it. After all, it’s the first step in getting yourself out there. And once you do, a smart, challenging, fun sport is what you’ll find, not to mention your workout for the week.
“Tennis is not a game of power, it is a game of position,” according to Bob Coburn, USTA Board, Long Island. Tennis is an individual sport, like golf, attracting players who are independent, driven, focused and strategic. In other words, those looking for a serious workout that involves the mind as well as the body need look no further. Other benefits? Social interaction, feeding your competitive bent, developing your ethics (you learn about having to make a judgment call against yourself) and sharpening hand-eye coordination. It also goes well with mint juleps, and when the weather turns for the worse, you can take it inside with ease.
What does it take? Tennis shoes, comfortable workout attire and a little discipline, but wait to buy a racquet until you know what you need (and your instructor or local pro will help you). After about four one-hour lessons, hopefully two times per week over two weeks, and ten hours of court time, newbies should feel comfortable enough to enjoy the rally against another beginner, i.e. engage in a meaningful game as a “counter puncher.” Don’t let all the laughs and socializing fool you, though. Eventually, the goal is to get the opponent running all over the court while you stay in control of the volley—like chess, it’s about the next three moves, not just the one at hand. Welcome home, type-A sportsters.
To get started, find a program, court or partner at longisland.usta.com. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you do not like relaxing activities that involve water, fresh air and sunshine, stop reading right now. If you do not enjoy exercise that is both effective and easy, turn the page. But if you do like the sound of these things, stay here a minute because Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is about to become your summer activity of choice.
It may look like surfing because of the board, but SUP is a sport all its own. To do it, you need a board, paddle, water (the stiller the better), a little balance and an easy, chill attitude. According to Trevor Thompson, SUP pro and owner of WhatsSUP Rentals, this new pastime is catching on because it’s a very basic way to get a workout and still have a relaxed, good time outdoors. To do it, wade out into water a little deeper than ankle-high, kneel on the board and start paddling. After a little practice, standing is as easy as finding the balancing point and employing a little coordination. Anyone can SUP after a simple 1-2 hour lesson, and Trevor finds almost no one has trouble getting the hang of it. What else do you need? A bathing suit would be ideal, but hey, we’re not judging.
Ready to give it a whirl? WhatsSUP Rentals will come to you. Call Trevor at (631) 678-1159 and he’ll figure out the best spot in your area to get you going, bring out the gear and provide a lesson. You can even text him—how chill is that? For more info, visit whatssuprentals.com.
Learn to Surf
Long Island doesn’t have the worldwide recognition of Hawaii or Southern California, but it has long been one of the top surf spots in the east. Excellent breaks can be found from Manhattan to Montauk and surfing culture is alive and well at every stop. The initiated will have a bounty of waves and barrels to enjoy here. If you’re new to the sport or have yet to even paddle on a board, LI has plenty of places to learn.
Contact Skudin Surf (skudinsurf.com) for private and group lessons or surf camp on Long Beach, one of the Island’s classic surf locales. Leading their family of surfers and instructors, parents Dave and Beth Skudin began the tradition on Babylon’s Gilgo Beach in the 1960s. Today, sons Cliff and Will Skudin carry on that legacy teaching others the sport the family loves in a positive, safe environment.
On the East End, Main Beach Surf and Sport in East Hampton (mainbeach.com) has more than two decades of experience giving surf lessons to groups, individuals, kids and families, and they know all the best breaks from Georgica Beach in East Hampton to Ditch Plains in Montauk. They also have all the gear and apparel to help you look cool while you struggle to catch a wave.
Finding LI Breaks
Once you’ve learned, stop by Long Beach for a classic surf scene and catch some waves near Lincoln Boulevard. Try Jones Beach in Wantagh and find the inlet for some sweet tubes, or continue to Babylon, which is home to two fine breaks. Gilgo Beach, the birthplace of the East Coast Surfing Championships, remains a popular spot with reliable waves and Robert Moses State Park is suited for more experienced shredders. Farther east, cross the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, go left and follow Dune Road to “The Bowl,” one of NY’s only spots to catch big waves. Just don’t drop in on a local’s wave—they will gladly punish you for your bad manners.
The Hamptons has its share of quality spots, but parking is brutal and expensive (if you can even find a beach that has paid parking). Try the jetty at Georgica in East Hampton and offshore breakers at Flying Point in Southampton. As far east as you can go, Montauk has some of the best surf on the Island. The rocky bottom and deep water make for consistent quality waves most of the year. Turtle Cove, below the lighthouse, has killer waves, but the break is not for grommets.
Land, Sea & Air
Sunken Meadow State Park
What do you mean you haven’t been? Not even for the golf? This is your chance to change that! Sunken Meadow is the granddaddy of parks, offering everything under the sun, literally. By land, you have golf, six miles of hiking trails, horseback riding and biking. Three miles of beachfront skirt glacier-formed bluffs offering unmatched views of the Sound, where you can take to the water by kayak or canoe. And, for a rush of fresh salt air, bring your windsurfing gear to the launch at Field 3 (get your free permit at the office, first).
The Original Extreme Sport
Speed, endurance, panache…and let’s face it, balls. That’s what it takes to play polo. Think about it, you and seven other people are each mounted on horses flying around at 40mph whacking balls with mallets. Extreme is an understatement. But slow down cowboy, that’s the advanced level.
Beginners will find something, well, slower. Obviously, the first step is mastering some basic riding skills. Even if you’ve never been in the saddle before, this can be had in just a few lessons. Like other sports, the workout is part of the fun (your legs, hips, butt and thighs will never look so good) and you get to spend time outside enjoying an exhilarating activity. Then there’s the scene. It’s no secret that the who’s who of socialites, celebs, VIPs and elite are drawn to the tents. But because of Long Island’s tradition of horsemanship and thriving equestrian community, many games attract diverse crowds in the stands, too.
The good news is lessons are available. Polo star Bob Ceparano, the driving force of Polo in the Park in Bethpage, has been keeping polo alive and well at Country Farms Equestrian Center (Medford). Sign up alone, with a friend, a spouse or even a child. The game is a huge confidence booster. The four-day-per-week program includes watching polo and playing in organized chukkers. Country Farms offers all associated events and services as well, making it a relaxed hang-out in a rural setting. And it’s easy to get to from either end of our sandy horsecountry.
Visit country-farms.com for rates, times and further information.
6 chukkers @ 7.5 minutes each »
Each horse runs about 3 miles per chukker»
Across 13 acres»
*1 polo field = 9 soccer fields »
8 polo players + 8 horses = 198 soccer players»
The fishing never stops on LI, but this longstanding tradition—and way of life—is most accessible during the summer when hours on the open water is a pleasure, rather than a brutal test of patience and endurance. Our coastal villages are home to all manner of angling experience, whether it’s surfcasting, private charters, beer-soaked party boats, deep-sea fishing or trolling for monsters.
Ready to set your course for a new hobby? Before you set out with rod and reel, learn the rules on marine ecology and the impact of fishing through the Sport Fishing Alliance and Cornell Cooperative’s Sport Fishing Education Center, based at Cedar Beach Marina in Babylon. The Alliance and Center have various programs, including outreach, education and marine science camp for kids. For more, visit seaexplorersmarinecamp.com.
When you’re ready to start pulling fish out of the water, hop aboard one of the many charter and party boats out of Captree State Park on the tip of Jones Beach Island in Babylon, or travel to “The End” and try Montauk’s selection of fishing vessels. If boats aren’t your thing, grab a cooler, head to your favorite beach and cast away.
Don’t forget, without a licensed charter captain you must register to fish legally in saltwater. Registration is free, but required annually for anglers older than 16 so the state can track impacts on local fisheries and maintain the fragile marine ecology. Go to dec.ny.gov and follow the proper links to register online.