Business Spotlight – Locals Surf School

DCIM100GOPROYes, it’s well established now that you can surf in NY so if you’re looking to finally get out of your comfort zone and get your butt on a surfboard look no further than the super stoked duo behind Locals Surf School, Mike and Mike. Over the past year they have established themselves as the top surf instructors at Rockaway Beach, NY teaching everyone from kids to investment bankers the art form of wave riding and proper surf etiquette. We caught up with the co-founders to gain insight into their passion for surfing, love of teaching, and what they foresee in Rockaway’s future after Superstorm Sandy.

How did each of you start surfing?

surfing chiMichael Reinhardt: I’ve been on a beat-up surfboard or boogie board for as long as I can remember. My dad surfed whenever he could back in his day so he encouraged me a bit when I was little. But the first time I really remember taking it up was when I was about eleven years old. My younger brother got the idea that he wanted to try surfing and although I wasn’t really into it, I definitely wasn’t going to let my little brother be better than me at something. So, without any help, I tried incessantly for a whole summer before I caught my first real wave. Since then I’ve been hooked and couldn’t be more passionate about it. My brother and I aren’t so competitive like we were when we were both learning that once summer many years ago but we still love surfing with each other.

 Michael Kololyan: For most people who grow up near the beach, they are usually born onto boogie-board. My sponging days aka “boogie-board career” began at age 5 and dragged along until I was about 9 or so.  You can only lie down on your board for so many years; my time was up.  Although no one physically taught me how to surf, there were several long time Rockaway surfers such as Patrick Reen, Cindy Chorzepa, and Alex Karinsky who inspired me. Just like any other kid, I found myself on some old beat up short board attempting to master this surf lifestyle (laughs).

Locals Surf School had a phenomenal first year in 2012. What are your major goals for 2013?

Mike and kidsI think that we’ve seen a fair amount of success because we don’t set our goals too high for ourselves. One of our first goals that we had when starting the surf school was to have a lot of fun. Mike and I sure did that during our first season and I think this will be our main goal for however long we continue running Locals. Mike and I really enjoy what we do (surfing and teaching) and we really love the company of the people we work with. So in the end, if we’re not having fun because we’re dead-set on chasing some grandiose goals, then it’s not worth it. Having said that, we’re not naive and we know that in order to keep a business running we have to have some solid plans. One thing Mike and I would like to achieve is being responsible for drawing people back into Rockaway. Our community was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy so it would be nice to see that we could re-instill some livelihood to the community by attracting more customers. Another goal of ours would be to host and attend more surf related parties and events. It is really awesome to see the NYC Surf scene blossoming and we would like to contribute to that by holding more events where like-minded people can meet and share their stoke for the sport.

Who are your typical clientele?

Mike n kidsTricky question, NYC is such a diverse place that I don’t know if there are many generalizations you can make about New Yorkers. Meeting such interesting and diverse people is another reason why Mike and I love what we do so much. I’ll give generalization a stab though… It seems that a good number of our customers are young adults and adults ranging from 20-40 years old who have jobs and are looking for a new, active activity to get involved in on the weekends in order to escape the business of the concrete jungle we live in. We also get a lot of kids whose parents are looking to keep their children active and happy during the summer. But hey, we’ve taught just about everybody and gladly welcome all sorts!

What’s the best piece of advice you give to beginner surfers?

group lessonI think it’s most important for beginners to remember that surfing is all about having fun. It can be easy to get frustrated with yourself when out there trying to learn, especially if you set high expectations for yourself. Surfing looks easier than it is because the people who are good at it make it look so effortless and graceful. Beginners need to remember that it’s not that easy and that even if you’re struggling out there, you’re still doing it right if you’re having fun. It’s also important for beginners to know their limits and respect their surroundings. If you put yourself in waters that you can’t handle or get in the way of more experienced surfers, you might end up ruining all the fun by getting hurt or by hurting someone else. For more awesome tips, take a lesson!

What’s the toughest part about teaching people to surf such a finicky spot like Rockaway?

There’s not too much that’s tough about teaching in Rockaway. The waves are pretty consistently small and that’s perfect for beginners. We’ve had to cancel classes because the waves were too big more often than because they were too small. The only real obstacle is the sustained cold water temperatures. The cold water and weather makes it less inviting to new-comers; however, all those who have tried the sport get over the water temps quickly because they end up loving surfing so much. Besides, wetsuits nowadays are getting so good that it is not much of an issue anymore.

Rockaway was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy. What do you foresee being your biggest challenges this season?

creMain concern: where will everyone get their fish tacos??? Just kidding. In all seriousness, Rockaway was severely damaged and as a result, we feel that there will be many challenges ahead. Primarily, we worry about the transportation situation because the A-train is still not running. There have been many rumors about when its service will return but we haven’t heard anything concrete. The majority of our customers took this train because it was so convenient. There will still be plenty of options between the MTA buses and the ferry but they might not be as convenient as the good ol’ A(nimal) Train. Without convenient transportation, many people may choose not to come out to the Rockaways and this is bad for local businesses like ours who need the business more than ever!

What’s in your quiver?

Mike R surfMichael Reinhardt: Well to start, I’ve got about 12 soft-tops in my quiver haha. Besides those I have a 5’6″ WRV Nugget (My baby) for most shortboard-able surf, a 5’8″ Rusty Piranha for when it gets a bit bigger, a 5’6″ Channel Island Fish for the mushy days, a 6’8″ Funboard to fool around on, a classic 10′ Bunger longboard from the 70’s that weighs about 50lbs and an SUP for when it’s flat. I’ve got most of my bases covered.

Michael Kololyan: My quiver is pretty simple; it only contains four surfboards. Each board has a different purpose, depending on wave conditions. Here they are, starting from smallest to biggest: 5’4 WRV Nugget, 5’8 Super Brand Vapor, 5’9 Round pin, and a 6’3 JC Round pin (dust collector). My all time favorite has become the 5’4 Nugget, great for our inconstant or sloppy short interval waves haha. And believe it or not, that board has handled everything from 1ft mush to solid overhead surf.

 Thank you to both Mike and Mike for talking with us. We are stoked for your success. If you want to take a lesson with Locals this Spring/Summer check out their site for more information.


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