ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (PIX11) — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff of summer, and this year, the nearly ideal conditions, especially at the beach, made things feel like summer is here. However, one thing beneath the surface, literally, was cause for some concern.
George Herrera, a beachgoer who dipped his toe into the surf at Rockaway Beach, summed up the situation succinctly.
“It’s cold!” he exclaimed from the water’s edge. “That water’s really cold.”
Durel Kirkland, who satisfied his beach urge by tossing a frisbee with a friend rather than getting wet, agreed.
“I want nothing to do with that water,” he said. “It’s too cold for me.”
Even though air temperatures along the coast were in the low- to mid-80s degree range, water temperatures along the shores of the city were in the upper-50s to very low-60s degree range.
A variety of weather sources, including Watertemp.org, recommended that people wear thick wetsuits if they were considering entering the water. Seatemperature.org pointed out that without a wetsuit, Monday’s water temperatures could result in hypothermia after four hours of sustained activity in the water.
With much shorter exposure, however, the brisk water has a positive effect, according to swimmer Karla Florez.
“Super cold,” she said, seconds after emerging from dunking under the surf. “Enjoyable cold,” she added.
Where she was swimming, on Rockaway Beach around Beach 92nd Street, was not particularly crowded. The rest of the beach was.
The reason for the difference was that in the part of the beach where she was, there are no lifeguards.
Red flags, warning against swimming, were posted along the beach between Beach 92nd and Beach 95th Streets, and between Beach 109th and Beach 111th streets. In those areas, heavy construction equipment and SUV-sized boulders are positioned as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to reinforce and improve the beach.
As for the no-swimming and no-wading orders, local resident Adam Cardone tried to rationalize about how and why some people were flouting them.
“I don’t think anybody cares,” he said. “I think people are tired of following the rules.”
They’re rules, however, that could save someone’s life.
Rockaway Beach extends about 135 blocks along the Atlantic coast, and only about an eight-block area has the most extensive restrictions. More details on those are available here.
As for the city’s eight other beaches, there are few if any restrictions. Swimming between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. there, when lifeguards are on duty, can ensure a safe, fun summer.