Any time I walk up to a surf break, there’s an uncontrollable giddiness that ensues. And as much as I want to suit up and paddle out as soon as I get there, I always have to remind myself to take it slow, and carefully observe what the ocean is doing. Study it. And most importantly, respect it. All of this holds true at any surf spot, but especially more at a new break. Which is where I found myself one Friday morning at Rockaway Beach.
Rockaway Beach is situated just 12 miles southeast of Brooklyn, and to my limited knowledge, is the closest spot where you can find ‘surf’ in New York City. Yes, you read that correctly, surfing is but a subway, bus or car ride away in NYC. The location and energy was most certainly different from the San Diego surf breaks I frequented. That said, the one thing that gave me some sense of familiarity was the Seiko Prospex Save The Ocean Special Edition, SPB297 on my wrist.
There’s not a watch I associate more with surfing than I do with a Seiko. It was a Seiko diver that sparked my interest in watches and ultimately inspired me to actually get out into the ocean and do something with it. Although the dive watch would spend more time topside than below the surface, the path of wearing a Seiko diver led me to the sport of surfing. I can make a strong argument that my career as an Editor here at Worn & Wound started from my deep enthusiasm for both watches and surfing. I’ve taken any opportunity to combine the two here on the pages of W&W and it seems that once again, I’ve come full circle, but this time it’s with the Seiko SPB297.
Conditions at the shores of Queens, NY looked modest at best; a light offshore wind and mushy sets coming in around 2 to 3 feet. A low tide had the waves breaking midway past the jetty. The northeast humidity was already making its presence felt, but the overcast skies kept it from feeling too uncomfortable.
The beauty of surfing is that you don’t need a whole lot of gear to get out there. When it comes down to it, for me at least, all I really need is a wetsuit, a board, and of course a watch. In hand was my O’Neill Hyperfreak Chest Zip wetsuit. The quick-drying TechnoButter Neoprene makes the O’Neill Hyperfreak lighter and stretchier than your run of the mill wetsuit. Combined with the minimal seam design, the wetsuit allows for greater mobility out in the water.
I’m also keen on the chest zip feature, which makes the whole process of donning a wetsuit less cumbersome. With the water temperatures at Rockaway Beach staying steady within the mid 60s, paddling out without a wetsuit could have been doable, but I’m a creature of habit, and having a wetsuit on adds a sense of easiness out there in the lineup.
Under my other arm and in my grasp, was an 8’0” Wave Bandit foamie. Much lighter and shorter than my 8’9” Guptill pin-tail that’s waiting for me back on the west coast, the Wave Bandit would be perfect in the “small but fun” conditions. Foamies in general are more buoyant than fiberglass boards, so in theory they’re made to easily catch as many waves as possible. Whether you’re new to the sport, or a seasoned vet, foamies add a certain lightheartedness to surfing. And at the end of the day, it’s supposed to be fun, right?
Which leads me to the last piece of gear in my kit, a watch. The Seiko Prospex Save The Ocean Special Edition, SPB297 was the perfect companion out in the surf that day. As constructed, the stainless steel case with super-hard coating paired with its scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, as well as its ample 200 meters of water resistance makes the SPB297 more than capable for any activity in, and out of the water.
The dive extension mechanism built into the clasp made it possible to secure the watch over my wetsuit, avoiding any undue pressure from the watch during pop-ups if it were positioned near my wrist instead. The unidirectional elapse timing bezel proved useful to keep track of how long I was out in the water. Then there’s the most practical feature of all, telling the time. It’s easy to lose track of the time when you’re out there, and I’m sure like most surfers, we all have obligations after surfing, like work or family, that we need to be on time for.
At the office or moving about town, this Seiko looks and feels just as good at the end of a shirt cuff as it does at the end of a wetsuit. The 40.5mm width, 47.6 lug to lug, and 13.2 thickness are proportions for the modern wearer and come together for an ideal wearing experience on the wrist. And if the mood strikes to swap the steel bracelet out for a NATO or leather strap, the H-shaped lugs and 20mm lug width make it easy to do so. But it goes without saying that switching it back to its stainless steel bracelet is ideal for your next underwater adventure.
The Seiko Prospex Save The Ocean Special Edition, SPB297 also hits home with my growing interest and enthusiasm for sustainability and conservation. Spending more time in the water through surfing has increased my appreciation and respect for the ocean and nature overall. I’m firmly in the camp of once you start to experience the outdoors, immerse yourself in it, then your awareness increases, and you start making the effort to care for it. Seiko has contributed to marine conservation efforts by creating awareness and supporting initiatives through their ‘Save The Ocean’ special edition watches.
The surf session out at Rockaway Beach was a solid one, with several rideable waves taking me all the way back to the sand. Even if there wasn’t a productive wave count, just getting out there and using my gear was the most important part. Within that, are the lessons that are learned every time we get out there and the stories that get built into each piece of gear that we own. And I love that oftentimes it can actually be our gear that inspires us to go and do the things that make our memories and feed our souls.
As I glanced down at the Seiko SPB297, with its textured blue dial reminiscent of the rippling water out in the lineup frozen in a moment, it was time to head back to Brooklyn, leaving the beach, and the surf behind, for now.