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The perks and pitfalls of being New York's best surfer


by Guest Contributor Chris Mauro

Balaram Stack's success as a pro surfer has been an influential part of the surge in surfing popularity in New York.

Balaram Stack’s success as a pro surfer has been an influential part of the surge in surfing popularity in New York.

New York has never been considered a hotbed of surfing talent. While Long Island is home to a few high-quality surf spots, they’re plagued by lengthy flat spells, and harsh winter conditions mean only the dedicated can thrive. Balaram Stack fits the bill. Stack grew attached to the ocean when he was a tiny little grommet in Florida. He learned to surf on a boogie board, and graduated to a surfboard shortly thereafter. When he was 5 his parents moved the family to Point Lookout, New York, but Stack and his two older brothers refused to let their surfing habit take a hit. Besides, being just a block from the beach meant they could get in the water as often as they wanted.

By age 11, Stack was a standout in the tight-knit Long Beach surf scene. By 12, he was bailing on hockey and other pastimes to focus more on surfing. The crew at Unsound Surf Shop quickly made him a team member, and Stack continued to dominate regional events. When he dominated the NSSA East Coast Championships in 2009, earning three 10-point rides on the week, the kid from New York became the topic of hot discussion. But being a good surfer from New York didn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, that is, until Quiksilver turned its eyes on him in 2010. Stack had already become a Quiksilver team member after he was discovered at one of their surfing camps. Impressed by Stack, and the flourishing New York surf scene, the executives at Quiksilver decided to gamble on staging an ASP World Championship event in Stack’s backyard in 2011.


By that time, Stack’s impact on the New York surf scene made him the easy pick for the local wild card slot. For the first time ever, the global surf media was turning its eyes to New York. And because the world’s best surfers were heading there, so too was the mainstream local media, including the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and more. For many of them, the mere existence of a flourishing surf scene in New York was newsworthy. As defender of home surf, Stack quickly became a local hero getting worldwide attention.

A perfectly timed hurricane swell led to a stunning event, and tens of thousands of New York surfing fans. The visibility was a boon for the local surf scene. But one year later Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Long Beach, turning most of it into a pile of rubble.

The New York surfing community is still there, emerging from the chaos and playing a vital part of the rebuilding. Stack himself is busier than ever. He landed a new sponsor, Volcom, in May, and is lending his local celebrity status to important local causes along with the guys at Unsound Surf.