Deathsticks (or simply ‘sticks’) are the long lines of wooden groins that extend from the shore into the surf at Rockaway Beach. Resembling worn down telephone poles and known by locals as the “death sticks,” or simply “sticks,” they were installed decades ago to mimic the effect of rock jetties, prevent beach erosion and, according to some local surfers, protect the shape of incoming waves.
Now, the two wooden groins from a main surfing spot between Beach 87th and Beach 91st Streets are being removed to make it safer for the growing number of surfers that the beach has attracted.
“I can’t tell you how many people come in here all cut up from those things,” said Steve Stathis, the owner of Boarders Surf Shop and one of the early pioneers of Rockaway surfing.
As surfing has boomed in the Rockaways, mostly with D.F.D.-ers (local speak for “down for the day”) who are unfamiliar with the surf, the sticks have been claiming a greater number of surfboards and stitch counts.
To some, the sticks gave Rockaway surfing its edge.
“It sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s kind of a rite of passage to run into them when you’re surfing here,” said Thomas Brookins, a filmmaker and surfer in the Rockaways. “I’ve got my scrapes.”
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