KRYSSA SCHEMMERLING/OUR HAWAII
OUR HAWAII is an hour-long documentary that explores the vibrant surfing scene forged in Rockaway Beach, Queens during the late 1960s and '70s, when New York City was struggling through one of its bleakest economic periods. It is about a group of Rockaway locals who attempted to recreate the mythologized California surfing lifestyle in a ruined, crime-ridden, urban environment. All the characters, except for one, grew up in Rockaway. They include construction workers, two fireman, a garbage man, a sociologist and an artist. As young surfers, they were were viewed by the conservative, blue-collar Rockaway community as hippies, draft-dodgers, and outlaws. Kicked off one beach after another by the police, arrested and ticketed for surfing, many of them gravitated to Beach 38th Street in Far Rockaway, lured by its unusually powerful break. So blighted that even the police ignored it, 38th Street became, for these surfers, a unique haven, a place of freedom and self-expression. The film follows several of the surfers into the present to see where their lives have led them and what compromises they have – and haven't made – to continue surfing. Their individual voices and viewpoints merge to create a multi-faceted portrait of Rockaway and it's surf culture as it looks back at the neighborhood's heyday as a popular urban vacation spot and its long decline. Less journalistic than impressionistic, OUR HAWAII explores the emotional geography of a unique New York enclave.