Keep your face towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.

WALT WHITMAN

Escapades in Riis Park

Words: Stuart Brumfitt – Photography: Pacifico Silano

The gay beach down at Jacob Riis Park in Far Rockaway has been an LGBTQ staple for decades now. It’s beach as leveler, beach as democracy, beach as bloody good fun. Head here for extreme open-mindedness, directional swimwear and lots of red cups. Directions: hit the Jacob Riis car park, then, facing seaward, walk left of the pavilion until you hit the derelict building (former nursing home) or the rocky barrier. Or you’ll know you’re there when the music gets louder, the looks get wilder and you feel like you’re on the coolest – if not cleanest – beach in the world. Here some beachgoers tell their tales.

Paul

Seasoned regular, decorates his beach tent

“Oh gawd, I’ve been coming here since I was a kid! I’m from Bay Ridge. Back then, this was a nude beach, a very mixed crowd. It wasn’t the gay section. Now people still go nude, but you get a $100 fine. As teenagers, we’d be like, ‘Let’s walk down and look at the nude people!’”

Brendan, Stewart & Keith

West Coast, Williamsburg, out to chill

Brendan: “We’re all from the West Coast, so we grew up swimming and going to the beach, so this is one of the few opportunities to do that here.”

Stewart: “I like going to Fort Tilden during the week, when no-one’s around, then coming here on the weekend to watch the girls prance and do their thing. It’s a good mix – trans folks and lesbians, as well as gay guys.”

EJ

Solo, shows ass, hates Jersey Shore

“I’m kind of a lone ranger. I swim and sunbathe. I should probably stop tanning – I’m getting a little dark! This is only my second time here. I came down from Queens. I used to be in New Jersey, but I never hung out on the Jersey Shore – it’s too dirty. Sometimes I talk to people, but sometimes I just want solace. I have a question: am I allowed to show my ass here?”

Eric

21-years-here, gay, black pride

“I come down from Gravesend, near Coney Island, but I always come to this beach. I’ve been to all the other area beaches, but I don’t like the vibe. Here it’s more relaxed, chill and all about enjoying the day. I’ve been coming to this beach since I was about 19 and I just turned 40. We used to have gay black pride every August 6th. It was a great time. There were DJs, vendors and they got SWV to come in once. This right here has always been the place, and it’s always gonna be the place. It will always be a staple in the gay black community.”

Richard & Mark

Married, but up for the eye candy

“We got married the first day it was legal in New York. We’ve been together 10 years. We’ve been coming here about four years. We either come to this or Fire Island. The vibe here is so great – much more lively. We always run into people we know here. And there’s lots of eye candy too. I love how accepting this beach is – there’s much less judgement here than other places. There are even straight people here!”

Nate

Nigerian, new, loves the well-oiled

“I’m from Nigeria. I’ve lived in New York for eight months. There’s nothing like this in Lagos – as far as the general public is concerned, we don’t exist there. All the finely tanned, well-oiled men…mmmmm…it’s wonderful.”

Jonathan & Jose

Volleyball, bodies, beautiful couple

“This is our first time here. We went to Sandy Hook yesterday, but it’s pretty expensive. We feel like the atmosphere is better here and there are younger people. We’ve been playing volleyball – even ten minutes of volleyball on the beach is a good workout.”

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