I’ve always pictured the New York populace as consisting of overly aggressive taxi drivers, cigarette-smoking supermodels on the brink of starvation, and schizophrenic hobos dancing in back alley squalor. The last demographic that comes to mind when thinking of the Big Apple is the professional surfer. But 19-year-old Balaram Stack is just that, and he has certainly become the poster child for NY surfing over the past few years. When I ran into him in the crowded streets of a Newport Beach Fourth of July, it seemed as good a time as any to find out what it’s like surfing by the concrete jungle, and what we can expect from the New York Pro this Fall.
As a professional surfer from New York, do you think that some people take you for a novelty?
Yeah, maybe. A lot of people don’t know that there are waves in New York so they get surprised when they hear that there are actually waves—good waves—and they just don’t really expect it.
You get to travel a lot, but if you were actually in New York year-round, how often do you think you would get to surf?
We probably get a couple weeks of surf a month. Not as much as you would get out here, but honestly when I come out here [to the West Coast] there are waist-high waves in Newport closing out every day and I probably end up surfing the exact same amount as back home. Realistically, during the summer I probably surf two weeks a month, but during the winter I surf at least three and a half weeks a month.
Do you think there are any advantages to being a surfer in New York?
It’s not crowded in the winter and, I don’t know, it makes you appreciate the waves that you get. When I travel to places and the waves end up being waist-high, a lot of people don’t surf just because it’s small. I go out for four hours and people are just like, ‘What are you doing? It’s flat, why are you still out there?’ I just feel like there aren’t going to be waves all the time, so if I can, I want to surf every day.
With the Quik Pro on Long Island coming up in September, what do you think the odds are that there will be contestable surf?
If it’s anything like last year, it’s going to be the best contest—I don’t know about the best contest ever, but a really good contest. Last year there were swells right before the Junior and right after it, which was all during the exact same time period that the World Tour event will be happening this year, and it was pumping. It was ridiculously good, and if this season is anything like last season then it’s going to be a really good show.
You will get a wildcard into that event, right?
No, it’s not for sure.
But you probably will, it’s practically your birth rite.
I hope so. It would just kind of suck if I didn’t because it seems like people back home are always asking me if I’ve gotten it, and I would be super stoked if I did.
What would competing with the best in the world on your home turf mean to you?
I mean, I beat Michael Dunphy in the final at the Unsound Pro last year and it was the most fun night ever. Everyone was so psyched and happy, and I was so happy to have people supporting me and having fun. So I can’t even imagine if I was in the World Tour event. It would be the best. And my birthday’s on the 5th, so that’s just adding to it.
So this year you would like a wildcard for your birthday?
Big time. I mean, it would be amazing if I got in. If I don’t get in, I’ll still have the best time watching it. They’re going to have so much going on at the beach, you couldn’t possibly get bored.