‘Relaxing and easy to keep a social distance’: Amid COVID-19 pandemic, beachgoers test the waters at Rockaway Beach

Photos by Dean Moses


After months of hibernating during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Queens is starting to awake from its slumber. Restaurants are offering outside dining, nonessential businesses have begun opening their doors, and with the full swing of summer, hundreds have flocked to Rockaway Beach despite the threat of of the coronavirus.

While many passersby don masks and face coverings on the streets and boardwalks surrounding the B86th section of Rockaway Beach, beachgoers were observed removing their masks the instant bare feet touched the sand. Countless men, women and children have been observed lounging in the sand as far as the eye can see while countless more frolic amidst the ocean’s crashing cobalt waves.

On closer inspection, this swimwear clad community maintains social distancing measures by keeping over six feet away from one another regardless of the large number of individuals soaking up the sun. With the threat of COVID-19 still looming, QNS asked some patrons why they chose to head to the beach. Many people said they simply want a way to unwind and soak away the stress of our pandemic reality.  

Couples like Grace Hernandez and Ravi Marwah have been retreating to Rockaway Beach for the past two months in order to paddle board.

“We take the paddle boards and just sit in the middle of the ocean and just meditate and lay down. It’s relaxing and easy to keep a social distance,” said Marwah.

Even during quarantine, the pair would visit the beach twice a week to walk, jog and meditate.

We would jog up and down the boardwalk. There were never any restrictions coming to the beach at all. I even took my 2-year-old daughter here so that she could run in the sand for her second birthday. It’s meditative and healing, especially when you go further out into the water. You’re away from everybody and you only hear the water,” the pair told QNS as they prepared their boards for another morning of spiritual relaxation.

Venturing out to the beach hasn’t been as simple nor as easy for everyone, though. Some families have experienced the implications of COVID-19 firsthand and now appreciate the little things so much more. 

Gale and Charlie Migliore, who hail from Glendale, have made Rockaway Beach their go-to summer destination. On their third trip back, they expressed the welcoming feeling of regularity.

“When we first went back to the beach it felt like normalcy. We were out of our house for the first time in months and our kids are getting to feel what summer is really like,” the couple told QNS. “We were sitting at home for months, since March, after we both had coronavirus. And my husband almost died with three trips to the hospital. Now things feel somewhat normal. We were always people who would go on vacation several times a year; my husband works with the airlines. This is the first time we’ve been anywhere this whole summer.” 

With all the talk of spirituality and the dangers of coronavirus, there are those who just want to take a break have a good time. Kelly Cabrera came with her aunt and children, but kept in mind the importance of safety.

“This is my second time back to the beach. It feels amazing to be able to enjoy the summer. I was worried at first, like everybody else. We come in our masks, and we wear it when we use the restroom. We try to stay away from people as much as we can. We take all of the precautions that we are supposed to do.”

Even during a pandemic, Rockaway Beach has become the prime stay-cation spot for New Yorkers; a spot where they can boogie board, swim, surf, sunbath, play soccer and collect seashells along the shoreline while remaining socially distant.

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