#whereisyourtown: Clark's Fire Island First Impressions

Last week was my first time visiting Fire Island and I was awestruck by the community values and remote feel of this oasis a mere 3.9 miles from Long Island. As I stumbled off the ferry laden with an overnight bag, backpack, sleeping bag, surfboard, 5 mm wetsuit, and a variety of cameras to capture some serious #content, my gaze locked onto a sea of rusted but functional bicycles—relics of a simpler time. I would come to learn that Fire Island was just that—a simpler time—a place where stress fades and worries recede. A place where community matters.

I did not know what to expect on Fire Island. When Jake told me we were doing a weekend retreat, I asked him what to pack. The list seemed like we were going camping on a desert island: “Bring a sleeping bag, board shorts, t-shirts, a pillow, your board, wetsuit, and GoPro.”

Pants?

Not Necessary.

Collard shirt?

Nope.

Shoes?

No, I'm not bringing any. 

I brought a pair of sneakers and flip-flops—Jake and the rest of the Fire Island natives were literally barefoot the entire weekend. There are no motor vehicles allowed on Fire Island, and while the land mass extends 31 miles in length, it varies between 520 and 1,310 feet in width. I was amazed that you can literally walk from the ocean side of the island to the bay side of the island in two minutes flat.

It took us ten minutes to drag our baggage the 500 feet through the “town” of Ocean Bay Park to our lovely abode. We passed the local police hut, one of the two local bars, Schooner’s, which has an attached pizza joint that stays open until 4 a.m. on the weekends, and a defunct bicycle rental shop. After opening up the Fair Harbor house and dropping our gear, Jake and I explored the rest of the local amenities: a delicious deli where the price of a turkey sandwich rivals undergraduate college tuition and a bar named Flynn’s. Jake and I would come to learn over the course of the weekend that we didn’t have enough tattoos, apply enough hair gel, or consume enough pre-workout to fit in at Flynn’s, but man oh man was it a cultural experience.

My favorite part of Fire Island was the Town of Fair Harbor, a quaint, family-oriented oasis. The endless wooden walkways and absence of shirts and shoes reminded me of a Southern California or even temperate Caribbean retreat. As the company name might suggest, Jake and Caroline’s experience growing up in Fair Harbor was the inspiration behind the Fair Harbor Clothing brand. It was incredible to walk around the island and see all of the locals wearing weathered gear from past lines. We sold Fair Harbor gear in the town’s only shop, Corliss. The store’s owners, Michelle and John, run the general store, which offers all sorts of apparel, household essentials, and knick knacks (I developed an addiction to spinners thanks to Michelle generously gifting me one). The dynamic duo also operates a bike sales and repair shop in the same space. I was caught off guard by how genuinely kind the people were and how devoted the local population was to the company’s success.

During my three days selling outside of Corliss, I talked to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The veteran firefighters, the local sandwich shop, a resident who needed help fixing his bike chain, and a mom of five on the Island for the summer to escape New York City, all wanted to know how they could help a company from Fair Harbor continue to grow. Fire Island feels worlds away and years detached from New York City, and yet is only a hop, skip and a ferry ride apart. If you haven’t been to Fire Island, take a weekend, go out to the bars in Ocean Beach, get pizza at 4 a.m. from Schooners, surf, visit Fair Harbor, buy some of our gear in Corliss, and let us know what you think about the island on instagram or facebook. #whereisyourtown

Sea’s the Day!

Written by: Clark Perkins

caroline danehy