Tommy Bunger


As the buzzing shrieks of a track saw dissipate, Tommy Bunger emerges from behind a door covered in sawdust. His hands worn and tough, he lowers the respirator from his mouth and introduces himself. A second-generation surfboard maker, or “shaper,” as he calls himself, the 39-year-old has been crafting beauty out of fiberglass for nearly 20 years. It’s a family tradition. Tommy follows in the footsteps of his father Charlie, the owner of Bunger Surf Shop in Babylon. “I grew up surfing,” he says, leaning against a graffiti-ridden wall inside his factory, a dual garage-studio attached to an industrial complex off Sunrise Highway. Their family-run shop opened in 1962—the Bunger’s original factory burning down in the late 1980s and Tommy taking over shaping duties in the mid 1990s. “It’s been in my family for so long, since my father used to be a shaper,” Tommy says, in between stacking boards he’s planning on working on later. “Building the boards is a satisfaction you get out of making something that is mass-produced these days.” Tommy takes pride in seeing his creations enjoyed by kids and adults alike new to surfing. “[The boards] are all-custom, so you see people out there surfing, knowing that somebody’s getting a board that’s quality made right here on Long Island.”

Dave Juan


Dave Juan stands across from a row of surfboards propped up against a red brick wall at the back of Unsound Surf on East Park Avenue in Long Beach and attempts to explain the reasons for his shop’s success. “We’ve been around so long that we know so many of our customers,” the 37-year-old says. “Kids know they can come here, hang out and say, ‘What’s up!’” Pausing abruptly mid-sentence, he cracks a smile and greets a customer named Sean, who rushes over. A surfer for more than 20 years, Juan recalls that he bought his first board from his friend’s brother for $60 and hasn’t looked back. He and co-owner Mike Nelson opened Unsound in 1997. Floor space normally housing more boards, wetsuits and a host of surfing-related gear was laid bare due to Superstorm Sandy’s devastating wrath. Juan hopes to have the shop operating at peak condition by mid-month, when Unsound celebrates its grand re-opening. “The entire store was gutted, from ceiling to floor,” he says. “Mostly everything was gone.” Asked what he values most about running what has become a neighborhood institution, he joyfully explains: “The best is just seeing kids happy when they come in with their parents to get their first board!” He adds, “The smile on the kid’s face, that’s the best thing. There’s nothing better than that.”

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Elliot Zuckerman


Elliot Zuckerman was exposed to surfing when he was just 3 years old. By the time he turned 10, he was catching waves at New York’s beaches during the summer and the winter. Now 59, Zuckerman credits his father and godfather for showing him the way. “As soon as I was able to walk, they put me on a surfboard, and I haven’t stopped since,” he says. Zuckerman’s passion for the sport and his knack for teaching others led him to start his own surfing school, Surf2Live, in 1978. Since then, it’s become an institution, of which Zuckerman is extremely proud. “I saw the ease that I was able to teach people a sport that I seriously love, and it just grew from there,” he says, from his large beach estate overlooking the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Besides the Long Beach native’s love for hometown surf, Zuckerman admits to being smitten by the flexibility of instructing vacationers in the warmer Caribbean climate during off-season. “Here, this is considered the East Coast’s Hawaii, the waves break on very shallow reefs and there’s a million variations on the breaks,” he says. Zuckerman also founded nonprofit Surfer’s Way, which has been exposing special needs children to the surfing lifestyle for almost 20 years. “It takes a long time to really get proficient at this sport,” he says. “But if you stick with it…anybody will be able to learn.”

TJ Gumiela
Photo by Matt Clark


TJ Gumiela, 22, shakes the water from his wetsuit and, with board in hand, leaps out of the frothy ocean of LI’s South Shore to meet a photographer. Born in Long Beach, Gumiela says he’s been surfing since he was six. “At first…I was boogie boarding,” he says. “I would stand on my boogie board, and my dad was like, ‘Oh, it looks like I’ve got to get him a surfboard now.’” In 2005, Gumiela became the first New Yorker to win the youth division of the Eastern Surfing Association East Coast Championships; he was just 15. “No one knew who I was, I was just some kid from New York,” he says. “I went through about 12 heats and ended up winning the event.” Gumiela had just returned from surfing in Hawaii; he annually visits Puerto Rico. But he says he has a soft spot for his hometown surf. “We don’t have waves every day, but when we do, they’re really good waves,” he says. Gumiela currently has five professional sponsors. Aside from competing, he also works at Skudin Surf, an all-ages surf school. When teaching kids, Gumiela recalls when he was their age. “People would say, ‘Oh, you surf in New York! Are there even any waves there?’” he laughs. “Now, people are going to know that there are waves in New York!”


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