With surfing recently in competition at the Tokyo Olympics and the three-part documentary 100 Foot Wave currently playing on HBO and HBO Max, catching a wave is part of the cultural consciousness. Well — it probably always is, isn’t it? The beach, the waves, grappling with nature’s wonder, and solitude always hold some appeal.

That was certainly the case for journalist Diane Cardwell, who discovered the joys of surfing while working on a routine assignment near New York City’s Rockaway Beach (in Queens, to be exact). Caldwell chronicled her path to self-discovery and reinvention while learning to surf in her memoir, Rockaway: Surfing Headlong into a New Life. The book is now being adapted into a film for Netflix with Kerry Washington (Scandal) signed on to portray Caldwell.

Dealing with demands in her professional life and struggles in her personal life, Cardwell embraces surfing and the escape it provides for her. Unfortunately, she undertakes this endeavor during the summer of 2012 when Hurricane Sandy eventually hits the East Coast.

From the New York Times:

“The first morning that I woke up in Rockaway Beach after moving from Brooklyn eight years ago, I walked barefoot with my coffee to the boardwalk just because I could. It was April and my feet were stinging from the cold by the time I got there, but the smell of salt air, the warmth of the sun and the sight of cormorants diving for fish in the slate blue waves more than made up for it.

“‘I can’t believe I really get to live here,’ I remember thinking.”

Outside Magazine named Rockaway one of the best travel adventure books of 2020, calling it an especially important story of “survival and restoration” worth reading during the pandemic. Author Bonnie Tsui praised the book for the joy it conveyed, along with the lessons in altered perspective that many of us faced during quarantine.

Cardwell’s journalism career is an extremely accomplished one. She was one of the founders of Vibe magazine in the early 1990s before moving to the New York Times, where she was first an editor at the publication’s magazine before shifting to the newspaper as a reporter. The many subjects Cardwell has covered include the aftermath for survivors of 9/11, urban development, alternative energy, city politics, and — of course — surfing.

Washington is also a producer on the film, in addition to her starring role. Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife, Justified) is adapting Cardwell’s book into a screenplay.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.