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Vintage Atlantic Beach: Forest Hills Surf Club

As one of the older beach clubs in Atlantic Beach, it’s hard to imagine the Ocean Club called anything but that. However, in the summer of 1936, it opened its doors as the Forest Hill Surf Club with 26 cabanas and 150 bath houses. It was a quick success and membership at the club doubled from its first summer season to second.

Limited edition "Forest Hills Surf Club" sweatshirts

In 1940, the club's name was changed to the Ocean Club of Forest Hills. Going into the summer of 1959, it was shortened to just The Ocean Club.

As with most of Atlantic Beach's beach clubs, it's not easy to find history or artifacts online from the Ocean Club (formally known as the Ocean Club of Forest Hills or Forest Hills Surf Club). We did find an opinion article from the December 27, 1981 issue of the New York times by Christopher Florentz, an Ocean Club member.

Storms and Stars and Self-Renewal in a Special Place, New York Times, December 1981

I love his visuals of days at the club:

We used to have dances in the lounge, where colorful flags hung from the rafters. A balcony ran the length of the building, facing the ocean. The sliding doors would be open and you could stand under the stars with your date. Standing on the balcony and feeling stirrings of love, you had intimations of immortality because you were young and had tasted only the sweetness.

During the days, surfboards lined the outside wall of the lounge, waxed and waiting for the surf to be up. Radios poured music into the salty, sun-filled air. The Beach Boys sang of summers that never ended and of catching the perfect wave. I can still remember the exhilaration of standing on a surfboard for the first time. With the deafening roar of the surf at my back, I held my breath, riding precariously on the wave.

On days when the distant rumble of thunder warned of a storm, the lifeguards would clear the surf of bathers. We'd sit in the lounge and watch the storm while it was still over the ocean. It seemed as if the dark mass of clouds would never reach land. Finally, a wall of rain moved across the beach. From up in the old, wooden rafters, there came a kind of chant as the rain fell steadily.

Photo of the beachside view of the Ocean Club posted on the Five Towns Area History Facebook group

Source: Five Towns Area History, Facebook


Forest Hills Surf Club is Active, New York Times, June 1937

The Ocean Club - History

Storms and Stars and Self-Renewal in a Special Place, New York Times, December 1981

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