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(Photo courtesy of Pat Fallon/East End Surf Club)

Pat Fallon, co-founder of East End Surf Club, credits surfing with teaching him hard work, ocean ethics and exposing him to surf destinations around the globe. Along with his co-founder, Mike Poli, and a star studded cast of local instructors, Pat teaches lessons for all ages and offers surf summer camps at Ditch Plains in Montauk. He took a break from the summer surf season to sit down with us to discuss this healthy hobby that had a transformative impact on his own life and can with yours too.

(Photo courtesy of Pat Fallon/East End Surf Club)

Brian Halweil: How long have you been surfing on the South Fork?

Pat Fallon: Mike and I have both been surfing on the South Fork our whole lives. I originally started getting pushed into waves by my dad at age four and developed a love for the ocean at a young age. Took that and ran and never looked back. That love has brought me all over the world to surf and now I don’t think I’ve missed a swell if I’m home in the last 20 years. Mike is usually right there next to me.

BH: How did you meet Mike Poli? 

PF: We met surfing and have been friends since the third grade. Surfed all through our childhood and adolescence then on a scholastic team together in college and have had so many epic days scoring waves whether right here at home or in some of the most remote surf destinations all over the world. Now we own a business and get to share our love and passion for surfing with others. It’s been a dream.

BH: When did you start East End Surf Club?  

PF: We officially started EESC in 2020 after over a decade of helping to run the surf lesson and surf camp program at Air & Speed, [a] local surf shop Mike and I both worked at for many years. We loved working for [owners] the Foley’s and it gave us the tools we needed to find success in our own business. 

(Photo courtesy of Pat Fallon/East End Surf Club)

BH: When do you feel this area really blossomed as a surf destination?

PF: Wow, that’s a tough question. Surfing has always been a prominent thing in Montauk. For decades people would chase swells in Montauk. It is a very unique place to chase waves and has a lot of variety. But surfing sort of took a turn as a whole industry in the early 2000s. More people started surfing and more people started wanting to learn. Now the surf industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and it has really taken off. I think in Montauk it coincides with the changes we’ve seen in the increase of visitors and popularity the town has gained since the early 2000s and hasn’t slowed down since. 

BH: Have the demographics of your surf students shifted in a similar way as the demographics of the folks surfing in Montauk (that is, used to be mostly male, now more and more female)?  

PF: We have all sorts of clients. Surfing is for anyone who is interested in trying it but there are different levels that we see. There’s the person who just wants to give it a try and check it off the bucket list and then those who surf with us everyday and are dedicated to making it a regular hobby in their lives. No matter the age, gender or ability level. We teach one-and-done beginners to advanced coaching and even people looking to compete or surf on another whole advanced level. I do think we’ve seen an increase in women surfers, which is awesome, but there definitely hasn’t been a decrease in male surfers either. 

“Surfing has given us so much and has brought us to so many amazing places and given us so many life-changing experiences. It’s therapeutic, it’s a rush, it’s a healthy hobby, it’s a lifestyle.”

Pat Fallon, East End Surf Club

BH: Is surfing popular with kids?

PF: I would have to say teaching kids has always been our biggest clientele. The younger generations are in a place where they are playing sports and are regularly being molded into athletes or gaining new hobbies and kids have always been a prominent part of our business. It has always been so rewarding as well because you can learn so much about life from surfing — respect for others and the ocean, confidence, building a unique skill set, working hard for something you want, among so many other life lessons — and seeing kids implement that on a daily level is super cool. 

(Photo courtesy of Pat Fallon/East End Surf Club)

BH: What would you recommend to someone as a first step if they or their family wanted to learn how to surf? For instance, for a family of four with no surfing experience, where the parents and kids all want to learn how to surf.

PF: Well, again, we try [to] cater to everyone. We have awesome coaches here at EESC and have hand picked an amazing crew of local watermen and women who grew up surfing our waves and know our waters better than most. So I would reccommend booking a group lesson and giving it a try with the whole gang. What you’ll find is that everyone may love it and some might not, but for most all it takes is that one wave and you’re hooked. 

BH: Is there an ideal/better time of the year to learn?

PF: Summer time is a great time on the South Fork to learn how to surf. We have very consistent conditions that are awesome for learning. From May through September you don’t see as many large swells in Montauk. As fall hits we see a lot more hurricanes and larger fronts that make conditions a little more unpredictable and less user-friendly for beginners. Which is when we have a lot more of our dedicated clients surfing and trying to get the good days. Not to say there aren’t plenty of amazing beginner days in the fall, winter and spring as well. Just a little colder which takes a little more motivation and dedication given the gear needed and X factor of chilly water temps and winter weather. 

BH: Anything else to convey?

PF: We love what we do. Surfing has given us so much and has brought us to so many amazing places and given us so many life-changing experiences. It’s therapeutic, it’s a rush, it’s a healthy hobby, it’s a lifestyle — from the people you choose to hang with to the clothes we wear to the places we tend to travel to and why we still call Montauk home after all these years. Surfing has a huge role in all of it. It’s part of our identity. Anyone who has taken the time to learn the sport knows what it can provide and we love sharing that with other people especially our clients who choose to surf with us. 

We’ve been able travel the world annually chasing waves, we work with multiple organizations to help run programs for people who don’t have access to surfing on a regular basis (especially with organizations like A Walk on Water and LICOP where we get to bring kids with special needs surfing). We love giving people that experience of their first wave and love even more to watch people grow as surfers on their own terms and goals. It really can be life changing. We are consistently blessed and humbled to get to do what we do and share the love of surfing. [It’s] and something [that] has given us so much in life with others. We know what surfing provides people and we just simply love to give that back.