If you’ve ever been to a place that perfectly defines its cultural moment, you’ve felt the strange alchemy required to elevate an establishment to “icon” status—The Surf Lodge in Montauk, NY is one such venue. A hotel and restaurant that is so much more than just a hotel and restaurant, Surf Lodge has managed to transcend its humble beginnings and become a fixture in the ever-changing social scene of this once-sleepy surf town.
EXPLORING THE SPACE
If you say “meet me at Surf Lodge” to anyone familiar with Montauk today, you’ll know from their reaction which camp they fall into: the New Guard or the Old Guard. As is often the case in vacation towns that have seen an influx of money and tourism in recent years, there exists a point of tension between those who push the boundaries of what the place could be, and those who’d prefer if it remained as it was. Surf Lodge is decidedly a lightning rod for the New, evolving along with Montauk over the last decade to become a hub of activity. Their summer concert series attracts major talent, exclusive events for hyped brands and media outlets pull in celebrities and influencers, and day-to-night parties are a perennial staple for the young, moneyed weekend crowd.
Founded in 2008 by part-owner Jayma Cardoso, Surf Lodge surged to life from the ramshackle foundations of a mid-century beach shack slash dive bar located at the northeast corner of Fort Pond, near the very southern tip of Long Island. Montauk is, of course, affectionately called “The End,” and there were initial doubts that guests would make the trek so far out to visit a breezy, casual little hotel with live reggae nights. The rest, as they say, is history. They have since hosted everyone from Courtney Love to Jimmy Buffet, and have developed an Artist In Residence program to support local artists, musicians, and culinary talent.
Surf Lodge’s reputation as a hotspot destination aside, the physical space also garners considerable attention. Originally designed by Robert McKinley (also responsible for nearby Ruschmeyer’s), every detail of the decor is coordinated to evoke the ocean, conspicuously reminding guests of Montauk’s proximity to and historical reliance on it. With 20 motel-style rooms open seasonally, the vibe is decidedly intimate and casual.
A 2018 expansion in partnership with ABC Carpet & Home ushered in a more wellness-forward approach to new artist residence spaces and programming—bleached wood paneling with bohemian rugs and textiles harmonize with the existing design elements, and events with Deepak Chopra and Gwyneth Paltrow appeared alongside DJ sets on the weekend lineup. Oversized surf photography and sea glass-hued color field paintings on the walls drive home a clear message to guests: relax, you’re at the beach. Other improvements over the last decade include a long-overdue update to the ancient septic system, and an art gallery carved out of a former storage space.
True to their desire to celebrate the local flavor of Montauk, Surf Lodge serves up only sustainable and local ingredients at its restaurants, and the back deck is a wonderful place for a drink after a day in the waves. By continuing to push the needle on what a cultural venue can be for both guests and the local community, Surf Lodge intends to stick around, maybe long enough to someday find itself a member of a fading Old Guard in a town that fondly remembers its wild younger days.
Book early! Rooms open for the season in May 2021
Scouting local conditions? A weather tracker on the website provides real-time updates of temperature, surf height, wind speed, and direction
The face-melting rainbow mural on the facade was painted by LA-based artist Jen Stark
Concerts and wellness events usually kick into gear Memorial Day Weekend and last through Labor Day Weekend