At the lifeguard station at Fourth Street in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Capri Djatiasmoro and a group of friends — all long-distance swimmers — got ready Sunday morning for a different kind of food crawl.
Stuffing cash and credit cards into their rubber caps and attaching neon swim buoys around their hips, they prepared to hit the chilly water to swim to one of their favorite meals: lobster rolls at Paul’s Daughter, on Coney Island.
It was the first swim crawl of the season for Ms. Djatiasmoro and about 10 other swimmers, affiliated with the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers Club, who gather for two or three of these informal outings each year. As the swimmers prepared to run into the Atlantic, Ms. Djatiasmoro cupped her hands like lobster claws and playfully pulled friends to the water line.
While some people like to explore the city’s restaurants on foot, in a food crawl, these New Yorkers prefer a wetter route. The itineraries are timed weeks in advance to match the tide schedule. (The group swims out at low tide, then floats back with the incoming high tide.)
Sunday’s trip was the group’s first so-called Foodie Swim since the coronavirus pandemic began. The swimmers proceeded west, following the edge of the shoreline for more than a mile, their caps and buoys bobbing in the waves, before emerging on the Coney Island Pier and heading to the restaurant for lobster rolls and fried calamari.
Ms. Djatiasmoro, 70, who lives in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, has been organizing these events since 2010, when she began making mile-long swims to Steve’s Grill House, where she ordered hard lemonade, onion rings and French fries. Other swimmers took note, and she invited them to join in. (The restaurant, on the boardwalk in Coney Island, has since closed.)
After long swims, people are starved, Ms. Djatiasmoro said. “Knowing this lobster roll was here for me was good motivation,” she said between bites on Sunday. They take a half-hour to eat, then get right back in the water for the return trip, taking care to keep an eye on one another.
Eri Utsunomiya, 54, of Jersey City, NJ, and some fellow swimmers cheered as they ordered their lobster rolls. They were among the first to finish. “When it’s difficult, I aim for one jetty at time,” Ms. Utsunomiya, 54, said of the swim. “But when I’m stuck, I think about food.”
There have also been swims to Rudy’s Bar & Grill, in Coney Island, to chug a few beers and eat cheese fries and then float back. Ms. Djatiasmoro’s friend Jeanne DuBois, suggested the lobster-roll swim in 2018. They’ve also done a nine-mile crawl from Governors Island to Staten Island to eat barbecue at Juicy Lucy BBQ.
“The swim is only successful if you enjoy it,” said Ms. DuBois, 62, who includes an ocean swim as part of her commute from Kensington to her job at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island. “We’re not into that ‘no pain, no gain’ kind of stuff.”
On July 10, the group plans to return to the water for a 10-mile Key lime pie swim from the Coney Island Pier to Valentino Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn. There, they’ll eat pizza and barbecue along the beach and end the day with a slice of pie from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie.
And the swimmers have set their sights on a new route, from Brighton Beach eastward to Manhattan Beach. Ms. Djatiasmoro is already talking to a lifeguard there about what she calls “the food and beer situation.”
“I don’t know if they have lobster rolls, but I’ll settle for a beer and a hot dog,” she said. “I’ll be burping hot dogs on the way back.”