Scores of ocean oglers defied police orders to leave the beach and boardwalk to get a close-up look at the pounding surf. Curiosity over the storm of the century trumped any concerns about the roiling swells, dune-busting tides and winds that frenetically whipped up skin-stinging sand.
"I've always wanted to see a storm since I was a little boy," said Randy Neil, 29, of Flatbush. "I never got to see one. I love nature."
Hurricane Sandy didn't disappoint Neil as he stood on the beach off of 15th Street.
"I've never seen waves this big, period," he said. "To see it in person, it's exciting."
Mayor Bloomberg ordered all parks and beaches closed in the run-up to the storm. All the famed boardwalk's businesses had been shuttered with sandbags piled over the entrances. A section of chain-link fence guarding Luna Park toppled over from the winds.
Cops in squad cars with flashing lights patrolled the boardwalk and commanded on loudspeakers for people to leave the area, but they were ignored.
Residents strolled past the shuttered Nathan's Famous, and hopped over cordoned-off beach entrances. Photographers with lenses wrapped in plastic bags stood on Steeplechase Pier, squinting through seaspray, to capture the wild ocean.
One thrill-seeker, Philip Ellis, 52, of Flatbush, even brought his swim trunks, but then decided only to wade into the surf up to his knees.
"The storm surge is just too dangerous to go in," said Ellis, who went swimming at Coney Island last week. "I wouldn't come out here this evening, when it really hits."
"It's really quite warm," he added of the ocean temperature. "It feels ike it's about 62 degrees."
Isaac Cohen, 42, of Flatbush, brought his son and his friend to look at the waves. He did the same when Hurricane Irene blew through over a year ago. Hurricane Sandy's full brunt hadn't hit yet, but he said it was already worse than Irene.
"It's nothing to compare to," he said. "This is a little more serious."
Before plodding through wet sand to the Coney Island shoreline on Tuesday, Cohen travelled to Long Branch, N.J., to check on his summer house.
"I'm hoping to have a house for the next summer," he said.