Under the Boardwalk

A Novel by David Ortmann

David Ortmann's debut novel, Under the Boardwalk, is a literary love letter to the New Jersey shore and to the music and culture of the outlandish 1980s. Young Michael Gunderson - scholar, wrestler and karaoke lounge singer - comes of age in a fantastical Wildwood, New Jersey populated by drag queens, surfer gods, superstars, transgender Hells Angels, and shady businessmen. Beneath Mikey’s whimsical persona beats the heart of a sensitive, courageous and sometimes frightened young man struggling to accept love, come to terms with his sexuality and further his unorthodox career, while navigating the seedy, dark underbelly of the sunny mauve and teal hued seaside town he calls home. 



The Wildwood, New Jersey beach and boardwalk have always been Mikey Gunderson’s escape from reality, his shelter in the storm. Will the power of the boardwalk be enough to transform his life—even to save it?

Mikey has always felt out of place among the boys he knows. He’s sensitive, interested in the drama of music, and no good at any sport besides wrestling, which he likes participating in for more than just the competition.

When he comes out as gay to his parents, it’s not a shock; the signs have been there from a young age. Even still, it creates a rift that won’t be repaired so easily. He retreats to Wildwood, New Jersey, a staple of his summers growing up. As the city’s famous boardwalk evolves and changes, so does he.

Follow Mikey’s journey of self-discover in the 1980s in Under the Boardwalk. It’s a story of redemption, love, family, and personal liberation. Mikey learns that in spite of hardship and tragedy, the best thing to be—the only thing you can ever be—is yourself.