Why do we collectively shudder whenever a film or tv commercial tries to use surfing in its storyline? Are we just reactive elitists whose little bubble gets popped whenever someone who doesn’t surf makes an attempt to describe surfing? Or is there some legitimate smell of b.s. wafting into our nostrils?
Case in point, the following Guinness commercial… I loved Jonathan Glazer’s other Guinness ads on different subjects and despite a ton of the “best commercial ever” comments on YouTube, something about this ad rubs me wrong. I can forgive his rearranging of breaking wave shots which show a complete misunderstanding of wave mechanics, and the frat boy bear hugging at the end in tight Duke-inspired ball huggers. But what gets me is the complete contradiction of the “waiting” theme that is throughout their ad campaign. The term “waiting” is used as a thread because it supposedly takes 90 seconds to pour a proper pint of Guinness, but 90 seconds is nothing compared to the amount of time a surfer waits to get a good ride. For instance, how long did it take you to catch your first decent wave (not whitewash dribble, but a real smooth down-the-line ride)? Probably weeks, maybe months? I’m writing this in Chile while visiting my girlfriend who’s studying abroad near Santiago. Next weekend, we’re taking a four day surf trip during what’s supposedly the swell of the season. Even if everything goes to plan (meaning our 6 hour bus ride connects with our ride down the treacherous cliff, and we’re greeted with peeling lefts), how much actual surfing do you think we’ll get? Depending on the crowd and swell consistency, we’ll be lucky to get a few minutes of wave riding for the couple of days when the swells and winds align. In the end, I’ll have sacrificed countless of hours of work and even more time honing my surfing skills to be able to enjoy the experience.
And here’s where I think the surfer’s malaise lies – there is nothing patient about storytelling in the media. It’s life distilled into the most emotional and fantastic bits and good ads need to be immediate and sensational. Surfing isn’t a group hug, and it isn’t a 20 foot, hail-mary drop-in with 10 of your closest friends. That’s why whenever we see a happy ending, perfect ride, or grand moment associated with surfing from non-surfers, it rings false. My concern is the impression ads like these are giving the masses. We’ve already seen the lineups filled with beginners waltzing into the surf with no respect or regard for the lengthy and humbling process that surfing is and I can’t help but wonder if ads like these are the culprit. Here’s an idea… Next time when all of the dudes drop in on each other in the maxing Waimea shorebreak, how about the next scenes depict broken boards and bones, and the surfers embracing each other by carrying each other up the beach after they all collided in the 20 foot toob before being beaten into the sand and held underwater. I think that would be a much more responsible depiction of surfing that would prepare the average Guinness drinker for the real surfing experience.