Part 2 of 3 – What is valuable for surfing?
While the sport of surfing has progressed to the global arena the roots of its sanctioning body are in Australian sand, and a culture exists like nowhere else on earth. The humble local boardriders clubs and the monthly point score contests have great value as the younger generation is guided, influenced and supported by local Second Life surfers. The value exchange here is honest and with the best of intentions and it happens because of simple passions, for nothing more than the love of wave riding itself. The camaraderie within the close circle of like-minded individuals on the beach is sacred; inside it delivers enriching valuable experiences that last a surfing lifetime.
“We call him the Godfather, he still schools us, he gets the respect”. – Surfer (18) comments on a (40+) club legend.
Second Life surfers are often the administrators of these traditional grassroots activities that engage the broader community, and it’s this sub-cultural leadership that influences younger, and older generations mind you, at a core level. It’s where the value exchange is at its highest and most effective. Second Life surfers for the most part have the respect of the younger generation and their value as an individual is injected directly back into the cycle. It’s a transaction money cant buy.
It’s fair to suggest that the amount of transparent value delivered directly back into the sport of surfing collectively by Second Life surfers is quiet large and very credible.
At last count the domestic contest schedule on Surfing Australia website showed 41 junior contests in Australia in 2011. It’s clear the future of Australian surfing is rock solid, the companies get behind the junior circuits, development programs are progressive and well structured. It’s a well-oiled machine.
Although a very positive situation for First Life surfers wanting to pursue a competitive experience or a professional career, it represents an imbalanced value system. This First Life focus creates a high churn rate within what is perceived as being the majority value stakeholder.
As First Life surfers leave the junior bracket relatively quickly, and subsequently spend more time as a surfer in and around the Second Life bracket, it’s interpreted as a more disposable system. If surfing itself had a voice and could self regulate like something in nature, it would most likely manage itself in a way that encourages organic growth while ensuring longevity and peak performance from it’s more valuable members.
To observe a junior contest today is exciting. Teardrop banners fluttering, a pumping PA, cute energy drink girls and an atmosphere dripping with youth. A heat will be exciting, though if it isn’t the best of the best, the surfing will display incomplete foundations and in general, will lack what a more matured division is capable of. Technically, junior surfers haven’t yet grown to men so their centre of gravity is yet to be locked in, their muscles are not delivering what they will be in a few years, they are yet to hone their power move, the competitive grunt is at the mercy of their balls dropping and a full rail roundhouse will be a more junior version of what a more senior, or should I say matured surfer is capable of. Sort of like tasting a red wine that needs a few more years in the barrel.
To understand the valued components within the skill of wave riding you’ll find them in the sports professional judging criteria. It’s one that has been refined over the years, one that is the benchmark for aspiring First Life surfers.
To watch a dedicated experienced surfer you’ll see the full gamut of value exercised, the fundamentals are mastered, the positioning poise and personal style are on display and the repertoire diverse, which is why the CT is the main event. Surfing has never been a spectator’s sport, but as we know it’s changing course and like tennis we’d like to see the best on centre court. The issue here is that the centre court of surfing only happens 11 times a year for the elite, domestically it’s sadly a diluted representation of Second Life value.
If it were simply about the skill of wave riding the roster of Second Life activity would see a plethora of Second Life events and an even distribution of surfers to have stickers on their boards.
So if there is an imbalance, and what is available for Second Life surfers is minimal, is there anyway to even up this lopsided seesaw?
Part 3 of 3 – Take the Power Back
To suggest that the grassroots club and Second Life surfers have a responsibility to manage up might not seem so outrageous, I mean, Second Life Surfers are the majority value stakeholder anyway right?
A thread of managing up could look something like a local club approaching the state body, then on to the national body to the top of the tree at the ASP.
Perhaps it’s the state and national bodies that are responsible for managing up as they administer the grassroots movement. Whatever the case, the ASP have undergone changes to suit the evolving demands of the sport, and notably it’s the surfers who have pushed for change. Not surprisingly those ASP Surfer Representatives are all from the Second Life division.
Would it be wrong to think that common credible Second Life surfers also have a Surfer Representative role to play and should address pending issues from within their grassroots stable? If there is imbalance in the value system of surfing why shouldn’t the most valuable asset be able to rectify it?
All sports are a democratic train ride, so perhaps it’s more of a control issue, and any attempt at restoring value needs to be presented to the Fat Controller. The most obvious Fat Controllers are the more powerful identities in the sport – the companies that sell the surfing lifestyle. We can identify where their value is placed via their brand proposition and activity. For the most part a large component of any brands activity is to use influential peer group leaders eg: professional surfers. These surfers have reached this status as they exercise the highest skill in wave riding, ideally representing what the sport of surfing should be about.
“Grom comp, grom fest, grom search, Small Fries, Teenage Rampage… How about ‘Surfers In Their Prime’ contest?!” – Surfer (29) expresses his frustration at the domestic competition opportunities.
Those surfers who have perfected the skill of wave riding are ambassadors for companies that pursue a business agenda, which at days end is growth of a financial bottom line. This small number of professional athletes delivers a large amount of value to these companies for the purpose of bettering a financial position; it’s this position that dictates where the value in surfing will be. As the surf lifestyle consumer wins the attention of a surf company with its influential Sasquatch footprint, their value will remain the more attractive to a surf company’s financial bottom line, and as the bottom line is very hungry it will get fed first.
Where on the other hand the common credible Second Life surfer injects their value as a surfer, directly back into the grassroots cycle as mentioned earlier. While this articulates the imbalance of surfing’s value system it creates a divide between the Second Life surfer and the power brokers of the sport of surfing, as they have a different way of utilizing their value set.
You know it’s not ludicrous to propose Second Life surfers can create their own culture, a movement that is simply about the skill of riding waves. The amount of credibility and talent that lie inside and above the Senior Life age division is on display when you stroll your local. They might be wearing a wetsuit that is a few seasons old and Adidas trackies, but who will you stop and watch, a bunch of kids in a rip bowl shorebreak or a Second Lifer out the back hacking up a set wave?
If it’s bigger more consequential surf there wont be a First Life surfer in the line up, you’ll have no choice.
So Second Life surfers, proudly paddle out knowing your version of skill on a wave is the most valuable component of modern shortboard surfing, your value is beyond what this dichotomy suggests. If you are a First Life surfer it’s still about respect, so no changes there. To the Third Lifers, keep regular and keep stretching.
To be a Second Life surfer is to share the experiences from a dedicated life of perfecting the skill of wave riding. Only a Second Life surfer knows that feeling.
Written by Jay Killvan – Surfer/Journalist/Photographer/Creative
Jay Killvan is a surfer from Cronulla, Australia. With pursuits ranging from journalism, various design disciplines and photography, he is often sleep deprived. A desire for raw adventure has led Jay to pursue big episodes in remote corners of the world, engaging in foreign cultures, unique people and the best waves possible. With work published in numerous publications, Jay Killvan continues to evolve. Read more from Jay at www.Killvan.com