I just watched the video above and besides giving me goosebumps, it made me realize that it was the first real surf video I’d ever seen. Everything up until this point has been people (including myself) pointing cameras at other people who are sometimes gracefully, sometimes athletically… water bathing.
I’ve heard that in the earlier part of the twentieth century before surfing was adopted by mainstream culture, being a surfer was something magical. It was something revered, akin to being an explorer, ninja or astronaut. Those who tamed the wild swells on their planks walked like gods among men, their gate and posture studied for clues of greatness. A good surfer back in the day had no map or compass. There were no video parts to study, no leashes to save their boards, no rubber to keep them warm, just their own mental and physical fortitude to conquer the unknown.
Today, we all started surfing because it was something to do, something our dads did, something the ads did. Something that cool kid in the grade above you did, something that cool guy in that movie did. We then walked into a surf shop and bought our way to the shoreline. Soon our parents bought into our progression, each new level requiring a board, surf flick, trip or contest entry.
Gone is the exploration, gone is the wonder. Instead every surf section, every surf clip becomes a judgement. How well is the guy performing? PERFORMING. Like a circus animal. Air reversing, smiling, soul arching, shaka throwing. Watching Shane Dorian walk up the cliff after paddling into those incomprehensible waves, I had the feeling that people must have had after watching a surfer ride the wild surf in the 40’s. I was looking at a Surfer.
What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, unless you aspire to paddle into something more raw than Jaws, I say the pressure is off. And whether you practice your alley oops for the World Tour, or soul arch between band practice… Have fun with it. In the meantime, let’s continue to enjoy our water bathing and ripple riding without any other pretense. and study Dorian, Long, Healey and crew for clues of greatness.