Cy Rant: Surfing For the Wrong Reasons

Ever since the “coolness” pandemic spread across the surf scene, surfers everywhere have been more focused on how they look to other surfers than just surfing. Humans are social creatures and it’s our nature to strive to be accepted by others.  Judging a person solely by their clothes or wave craft of choice sets our biological need for tribal acceptance into overdrive and imprisons us into a surfing world of bs rather than the wilderness refuge it truly is. I first started surfing because the ocean felt good. Riding bodyboards along the beaches near my home in Orange County, we’d bounce on our bellies toward shore propelled by a mysterious natural force. It was addicting. But then we found out we were kooks. Some stickered-up, shortboard wielding kids told us as much, in the beach parking lot as we ate our burritos atop our Price Club purchased boogie boards. Once we were informed of our unfortunate status, the fun disappeared. Giggling and singing in the water, pulling each other via leash on the shore and other “not cool” activities were immediately abandoned and replaced with tentative actions and gestures that mimicked other “cool” surfers in mortal fear that we’d be called out again. That was the day my path diverged towards foolishness.

I worked my ass off to become a good surfer in a way that would gain me acceptance. Some of what I learned would be crucial water skills that would allow me to be a safe member of the lineup, but the vast majority of it was emulating pro surfers’ mannerisms so I might one day be liked and admired and thought of as cool- not some kook. After achieving that on some level in my late teens, I realized I’d sacrificed a connection to myself along the way and ignored how the simple act of surfing felt to me. Instead, I thought how is this looking? Is that right? No. Yes? No? Maybe??? I stopped surfing… It wasn’t me. I wasn’t a surfer. I was a follower. Who was I? For three years I searched for that answer on land. Finally, when the smell of the ocean reminded me more of riding on my belly shoreward rather than all the other crap, I returned. I realized the ocean had been whispering to me all along. Underneath it all I’d be been soaking up something that was far greater.


Photos by: Carol Sutton (top) & Cyrus Sutton (bottom)

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