Surfing: a non-depletive act
For a few years I thought feverishly about sustainable business, and in some ways sustainable livelihoods. That thought track manifested itself by way of looking into surfing – a commodity industry that is intrinsically connected to nature (and the need to sustain it), and at the same time in complete opposition to nature. Phoresia served as a vehicle to try and understand the economics and ethics of the businessmen and craftsmen in our surf culture.
Perhaps I should define what I mean by nature. We are nature – us humans. Our home if you will, is the same ecosystem that the so-called environmentalists and tree huggers are trying to save. Our home includes the same natural resources which our consumptive lifestyles depend on – even in the face of depletion. Nature is our present and future. Nature is our flesh and bones as much as it is whales and rain forests.
After a few years of interviewing some amazing characters, I began to feel pessimistic about sustainability in the surf industry. I could see that green marketing was on the horizon and that consumer education would always take a back seat to consumer desires. So I essentially stopped creating content and my contributions to Phoresia ended. Luckily, the more pragmatic David Lawless has continued to add valuable content and kept the thing going.
Today I had the opportunity to watch a short animated lecture by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Zizek explains how we have mixed charity into our modern capitalism as a way of softening the moral blow of egotistical consumption. This implication has summed up so many of my misgivings. To buy a “greener” surfboard using recycled materials, does not only provide the buyer with an untrue sense of doing right for the environment, it also masks the bigger problem which is our depletive Western lifestyle – one that is being propagated worldwide by globalization.
I realize this is pessimistic and nihilistic. So why do I bother telling you so? As surfers we are given a second sense. We have the opportunity to commune so closely with nature that this communion for many of us becomes like a religion. In other words, we are drawn spiritually or intellectually, or however you want to think of it, to this primal experience of subconsciously realizing our part in the cycle of life. I conclude that this gift is something I shall continue to nurture and purse ‘till the end of my days. For the time I spend riding waves is non-depletive – even if all my cultural trappings that got me there are most definitely so.
It is something that you can spend your time doing and it feels like a life well spent—a non-productive, non-depletive act that is purely aesthetic.