– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Accolades and Youth Culture

At 32, I am clearly on the other side of youth culture. And many of my values and ideas about life and surfing have been shaped by my generational influences like music and media. I say this because I wonder how many of our readers come from a similar background. Are we reaching any of the youth who will eventually shape our culture?

Our bread and butter for the last two years here at Phoresia have come from the words and thoughts of people we’ve interviewed. I tried unsuccessfully for a while to interview the elusive Derek Hynd. Mr. Hynd is currently pushing the limits of the finless movement at places like J Bay as can be seen in the film Musica Surfica. He is also an amazing writer whose views, although seldom published, carry a lot of weight. I recently ran across a comment that Mr. Hynd made on the Kurungabaa blog that inspired me to think about the impact Phoresia has, or perhaps does not have.

“Aim for teen student rather than ingrained walrus. No preaching to the converted. I hope you can turn your audience left of the mainstream, hard left at that, before the sponge soaks in.”

That statement has caused me to ponder at length as to the time I spend putting together content for Phoresia. Over the past few months we have been contacted by various people who want to know our opinion about the “sustainable” surfboard market/industry. We’ve also been nominated by our readers for a Surfers Path Green Award in the media category. But is our message getting across to people who don’t already think the way we do?

Like everyone else out there, I am working to make a living. We all have constraints and we all have dreams about how things could be. Phoresia has been a way for me to explore my ideas about surfing and how I can simplify and even align my life with the pursuit of surfing. Throughout the process I’ve talked to people who are devoting their lives to surfing and to advancing both the craft and culture. Some of these people have been wholly inspiring and are most certainly models to be admired. However, for all of us there is a common thread and that is that our current rates of consumption are not sustainable to our earth —our habitat. And that is exactly why influencing youth with ideas about lowering our environmental and social impact is so important. Because if we continue along the same path, sooner or later the human habitat we call earth will not sustain us. Forget about the surf.

Phoresia is not a website about surfing. It is a metaphor for how we can live our lives and what it is that makes us happy. Surfing is so simple — a board and your own strength are often all that is needed. This week I had the joy to surf a dawn patrol session at a fickle point break. My friend and I were in the water before most people even get our of bed in the morning. We shared the perfect 5 foot waves with a few others. It’s been really flat around here and I had only surfed a couple of times in the past two months. First light was but a pale beacon above the headland as the heavy Maritime fog settled in for the morning. I was tense but looking forward to the session. My mind ruminating about my current paddling condition, whether or not the waves were good, was the tide right, would I surf OK. Then it came, a perfect set wave. A guy deeper than me told me to take it. “Give ‘er” he said in the classic Canadian style. I paddled deep and dropped in a little late. My rail finally engaged and I was flying down the line across the point over the shallow rocks. The shoreline was barely visible in the milky fog. I don’t think I turned on that wave. I just sped, high up in the lip, towards the inside and kicked out about one hundred and fifty yards from where I started. Suddenly I was at peace.

It’s hard to say if the work we do on Phoresia is reaching anyone beyond the “converted.” But I can say with definite confidence that the converted are growing in numbers. I must also remind myself that it is more important that I change my own actions rather than concern myself with changing those of others. Over the past four years I’ve chosen to live closer to work and ride my bike everyday instead of driving. I mostly only use my car to go surf. However, there are a million more things that I could personally do to lower my impact on both the environment and society. Behavioral change is not easy and we have a legion of advertisers telling us everyday that this or that thing will make our lives better. But for us, who ride waves, we already know what will make our lives better and we cannot buy it anywhere.

A simple life with little consumption means less time trying to make money and more time surfing. So maybe the words on Phoresia are having an impact on a few youths who stumble across it and maybe not. But each time I paddle out in the lineup I have the opportunity to give a wave to someone else. Each day I can choose how I spend my money and the impact that my spending will have on others. And each day I can choose to live simply and living simply does make a difference. Thanks for reading.


• Category:, social responsibility

13 Responses »

  1. Thanks for such an honest post Ricardo. I reckon you are making a difference. It may not be wholesale, but a leak here in there in the consumption boat can only be a good thing.

  2. Yawn…

  3. I hear ya. The problem I see is getting others to change their ways. Especially guys like Al Gore. His several homes are too big and his consumption rate is out of control. Good thing we all don’t live like him.

    People that check out your blog are probably already making some changes in their impact on the earth…except maybe this Paul guy who already commented. I’d like to find realistic ways for people to seamlessly make changes in their lives. If it doesn’t take much effort and it has tangable results, people might do it.

  4. Ricardo,
    You’re doing a great thing. I’m on the other side of the world (in Australia) and what you write and what you represent has an impact on my life.
    Never give up hope. Keep it simple. Keep it up.

  5. Well the great thing about a site like Phoresia is that no harm is done putting the message out there. No trees cut down, no miles logged. Just utilizing a little extra electricity that would probably be used anyway.

    As a high school science teacher I interact with “The Youth” quite a bit. They are very heavily target by commercial forces and have a lot of pressure to consume.The surf/skate/snow industry is a big part of that. I do not teach in a beach town but there is a ton of Quik/Bong clothing crap worn at my school. I make it a point not to where that stuff.

    I bike commute much of the time and the kids trip out on it. “Why do you ride your bike? Don’t you have a car?”. But its a chance to say hey look it takes me 10 mins in a car and 15 on a bike, but it feels better on the bike”. I’d like to think it plants a little seed in the monoculture crop of marketing and consumption.

  6. Jdog, you should check out the book ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein:

    Gav, thanks for the kind words.

    Jeff, that’s what we try and get out there, that taking the effort to educate oneself about available products makes it easy to make choices that have a positive impact in not only an individuals life but in those around them. The hard part is, you can’t sell that or market it (well, you can but not if you want it to be a meaningful change), they have to want to do it on their own for it to stick and really make a difference.

    Really the big thing has not only been make informed decisions and buy products that consider the environment but also more importantly just to try and consume less overall. That’s the biggest, easiest thing we can all do that will have tangible results.

    Paul, take a nap man.

    Clif, it’s frustrating when all you have is a leak when you are trying to scuttle the consumption boat.


  7. Ricardo,

    Great post. I’ve been reading this page for the past year or so and the quality and relevance of the articles keep me coming back…I’m a 19 year old university student and very appreciative of the ideas the older generation is passing on to mine.

    Unfortunately, I really don’t see the ideas sticking with many people my age. I have a small group of friends that try to think, act and manage a life on similar plane as I strive for – always trying to be aware of my consumption and any impact that I leave. While it is great to know that there are core groups of people my age sharing these ideas, it’s very discouraging when I look at how many people don’t even consider altering their lifestyle, no matter how big or small the effect may be. While the generation of the 60’s and 70’s was “blessed” with hippies, it seems odd that in a time where “hippie” lifestyles are so relevant it’s almost impossible to find youth living and believing in these ideas.

    In response to the comment about Billabong and Quiksilver products… yes, a lot of it is crap. I think we need to look at the new ideas these companies are working on however. Billabong is helping run the “Project Blue” campaign. Along with making boardshorts from recycled pop bottles, many of their new products donate proceeds from sales to the Surfrider Foundation. Dave Rastovich, a Billabong sponsored athlete has been working alongside the Sea Sheppard to raise awareness about keeping our beaches clean and the impacts “even surfing” can have on the planet. Last week I was watching the Billabong Pro J-Bay webcast. In between the sets and heats the Billabong ads that I saw usually talked about these new products and campaigns… along with the organic t-shirts and a new Eco-Friendly line by Quiksilver, it’s great to see two of the industries biggest companies finally making some headway.

    They may not be making leaps or bounds yet, but the fact that they have started making progress is good news for the industry. Small companies may be the heart and soul of the surf industry, but it’s companies like Quiksilver and Billabong that control the market.

    Back to original topic about youth. It’s tough living in eastern Canada and trying to pursue a sustainable, low impact surfing life. Since I’m still young, I only live where I do because of my parents. University is expensive and when I come home to work for the summer, I can’t afford rent a place near the beach. In my case, I’m a good distance from any surf spot. Carpooling usually happens, but not always. Being a surfer, going to the beach only when I can carpool isn’t realistic. When there are waves, we go to the beach. Unfortunately too often by ourselves. The other predicament I find myself in is finding green gear. Part of it may be my location but remember that it is only one part.

    I hope this made some sense and got the idea out there that I do see a change in the market that can potentially influence and change my generation. Until then however, it’s going to be a tough road ahead with much of an “educated” youth population that still can’t see what’s right in front of them.



  8. Do you really think anything you say or do resonates with kids? Guess again.

    Kids find all this just as boring and irrelevant as we found whatever it was our parents were doing at this age.

    And while we’re all jacking off to Surfy Surfy blog and Thomas Campbell movies, they’re out ripping tri’s, wearing day-glo, and playing grab-ass with girls who are at that perfect age: old enough to catch our eye, but young enough for us to feel pervvy about fixing our eye on their nubile bodies for more than a moment.

    Not a care in the world…

    And good for them too!

    Fuck these expectations we place on kids.

    Fuck judgemental high school teachers too.

    We’re all old.

    We’re all boring.

    And whether we realize it or not – we’ve become our parents.

  9. Hey Ricardo, I hope you’re sitting back with a smile on your face reading the responses to your excellent post. You’re really making a difference! Coffee soon?

  10. Hi All,

    Thanks for the sincere comments. Joel, stoked that you are reading this and hope to see you out in the lineup someday.

    Paul, I truly appreciate your comments although I don’t necessarily agree. I work in the field of adolescent psychiatry and much of what we do is research based. One of the things we often see in the research data is that what adults perceive about how youth culture is developing is almost always not accurate. This goes for things such as numbers of youth who have tried drugs and alcohol, how they do in school, suicide rates, etc. I won’t delve further into this because it’s not relevant here but I would encourage you to do some research on your own. Chances are that some of your ideas about what the youth movement cares or doesn’t care about are inaccurate.

    I believe in change, however fast or slow, and that’s good enough for me.


  11. At my age and experience(62 and 40+years of surfing ) i may be a bit(?) set in my ways. but it was interesting that i was turned on to this site by one of my high school chem students. that i think says a lot—they are paying attention—but also they have many other things trying for their attention and time and $$$$……all we can do is put the ideas and concepts out there and see what happens…..besides if they start thinking what ‘s going to happen? Keep up the good work

  12. Lot’s of thoughtful responses; even Paul’s despite the cynicism. FWIW, my thoughts for you are pretty simple. As a so-called “green” media outpost, Phoresia really shouldn’t “preach the message” and expect to incur or cause change. Making people change their behavior by pointing out how “bad” their actions are for the world is a loser. Instead, capitalize on your already mindful state of inquiry and continue to promote what you think is “good” for the commons, while making damn sure you walk that talk yourself. That way, you improve your impact on the environment and provide an emulatable example for others that are so-inclined. The uptake is bound to be variable, and you really have very littel control over that, but Phoresia keeps it real and stays a valuable resource for others.


  13. Hey Paul,
    Kids absorb more than you think and while they may seem somewhat more interested in girls and surfboards, don’t think that they aren’t getting the message. Some of my most appreciative customers are the grommies who are stoked to be supporting a cause. The kids are always open to trying new products as well.

    On the other hand, the salty old dogs are the ones that seem to be the most pessimistic and critical when it comes to trying new green products.

    The kids are keen, there is no doubt about it.

    Recently I attended a state government meeting about sustainable business practices and the opening speech was from a government minister. He went on about how he spends so much time visiting schools as a part of his job. He then said that in 10-15 years, if your business is not eco-friendly then it will slowly die. Why? Because your future customers are those kids in school and what are they learning about in the classroom? Global warming, climate change, sustainability, petroleum production and habitat destruction are in their faces all day long. And what do they see on the TV when they get home? More of the same.

    Kids will always be kids and mess around and pretend not to care, but those same kids absorb so much and grow up to become individuals with opinions, ideas and viewpoints on these issues. They will be the ones solving all of the problems that we have created over the last 100 years.