– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

What is Surfing: #6

I woke up at 6 am and called the buoy. The significant wave height and period were enough for a knee-high longboard session. But not having a longboard and an increasing onshore wind help to make up my mind to crawl back into bed with my wife and enjoy a nice Sunday morning of reading in bed. Last night we went to dinner at a friend’s house. He had a couple of recent issues of Surfing Magazine lying around and he gave them to me to take home. So this was my morning activity, reading an article written by Nick Carroll entitled “Modern Times: how the surf culture is changing faster than you think. And how it may be heading for a fall” (June 2007).

Yard SaleIt’s a rant about the mass explosion of beginning surfers, the popularity of surf schools, the acceptance of sweatshop surfboards and how it’s soon coming to an end. Carroll draws a line between the core surfers and the newbies and claims that soon enough this new renaissance of surfing will crash in a bundle of soft tops and pop outs and everything will be put right again.

What struck me about this article is the entitlement with which the author claims to know surfing, to know its right place in the world. But what is surfing? Does a magazine really have the authority to say what surfing is and is not? Although a publication like Surfing Magazine does use some of its printed page to discuss ideas about the act, a majority of the space is used simply to sell products. And indisputably, selling products is not what surfing is. Surfing is the paddle, the look out to the horizon to spot the set, the turn, the lip, and the paddle all over again.

Sure, every pursuit or lifestyle or movement has its history, its major players who should be remembered and in some cases revered. But an activity which takes place in a matter of seconds — as the act of riding energy moving through water does- cannot be pigeonholed by an editorial claiming to have ownership by way of association or time invested. Enjoy the Act.The act of surfing is that in itself. It does not require consumerism or idealistic movements. What it does require is muscle memory, knowledge gained by exposure and perseverance. So if on your next session you feel embarrassed because the local ripper blows past you on the paddle out, look at his technique. See how he arches his back and keeps his feet close together as he strokes deeply and planes across the surface. If you want to know the core of surfing, develop your own ability through study and practice. No extensive knowledge of surfing history or surfing paraphernalia will help when faced with a long period swell and a shallow bottom. Enjoy the act.

• Category: news & media,

7 Responses »

  1. In this same “magazine” I conted 100 Advertising pages out of 168 pages, Did not count half advertising pages, though, otherwise the number would be higher.

  2. It’s funny. I was just re-reading my first blog entry (when I was just learning to trim) and remembering how STOKED I was to just spend time in the ocean. I couldn’t sleep for two nights before a planned surf session! I haven’t read Carroll’s article, but it sounds like he feels some kind of entitlement because he was lucky enought to be raised near the beach. But he was a grom at some point too, and I’m sure if he has kids they’ll flail a little before becoming SURFING-worthy schralpers.

  3. I don’t read surf mag’s, but i do believe that this recent glut of surfing people will fall. This has been seen before, popularity booms with this pastime, nothing new. Soon, crowded conditions will cause the crowds to eat themselves, leaving only the older or more committed…

  4. Yeah jb

    But we might be dead by the downswing…

  5. I really enjoyed Carroll’s article. Without companies buying ads in the mag, Nick Carroll would have never been paid to write it, much less have the time to ponder these ideas. The discourse surrounding everything that encompasses surfing would be the poorer.

    That ad count is insane though. I’m sure its a problem of the mag of being owned by a company that is owned by a magazine publishing company that is probably owned by viacom or something.

  6. I have enjoyed both Carroll’s article and your well-written response here. You bring up some interesting points and questions.

  7. What I’m wondering is why all the advertising in mags. When is enough income enough? And, why does every shmoo in Hawaii that thinks he’s a badass, have to start a surf clothing company featuring himself. Why do these guys think that there’s enough people who adore them to buy and support their clothing idiocy?