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NY Times: “Surfers must wrestle evil!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

So much existential guilt!

Do you wrestle with evil? No, no, you do, or at least you must, says The New York Times.

In an opening gambit before the review of various ocean-related books, recently, and wrapped in the headline What’s Bad News for Coastlines Can Be Good News for Surfers, we learned:

“Surfers, like theologians, must wrestle with the problem of evil. For the theologian, the question is how to reconcile the malevolence and suffering of the world with the existence of an all-good, all-powerful god. For the surfer, the problem is slightly less profound: How do you justify the enjoyment of perfect waves when they are generated by destructive storms hundreds of miles away? In September, Hurricane Irma and Maria posed this question with some vividness, producing the best run of swell seen in years along the East Coast while unleashing chaos and devastation down in the Caribbean. Surfers, to judge from the throngs who gleefully paddled out from Florida to New England, make for unreflective scholars of the divine.”

For the surfer, the problem is slightly less profound: How do you justify the enjoyment of perfect waves when they are generated by destructive storms hundreds of miles away?

Has it occurred to you to feel guilty?

To  justify yourself for kicking around in hurricane or cyclone swells while thousands of miles away wretched souls are cowering in cellars or bear-hugging coconut trees lest they be stolen by away by the wind?

And the guilt don’t stop there, says The Times.

“The combination of rising sea levels and some form of increased storm intensity ‘spells doom’ for the world’s coastal regions. For surfers, rooting for hurricane swell may be increasingly difficult to rationalize. Along with the moral questions of climate change, the surfer may have to confront the political issue of cultural appropriation.”

And, here, we learn of an essay by ‘cultural studies scholar’ Colleen McGloin in The Critical Surf Studies Reader (which was edited by the BeachGrit commenter Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee if you wanna know).

Even though no one knows whether or not Australian’s indigenous people surfed, McGloid writes that it’s “reasonable to assume”. And that indigenous surfing is a “form of resistance” to the legacy of colonialism.

So many moral questions!

Guilt over hurricanes.

Guilt over climate change.

Guilt you’re white (unless you’re not).

Are you suddenly overwhelmed?