“Surf captions are officially dead!” and “Fuck a caption!”
Bold opinion is such a rare commodity in our world of “safe spaces” “micro-aggressions” and “trigger warnings.”
Who knew that one day cartoonists would be gunned down in their offices and other cartoonists would defend the killings as the result of ‘em “punching down”?
We’ve become so pompous and solemn and dull, don’t you think? College students are so terrified of confronting ideas and so unable to cope with even literary classics, The Great Gatsby now comes with a warning: (Trigger: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence).
Everyone else is finding hunks of racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia (but curiously not the more virulent anti-semitism) and white privilege in their corn flakes each morning.
And surfing magazines, of which I’ve been a part of, one way or the other, for longer than I’d ever admit, take this piety to new levels. Which makes ’em ripe for satire and for criticism.
So I always light up a little when I see, read, someone having a bit of a swing at the status quo.
What Youth, the magazine started five years ago by most of the key players of Surfing magazine and the filmmaker Kai Neville, gave it to Surfer and Surfing magazines yesterday, on their crummy choice of photos. To Surfer, What Youth‘s editor Travis Ferré wrote:
“Please, we all deserve better from you. Surfers, editors, photographers, followers. This is our lives and just because you’re trying to appease a mil worth of followers, remember when you post something like this you make us all look like kooks. So please, stop it. Sincerely, What Youth.”
Today, What Youth is going after captions, the usually meaningless trope that goes under photos in those spreads.
“Surf photo captions are officially dead. Let’s reinvent them together. Surf photo captions suck because they’re easy to write instead of great to read. They’re designed for the supplier instead of the consumer. And it’s time to fix them. How can we redesign the surf photo caption? What could improve or replace it?”
It’s a good question. I haven’t seen a print mag in a while, but one relatively prestigious title I did find, ran the following captions:
“All smiles inside the world’s deadliest wave. Teahupoo.”
“Hard to believe something so beautiful could be so deadly. Teahupoo.”
One What Youth follower had barely read the Instagram screed before he started waving his pitchfork.
“WY is punk rock as fuck. Fuck a caption, don’t conform.”
My philosophy at Stab, although not always followed to the letter, as some days the lethargy would claw at my fingers and refuse any industry, was that any significant photo had to feature a quote from the surfer and the photographer.
For one week out of every six-week production cycle, I’d sit there and call both participants, chasing top 10 surfers around the world for a three-minute interview. More than once, Joel or Kelly or whomever would hear the silence at my end and ask, “Is that all you want?”
Did anyone care? Did anyone read? Who knows?
Maybe captions are unnecessary. At least they are according to this guy:
“Honestly, captions don’t matter that much, as long as it says who the surfer is, and who took the picture, and maybe where their surfing if it’s not like a secret spot. The main thing is the picture…”
And you? Do you care?