Surfing's honored historian goes on a wild rant!
It’s been 48 hours-ish now since Dirk Ziff brought both of his surfing mutants (the World Surf League and Kelly Slater Wave Co.) under one roof and how do you feel about it? How has it settled in your heart?
If you are Matt Warshaw you feel the same sort of bald rage usually reserved for barely prepubescent teens! Here is surfing’s revered historian now!
Waves are the whole show. Waves are the only interesting thing about surfing. You’re a poetry-hating anti-New Age atheist with a penchant for hardcore rationalism? Same here. But at some level we know, we feel, that we are riding ocean-transported sunbeams, and it is magical. It is what makes surfing the very best of all sports. It is what separates us from parkour.
Surfers, furthermore, are only interesting because of waves. The things we do over the course of a life in pursuit of, and on behalf of, waves—the 10,000 bad decisions, the fiery burn rate of time and cash, the rivers of espoused bullshit, the volumes of arcane and otherwise totally worthless knowledge painstakingly gathered, catalogued, and deployed—are what makes us different, and, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt, cool.
For 40-something years now, I have experienced variations on the same anxiety dream in which the surf is excellent, but I can’t get to it. The board is is locked in the car. Contact lenses are missing. Endless duckdives in the shorebreak while the sun drops into the horizon (thank you Ocean Beach, you wounding bitch). The number of times I’ve truly and completely had my fill of waves can be counted on one hand, and in each instance the craving was never further away than a meal and a nap. In terms of a life partner, that type of perpetual desire—a taste here and there, but never enough—is a greased playground slide to insanity. But in terms of a pastime being able to hold your attention, desire is the gift that lasts forever. Big-wave legend and humanist Fred Van Dyke, even when he was no longer able to surf, would pull off to the side of the road during a big swell, look out to a raging ocean, paddle out in his mind, choose a spot in the lineup, and wait for the right wave. In the end, surfing, for Fred, wasn’t even about standing on a board. It was just waves.
I have not seen more white passion since Howard Dean took the state in DeMoines in 2004!
And it is totally worth your day to go read the rest of his screed. God bless Matt Warshaw! God bless him every one!