Or the mad raving of a luddite. You decide!
Wave Ranch came fully online a little over 24 hours ago and I have been mired in bottomless depression since. I watched it, like you, from home. I watched blurry Instagram stories morph into giddy Stab boys peeking over the fence morph into an embarrassingly written World Surf League “live blog” morph into a very rich friend, who had been invited, texting me videos of Eddie Vedder changing Yellow Ledbetter lyrics to praise Kelly Slater’s creation. “Thank you Kelly for bringing us to this place…”
A slow motion accident.
A fucking nightmare.
And I realized that I hate Wave Ranch. I hate it with everything in me and with no pulled punch in vague hopes of getting invited to surf it one day. I hate it with a hatred reserved for drunks who speed through red lights near elementary schools and the Apple Genius Bar.
Because it is officially over. The dream has died. Surfing has been successfully and cleanly amputated from “surfing.” The simple physical act from one of the most wonderful, most indescribable joys on earth.
You have, of course, read William Finnegan’s brilliant Barbarian Days. What I love most is the book’s pacing. Mr. Finnegan slowly meandering through his life and showing how surfing is tied to each strand of his DNA, inextricably woven, and even though he is very important as a real journalist for a real magazine when it came time to write his memoirs he wrote it about surfing. About A Surfing Life.
A surfing life.
Surfing has infected me, too, since the very first time I saw it playing out in cold Santa Cruz waters. And infected me all the way. It has dictated where I have lived, the cars I have bought, the women I have loved, the places I have gone. Seagulls, Lighthouse Beach, Bolsa Chic, Baja, Xanadu, Rockin’ Fig, JC, black sand, tar, smokey skies, burning sunsets, Soqotra, Lebanon, More Core Division, flat tires, warm beer, Mukalla, salt. It has been my adventure and my curse. The physical act of surfing is only part of the broader surfing life but the iteration that took place behind a fence in green fresh water underneath manure scented skies being watched by very rich potential investors was only about the physical act. Cleanly amputated. Genetically modified. Re-grafted.
Of the Instagram clips I watched on that fateful day, one summed up my feelings succinctly. Previous pool clips had been edited professionally and from either behind or straight ln. The surfer in the middle of the frame, the wave breaking behind and the shoulder running ahead. Except the shoulder isn’t running ahead, is it. The clip I watched featured Carissa Moore surfing fantastically and being chased by a jet-ski. Just feet behind her was that near perfect barrel that we’ve all marveled at. Just feet ahead of her was a giant wall. The mechanical guts of the oversized plow running underwater and creating the phantasm. A wall. The surfer surfs the entire wave facing this wall.
When I close my eyes, amongst the best memories I conjure are dropping into a wave, looking down the line and seeing endless possibility. Seeing the gentle curve or the section far away that might pitch or the terror inducing double up. Seeing the unknown. Feeling the unknown.
Oh I know this reads like the mad raving of a luddite and maybe it is. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Wave Ranch and each next iteration is a glorious egalitarian utopia but I seriously doubt it. It feels more like the purposeful unraveling of a great mystery. Like man’s forever folly.
And here you can also listen to the mad raving of a luddite. I don’t ever recall ever approaching a surf topic with such deadpanned passion. Listen and tell me that I’m wrong. Tell me that this ain’t the end.