The ultra-wealthy have cracked surfing's code!
The very rich live better lives than you and me. Sure there is a populist revolt shaking the globe right now, trying through slogans on placards, to bring some form of parity but it won’t matter. Nothing matters. The rich are a rocket ship, climbing climbing climbing. Getting richer. The non-rich are suckers writing slogans on placards. The rich have a secret surf class taught only at select five-star resorts. The non-rich have grouchy surfing uncles who dish unhelpful advice.
And how do I know about these secret surf classes? Oh. I read the rich publication Bloomberg from time to time and learned of it this morning in a piece titled The 10 Steps to Achieve Surfing Nirvana. Here, I’ll distribute the wealth with you. The writer has gone to Baja to ask his girlfriend to marry him and also learn to surf. Let’s pick it up from there.
For a sport with a lot of unwritten rules about how to behave, surfing doesn’t have many written ones. But Pinneo teaches from an actual curriculum, which Tropicsurf (founded by Australian Ross Phillips) calls “Kook to Kelly.” It’s in use at 16 of the most luxurious resorts around the world, including Fiji’s Laucala, Nihiwatu Sumba in Indonesia, and Mukul in Nicaragua. Think of it as the surfing equivalent of ascending to a black belt from a white one in karate. Its 10 levels range from the hardest, “Kelly,” referring to Kelly Slater, the unofficial greatest surfer ever, to “Kook”—surferese for a beginning, not-very-good surfer. A try-hard, a gremmie, a grom.
For the past 20 years, Phillips, a former schoolteacher, has been developing and refining one of the sport’s only written, comprehensive, and standardized systems of teaching—the Eton of surfing schools.
Satisfied with our stroke, Pinneo breaks down the levels: We’re obviously Level 1. Level 3 surfers are starting to ride small waves on their own. At Level 5, you’re finding your own style and refining your bottom turn. By Level 7, you’re pretty good and can ride the barrel—that quintessential picture of surfing, in which you catch the inside part of the wave as it crashes over you, forming a tunnel. If you’re Level 10, your name may be Kelly Slater.
So it seems a bit like Scientology, maybe, like The Bridge to Total Freedom. These steps, no doubt, cost much money and won’t be shared openly even in a rich publication but the hints are fascinating. A refined bottom turn seems like a real important facet in moving from kook to Kelly. Step seven finds you in the barrel. What do you think happens during steps eight and nine?
Which step are you?
Which step is Kai Otton?
The piece ends with this:
There’s a scene in the 1994 surf movie The Endless Summer II when Pat O’Connell, the shortboard star, is asked what his favorite wave is. “The next one,” he says. I keep that as my mantra and, about 15 next waves later, I stand and ride the board into the whitewash. I still look like the poo-man, but for once on this day, I feel the euphoria that drives hundreds of other kooks to keep trying.
Poo-man. Which step is Adriano de Souza?
Do you think Tropicsurf pays Kelly royalties on using his name?