But without surfing, you'd be an embittered eunuch…
The exchange of ideas at the Grit is intoxicating even when the substance ain’t your trip. Only thing that grinds is when old warhorse assumptions and myths get trotted out with a fresh coat of lipstick for another go around.
Some cat might have been Ayn Rand or Noam Chomsky or maybe Michel Houellebecq, said life proceeds pretty much according to the conventional wisdom. And nothing is more conventional wisdom in surfing than the idea that we are all deep down some kind of renegade outlaws barely able to function in society because we are humping this hulking, all consuming, addiction to surfing through life.
Neg, not Nug, love him like a brother and bless his soul, made comment on an AI quote that “surfing kept him on a even keel” by claiming that “For him and those of us over 30, surfing offers almost none of the answers in life”.
Bollocks mi amigo.
It offers any answer you want, apart from the ultimate one, which is death. It’s a great and compelling answer to the question: how do I pass the time each day? The implication that surfing did Andy no good or couldn’t keep him on an even keel is correct, on the face of it, but greys out so much of the man. He died an addict but an addict who was a three-time world champ, who exalted and glorified a talent, transcended liabilities and inspired millions. He could’ve died an opioid addict alone in a gutter if he never picked up a sled.
You want to imbue surfing with a numinous glow, are newly arrived from Europe or the mid-west and crave meaning? Surfing makes an excellent, harmless religion, better, by far, than any of the Abrahamic faiths, with easy to follow tenets, prophets and daily rituals.
You can sit dewey eyed at the feet of benevolent masters, for a small fee, like Gerry Lopez. You want to make it your Walden Pond, decipher natural history, accept the measured violence of the ocean, and understand that you must meet every effort of nature with a calculated, countervailing manoeuvre. Then you’ve got a lifetime mapped out.
Want to dabble, hold down a job, raise a family and get a little work-a-daddy stoke on a couple mornings a week? Surfing is no problem for you.
Barack Obama wave slides using the human body as planing device. Surfing is not a problem for him. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott: surfs. Former NSW Premier Mike Baird: surfs. Former Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan: surfs. Former Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland: surfs. Putin, I’m sure, has dabbled. Many Russians do.
Almost nothing adds lubricating grease to the wheels in the highest spheres of power in the Indo-Pacific world than a mild-moderate wave sliding habit. You crave power, have ambition, want to make money? Surfing is not a problem for you.
You’re American and you surf. You’ve likely got a college degree and bank above the average income. Maybe you got lucky and get to suckle on the teat of the tech-titans and get to surf the Nor-cal area like the great Louie Samuels.
Maybe you lament getting your hands dirty, working a blue-collar job as Limbless Jack or Mike C suggested. That’s a shame. If you’re in Australia and have a trade: brickie, chippy, plumber, sparky, gas fitter, landscaper etc, you sit majestically close to the apex of the socio-economic totem pole. You charge 80-100/hour, more if you own kit, live close to the beach, dawn patrol a couple times a week, send your kids to a private school, surf weekends, spend ten days in the Ments every year and snorkel pow in Japan on a good year. Surfing is not a problem for you.
There are older surfers here, maybe even the despised baby boomers. You paid how much for that crib in Byron Bay when you came here chasing surf in the 70’s? What? Seven grand. Seven fucking thousand! Your mate across the street sold for 2.8 mill and you’d get the same. So chasing surf was a massive financial mistake now that you’re a multi-millionaire for doing 5/8’s of nothing? Not quite. Surfing is not a problem for you.
There are older surfers here, maybe even the despised baby boomers. Come forwards. Don’t be shy. You paid how much for that crib in Byron Bay when you came here chasing surf in the 70’s? What? Fifty grand? No? Less? Seven grand. Seven fucking thousand! And it’s worth how much now? Your mate across the street sold for 2.8 mill and you’d get the same, maybe a bit more because of the new deck. So chasing surf was a massive financial mistake now that you’re a multi-millionaire for doing 5/8’s of nothing? Not quite. Surfing is not a problem for you.
You think without surfing you’ll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won’t. You’ll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch.
You nine-to-five cube monkeys feel disrespected, mocked as unimaginative wage slaves and robots. But you’re right, this whole shit show would grind to a halt without you. Maybe you suffer, like I, from what Rimbaud called the horror of home. You might be happier, like Ishmael and me, 40 miles out to sea, but 40 miles isn’t always possible so 40 metres might be better, even for 40 minutes. No shame in that. That alone, makes pappy a better man, mammy a better woman. You think without surfing you’ll be a better lover, a kinder parent with more time for your kids? You won’t. You’ll be an insufferable monster. A neutered, embittered eunuch. To those martyrs who give it up (for an illusory gain) I offer these words from the author Chris Kraus: “Stop your whining you whiny little bitch and get your go-outs. Or Don’t.”
Hey hipsters. No hate here. Just keep that leashless log the fuck away from my kids. It is what it is and what it is is fucking great. Surfing is no problem for you.
Hey hipster. You swing between New York, Byron, Milan or wherever the hell appeals. Resin-tinted log left at the Bay, borrow a fish to ride down at Montauk and life is, what? Sweeter for the slide? Of course, always is. The commitment to surfing… minimal. The identification: partial. No hate here. Just keep that leashless log the fuck away from my kids. It is what it is and what it is is fucking great. Surfing is no problem for you.
Our very own principal D. Rielly, as reward for his entrepreneurial escapades cashed out of Stab for a couple hundred K. That is not a problem. That is a solution to a problem, a series of problems even, including how to find a cash deposit for a beachside residence, how to invest in a new business etc etc.
Finally fellow travellers. Take a walk in the room of mirrors. Did you back surf? Back it properly I mean. For a block of dirt and a roof close to a surf spot? Did you back it in for Lennox Head, Byron Bay, Burleigh, Coolum, Ulladulla, Laguna Beach, Newport, Cardiff by the Sea, Hossegor, Lahinch, the Bukit, Raglan, Pupukea etc etc. Then congratulations. You won the game. For doing exactly nothing except backing surf you have enriched yourself and supplied an endowment for your families future.
Adult learners are laughing all the way to the bank while we torture ourselves with calvinist myths about the right way to spend a life.
It’s a funny old world, but surfing ain’t a problem in it. For you or anyone else.
(Editor’s note: Feel like you’ve read this before? Correct! This story first appeared nine months ago and, for whatever reason, Facebook algorithms, slow day on IG, it didn’t get the attention it deserved, I think. Here it is, second time. Savour.)