Progression comes through a respect of the past etc.
As sure as the seasons pass, the retro fashion wheel has spun back to the nineties. We got Mikey’s mullet. Noa’s voluminous denim shorts. Black Beauties. Creed McTaggart’s Billabong line that looks like it’s straight out of the Sonic Youth 1991 European summer tour.
We even got the Momentum Generation, Slater, Doz and pals, all teary deary and wistful.
However. And there’s always gotta be a however. For a lot of people who remember surfing through the ‘90s, it was actually pretty shit.
And that’s the funny thing about nostalgia.
It can even make bad times seem good.
Think about it: the narrow and curved boards that worked in good waves or for the top .1% of surfers worldwide, but were terrible for anything or anyone else. The wetsuit rash that had to be treated like third-degree burns. The full-deck grips that rashed worse than gravel. Peak localism.
So why do the nineties still thrill me?
I’ve never felt happier to surf my 6’6″ x 18 ¼ on a four-foot day at home. Old VHS collections have taken on the same reverential and utility value as the Rosetta Stone. The kids are dressed in Centrelink-chic. Tribal tatts are right back in. If my complete collection of 1994 Hot Gold collectors surfing cards can regain their value the holy ratio will be complete.
What is it that makes us look so doe-eyed to the past when things are so much better here in the future?
Well, could be a few things.
Maybe it’s because the aggressive lines and bladed-up boards being lionised are panacea to the safety turns and high-volume Hypto dads flooding the lineups today.
Maybe it’s because we are all realising just how truly far ahead of the curve the likes of Margo, Occy and Herring were.
Or maybe it’s because everything in this world seems so scrambled, so damn confusing, the innocence of the past places a calming hand on our own and whispers in a deep, soothing voice, everything used to be okay.
I get the appeal.
In fact, I’m responsible for peddling it daily (@surfads). But is it as good as the real thing?
Or are are we just blindly regurgitating facsimiles of what that era was because we can’t appreciate what’s in front of us now?
Yes, and no.
Progression comes through respecting the past. It’s taking the best of what used to work and applying it in a modern context. For the current new wave that’s rocker and length. The importance of the bottom turn (death to the double pump!) Occ’s Torque. The Herro crouch. Margo’s engage and release on a long rail line.
Good surfing will always be timeless. Looking to the past is more important than ever when pushing into the future.
Rituals must be preserved, songlines kept in tact.
But confusing or not, there’s beauty in the present day too: unlimited progression, elevated collective consciousness, a Cambrian explosions of wave riding forms. Ignoring that is as futile as trying to take the blue out of the sky.
And it’ll make great #content for Instagram in 2035.
So what other trends that we haven’t seen since the ‘90 need to come back?
Should noseguards be revisited?
(Now, here’s the classic that kicked off the whole damn era.)