“I said, ‘That’s my metaphor.’ It’s hard. You need some skill. You never know if there are going to be sharks."
I woke up today bright-eye’d and bushy tail’d, a cloudless mental sky. It has been twenty-four hours since a ceasefire between one-time “rude surf tabloid” and Santa Monica’s World Surf League and not one ill-word written. Not one subtle jab. Oh there was almost a breakdown last evening when it was revealed that the presenting sponsor of the just wrapped Freshwater Pro, OuterKnown also known as OK, had just been designated a hate symbol but the line held and, twenty-four hours on I feel the immense joy of life behind the Wall of Positive Noise.
Everything is truly awesome.
Surfing is the biggest thing ever. So big, so widely accepted, so broadly understood that we use the word “surfing” for every day tasks like using the internet but have you ever wondered where the actual phrase “surfing the internet” came from?
I librarian in upstate New York, it turns out, and let us turn to Syracuse’s favorite local website Syracuse.com for more about Jean Armour Polly.
If you’ve ever said, “Surfing the web,” you’ve got Polly to thank. It was the title of her 1992 guide for a library journal about how to use what would become the web. “Surfing the Internet: An introduction,” was published in the Wilson Library Bulletin.
Polly was sitting at her computer, thinking about what title to use when she looked down at her mousepad. There was a surfer, a wave, and the phrase, Information surfing.
“I said, ‘That’s my metaphor.’ It’s hard. You need some skill. You never know if there are going to be sharks,” Polly said.
Shortly after writing the article, Polly left the library world for a time to work for NYSERnet, a nonprofit research group that was one of the state’s first internet providers. When she worked there, she shared the surfing article and it went as close to viral as something could go in those days.
“The idea of surfing went around the world,” Polly said. And with it came the wrath of surfers.
They thought Polly was equating their sport with something trivial and easy.
“I got some hate mail from surfers,” she said.
So when Polly went to Hawaii for a conference, she paid a visit to the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing.
“I threw myself on his mercy and apologized for this lapse in judgment,” she said. She laughs, but that’s just what she did. The librarian does not make things up.
Then she went into the surfing internet forums and retold the story of her apology.
That is wonderful, inspiring, kind and benevolent. I too have stood in front of that Duke statue in Waikiki with an offering. A small baggie of methamphetamine I had procured while working a story I did for early good Stab called The Ice Storm.
I left it at his bronze’d feet.
Extremely rude when I think back.