The fact is this: in the dying days of 2021, surfing is about the most mainstream thing you can do. So what to do? Adapt or die.
And so my hand has been forced.
I will not scroll idly by and watch BG reduced to a barge for sexagenarian surf tripe no-one gives a shit about.
This is a place where writing has lived. Maybe the last place online.
It is more than just a five-minute Google search of “surfing” in the dead après ski hour between canapés and cocktails.
It is more than the raving husk of someone who once worked for a vanished magazine that compiled advertisements for surf brands.
It should be the clear-eyed arbiter of surf culture; not the rheumy-eyed madman no-one cares about.
But is it worth it?
That’s the question.
Is surf still worth pursuing in an age where the new faces of the sport are Jonah Hill and Mark Zuckerberg?
I confess to periods of disillusionment, which will be a surprise to no-one.
Please don’t mistake this for being angry, or jaded. If it were the 7 Stages of Grief I’m on the upward turn towards reconstruction. If not quite hopeful, at least not misty-eyed.
A friend sent me a clip of what I missed at one of our locals the other day.
“The adult beginner pandemic” he called it. Busier than the middle of summer. Ten people attempting to straight hand every wave. Big blue boards flying.
Normally when he sends me clips of missed surf I get pangs of guilt, envy.
But I felt…vindicated?
But I’m not here to gleefully dismember surfing, rather I’d like to consider a more evolved way of thinking about it.
The fact is this: in the dying days of 2021, surfing is about the most mainstream thing you can do.
A “surfer” now is both everyone and no-one you know.
We live in a culture of generalists. Specialised knowledge and deep learning is a thing of the past. We all know a little about everything. Our capacity to retain information is both degraded but bolstered by the GBs in our pockets.
Yet broad swathes of knowledge are perfectly acceptable, even desirable. Flexibility is the ideal.
The same dilution has happened with surfing. Our lives of leisure, choice and comfort allow us to dabble in things formerly reserved for specialists, or those prepared to work for it. Everyone’s an expert now. They might not be an expert in your eyes, but they’re still a surfer, because for them mediocrity and cursory knowledge and/or skill is the norm.
When I saw Jack Dorsey Tweet about surf films and truth last week I felt that was a bellwether of our time. Or perhaps a death knell.
You see, Jack Dorsey is not Mark Zuckerberg.
Where Zuck is the zinc-faced sniveller that no-one liked at school; Dorsey is the geek that didn’t give a fuck and probably transcended cool.
He’s the tech bros tech bro. People trust him. People listen to him.
When he merges surfing and truth in a pithy Tweet to six million-plus followers, you’d better believe the foxes are in the coop.
And I know that this argument has resounded through every generation, particularly the nineties when surf fashion became high street fashion.
But things are truly different now.
People are different.
Spheres of influence are vastly different.
The ability for one voice to reach millions of people makes a mockery of glossy ads in print magazines seen by a few thousand.
Face it: you (if “you” are “the core”) are outnumbered and overrun.
The surf press has no impact, because it doesn’t exist. Have you ever wondered who those thousands of strangers discussing surfing on YouTube and Reddit are? They’re the surfers now. They control the narrative.
You’re just a relic, sat on a sinking barge, listening to old magazine editors sing shanties no-one understands as you disappear beneath the waves.
So what to do? Adapt or die.
Be like Kai Lenny. Be like water. Evolve. Don’t treat surfing as some kind of idol. He has the sense to hold surfing at arm’s length. It’s just part of his portfolio. Worth a HODL, sure, but not worth blowing your whole wad on.
Alternatively, you can stand with Billy Kemper, beating your chest in surf-or-die machismo. Or drown with Ben Marcus and his brand of sexagenarian tangential surf tripe, or the other pensioners caw cawing below the line.
Personally I’m with Kai.
In 2022, surfing’s just another thing to do.
(P.S. SurfAds, if you ever feel like a rebel tour give me a shout. We’ll coerce Longtom back. Maybe persuade Derek to jump ship, too, just to fluff us up a bit. I hear Dorsey’s looking for a passion project to fund. And hey @Jack, get me on @JP_Currie. Happy to talk about ghost-writing that memoir, too).