Should life-long mediocre surfers who strive to improve upon said mediocrity for the first time as an adult be relegated to the same surf caste as the VALs?
In turn, should these mediocre adult developing surfers (“MADs”, if you will) who first attempted in earnest to improve upon said mediocrity during the Covid era be counted among the reviled ranks of the “Covid Surfers”?
Has the array of “internet surf coaching” programs that have sprouted up like weeds in a neglected garden over the last few years created this MAD phenomenon, or is this merely a symptom of the overall MADness?
And, are these programs (we’ll refer to them under the penumbra of “iSarf Programs”) actually as effective as advertised, or is there just good money to be made by prolonging a problem under the guise of offering a solution, much akin to hiring an outside marketing consultant to promote an irredeemably sub-par product?
This is a multi-part, deep-dive piece that will answer absolutely none of these questions. This is 2023 after all—who needs data or any modicum of investigative research when you can have one man’s barely informed, shortsighted, anecdotal experience? If it’s good enough for The Inertia, well then, it’s good enough.
So what is a MAD and where did MADs come from? Again, you’re not going to get actual investigative answers here, so I’ve created a mathematical equation that seems like it might make sense, though it has not and cannot be tested, empirically or otherwise:
Lockdowns + Mediocrity + Technology = MADness.
Lest I bore you with an in depth breakdown of each of these elements, this is the gist—during the pandemic, people who grew up surfing but never became incredibly proficient found themselves with a lot of time and a little bit of disposable income, they were painfully reminded of their own mediocrity via the Surfline Rewind Cam and/or a significant other on the beach filming their awful surfing, and then they thought they could use their newfound free time to become better surfers by subscribing the iSarf Programs that started popping up in their Instagram feeds.
In short, the MADs became duped by the same snake oil that had already been successfully peddled to the VALs, i.e., that doing stuff on land like skating around soccer cones was going to make you a better surfer.
It’s a rabbit hole that I too went down, chasing that elusive white rabbit of making significant gains in my surfing ability as an adult. And I still might be down in that rabbit hole, so take everything that I say with a grain of salt.
But enough with the exposition—swallow that red pill and let’s find how deep this rabbit hole goes.
The iSarf Program: OMBE (a/k/a “Surf Hacks”)
The Pro Surfer Owner: Clayton Nienaber
OMBE first popped up in my Insta feed after a particularly frustrating morning of surf at my local in the early stages of the pandemic. It was almost as if the algorithm knew that my recent purchase of the first pointy thruster I’d ridden in the better part of a decade was going to result in sobering disappointment.
My research revealed that OMBE was owned and operated by Clayton Nienaber, a South African former WQS warrior and one-time coach of a junior Jordy Smith who moved to Queensland, presumably to start a surf school.
This of course, is a lot like a Russian moving to Alaska and having the audacity to purport to teach the Inuit how to make igloos, as the Aussies are not a people who tend to suck at surfing. Even the Hobbit Hemsworth, for instance, who is half a foot shorter and half a foot wider than his more famous, better looking, and more athletic younger brothers, might be able to lay claim to surfing better than you (I daresay that he appears to have fared far better at the Kelly Tub than Chas does here).
The OMBE concept is simple—you do things like stand on bosu balls and pieces of cardboard with the goal of standing straight forward on your board with your arms out in front of you like a T-Rex. Next, you get yourself a surf skate and skate around some soccer cones, making sure that you maintain this all-important T-Rex stance. Finally, you go find yourself a bowl or a quarter/half pipe and do some turns whilst maintaining this aforementioned T-Rex stance.
There are also plenty of mnemonic devices to make sure that you maintain this proper surfing form (e.g., imagining that you are holding a coffee cup in one of your T-Rex hands) to surf stylishly and like a dinosaur. This is all supposed to make you surf better over the course of twelve weeks.
So, I bought myself a Carver surf skate and I followed the OMBE program precisely to a T-Rex. To my surprise, after twelve weeks of resolute reptilian repetition, I was still every bit as mediocre of a surfer as I was when I started.
Perhaps my arms are a little too long vis a vis my legs and torso to be able to surf like a proper dinosaur, though I have to say, riding around on a surf skate pretending to be a T-Rex is an undeniably fun time, even if it weirds out the kids at the local skate park to such an extent that their moms threaten to obtain a court order requiring me to stay at least 300 yards away therefrom.
One day, when we are able to successfully merge dinosaur and human DNA ala Jurassic Park sequels I’ve never watched, the ideal OMBE surfer might finally be realized. Alas though, I am not that surfer.
But if you are dino-curious, have very short arms, and have access to some cardboard, a bosu ball, a surf skate, and some soccer cones, OMBE just might your ticket out of mediocrity into some serious Cretaceous-period style ripping.
In the next segment, we’ll cover an iSarf Program owned and operated by someone was able to make it to and stay on the big boy tour for a respectable amount of time.