Here’s another great video shared by the folks at surfsleeptravel.com who always find pretty amazing clips. This is Tyler Hollmercross riding the rolling cliffs at Shipstern’s Bluff. Mesmerizing work from Simon Treweek.
Wow, Riley Lang is only 16 years old and he is looking a lot like John John. Looks like he’s riding for Billabong. I think may have a find. Great clip, here.
Since its birth hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, surfboard design has never ceased evolving. From ancient paipos, olos and alaias to modern longboards and shortboards, every new generation of surfers has always looked both forward and backwards in never-ending attempts to find new ways to enhance performance or just have a good time and more unique experience in the water.
These days, experimental boards of remarkable diversity continue to emerge at a breathtaking pace. A glimpse around your local lineup on any given weekend will provide testament to this trend. And for every surfer you might see at home trying out the latest unusual shape, there’s a steady stream of new web clips waiting every time you surf the net to show you how a dozen others are doing it someplace else.
Like most surfers, I appreciate the continuing revolution(s) in board design, including the most recent retro-and post-modern experimentation in shapes and construction. But whenever I witness someone drawing smooth lines on an asymetrical slider, tombstone-style alaia or vintage Steve Lis fish, my focus invariably winds up not on the equipment, but rather the rider and on the transcendent nature and enduring value of great style. And that’s not something you can buy off the rack.
Your shaper can’t imagine or engineer style into you. He can only provide a framework for drawing out your own natural expression of it; an expression fashioned by some inexplicable combination of God, genetics, friends, heroes, the break(s) you grew up surfing and the good or bad memory of 640 different muscles that make up our human bodies.
Great style is magical.
It is hard to define and as unique as our own DNA. At the same time, most of us claim to know great style when we see it, even if it’s served in a thousand different flavors. Clearly, it’s important to us. It’s one reason why an explosive, acrobatic world champion can be criticized for stink stance, while others with air games nowhere nearly as advanced, are routinely recognized as being better overall surfers.
Heck, did Tom Curren ever ascend even ten inches above the lip? More to the point, did he need to? No.
And yet, Curren is still universally heralded as perhaps the second greatest surfer of all time behind only Kelly Slater (witness some of the most stylish tuberiding ever at 7:32), whose unparalleled mix of speed, style, power, flow and explosiveness may never be rivaled.
Great style is transcendent.
It transcends age, gender, body type, wave type, conditions and whatever surf craft it is you might happen to be riding. It typically begins to evidence itself early in our surfing lives and matures as we ourselves do. To be certain, we can all improve our skills and work to refine our style over time, but core style is so ingrained and inherent in each of us that slivers of its true nature will always be revealed, no matter how much time and attention we’ve dedicated to “fixing” our less stylish bad habits.
I can recall two specific instances in my life when the true nature of style presented itself to me in clear, unequivocal fashion–two occasions when I paddled out with different surfers who were regarded as two of the best, most stylish surfers in the area where I grew up. Perhaps not coincidentally, both were pretty decent on a skateboard, as well. Although both were often encouraged, neither had much interest in surfing competitively. They were simply passionate about surfing as an activity and a lifestyle.
Randy, the first fellow, was pretty much an All-American kind of guy–smart, laid back and just a really cool, fun guy to be around. Physically, he was on the short side of average with a compact, athletic build not uncommon to many pro surfers. We agreed to meet out at the Jax Beach Pier one hot summer morning to try and catch a few. But when we arrived, as is the case on so many Florida summer mornings, there was little energy in the ocean, save for the slightest occasional burps from a far-distant SE background swell.
While I almost immediately resigned myself to the fact that there’d be no surfing that day and began weighing our fishing prospects, Randy began waxing up his board saying, “Well, I’m gonna’ go catch a couple. You comin’?”
There was no way I was even going to try–especially being one of only two people who would have in the water at all that morning, trying to ride a swell that was only barely there. But Randy went right about his routine as if it was just another session. He removed his leash from his board and to my surprise, pulled on his baseball cap and sunglasses before trotting down to the water’s edge. And there wasn’t a damn thing pretentious about it.
Randy wasn’t trying to attract attention. He was just trying to beat the blistering Florida sun on a windless summer day. And within two minutes
of paddling out, there he was gliding effortlessly down the line on these periodic, glassy one-and-half-foot bumps; hat dry, sunglasses in place, finding energy where none existed, and turning 360s without displacing a single drop of water, with as much grace and style as you could possibly imagine. It was just all so smooth. I was fully content to just sit there and watch the show. I learned that day that truly great style is unaffected by shitty conditions.
The second instance was with my friend Tony. He was a hipster through and through–a tall (about a full foot taller than Randy) skinny musician / guitarist / vocalist / surfer / skater and independent music connoisseur who oozed charisma. At the same time, like Randy, there was absolutely nothing contrived or self-conscious about him. He was unmistakably, authentically himself and that just happened to be extremely stylish, in and out of the water.
Just like with Randy, Tony and I had decided to meet up for a paddle out, this time a little further up the road at a sandbar behind my dad’s place in Neptune Beach. Tony showed up that afternoon glassy-eyed and ready to have fun. The waves were about 2-3 feet and offering up some really nice peaks.
I was keenly interested in trying out Tony’s board and immediately asked him if that would be ok. I determined to figure out how he could surf so well and learn what his board had to do with it. Was his craft noticeably lighter than mine? Was there something different about his rails that helped make his lines so much more fluid and his turns, so much smoother and arching than mine? Surely, a revelation was at hand. And it was.
Tony handed me what looked to be a standard 6’ thruster- a worn, yellowed beater that I estimated to be about 2-3 years older, a little longer, wider and heavier than my own. In exchange, I gave Tony my board. He wasted little time getting at it, casually paddling over to spot about 15 yards away and beginning to surgically dissect the fun peaks in a manner not altogether different when he was riding his own board.
Meanwhile, to my astonishment, there was no extra “magic” that I could conjure from his board. Nothing helped make my turns look like his, nothing helped me to displace more water or create more symmetrical fans; nothing prevented my dominant right arm from dropping towards my rib cage when I really needed to keep it extended… the writing was on the wall.
Some people were–are–just naturally more stylish than others. Period.
This point was driven mercilessly home when Tony then mentioned the antique longboard hanging in my dad’s garage. I think it must have come with the home when my father purchased it. He certainly hadn’t ridden the thing in years and frankly, I was embarrassed of it, and not curious about it at all.
But Tony was. He wanted to try it out.
I tried to laugh off his suggestion off at first, but he was serious. And so we took it down off the wall. It must have weighed 50 pounds and had faded far past yellow. It was now closer to steam pile brown. I was red-faced as Tony enthusiastically tucked it under his scrawny arm and lugged it across the sand and out into the water.
And just like that, he was up and riding it–his stance and body positioning largely unchanged, like a cat about to pounce as he navigated shifting areas of the waves where opportunities presented themselves to hit open faces, step up to the nose or bend a knee to pull a graceful, flowing turn.
Oh, Tony fell a couple of times. But when he did, it was always with a smile on his face and, well… just a lot of style. He loved riding that monstrous old antique. And he looked every bit as brilliant riding it as he did on his shortboard. Or mine.
I came to the realization that day that great style isn’t necessarily subject to a certain kind of board under your feet. Rather, it is something that lives inside you, and you bring it with you wherever you go and on whatever craft you happen to be riding. If you’ve got great style, it’s going to show up whether you’re on a shortboard, longboard, dick-shaped board, a finless plank, door, or a table. Heck, even with another little human strapped to your back.
And finally, if your style still needs work: Hey, no worries. Just keep on trying, having fun and smiling like the rest of us. After having spent a great portion of the past 30 years in lineups at home and abroad with surfers of every different skill level, I promise you that’s the most effective style-enhancer that any surfer of any ability can ever hope to master.
Note: This post was originally created for, and published on The Inertia. You can see the original, including article response, here: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/matters-of-style-and-the-style-masters/#ixzz3XnthvnWC
The World Surf League kicks off the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour on February 28th at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. There are many plot lines heading into the season, none more heralded than the arrival of the Brazilian Storm. Since last year’s Snapper event when Gabriel Medina, the new Brazilian World Champ made clear his intentions for an historic 2014 title run by taking down hometown favorite Joel Parkinson, the buzz surrounding the rapid ascension of the Brazos over the past 3 years, and more notably, the past twelve months- has reached a crescendo.
This year, with seven Brazilians on CT, Medina returning to make his title defense and some of the current CT elite getting up there in years, will we witness the Brazilian Storm evolve into a veritable force of nature or watch this impressive run-up dissipate into something far more mundane?
Rest assured, I’m not a hater. I admire the Brazilians for their tenacity and passion. I used to date a girl from Rio when I lived in south Florida. She and her friends lived packed together in a tiny little apartment with barely any possessions, but the clothes on their backs. But they were all intelligent, kind people who loved life and weren’t shy about showing it regardless of what may have been occurring around them at any time. Little Claudia and her friends always talked about their home- their deep love for it, as well as the heartbreaking political and socio-economic problems its citizens faced (And that was a long time ago. Clearly things have been too slow to change). But no matter where our conversations went, they always returned to just how special her people and her country were.
So, I’m not here to disparage the Brazilians. Just to offer some balanced perspective in the face of media hype, and before the rest of us Americans, Hawaiians*, Australians, South Africans and Europeans cede the next 10 years of CT glory to the Brazos. Here’s why bustin’ down the door doesn’t necessarily mean Brazil will be taking over the house.
Dantas & Ferreira: Back Seat, Rookies
The Brazilians begin the year with two rookies, Wiggoly Dantas and Italo Ferreira both coming from the QS. Both are very talented with Italo looking particularly sharp in small waves and Dantas with a history of nutting it up in smaller and larger surf. That said, the shift from the QS is still notoriously hard. The CT features larger, more powerful waves than what QS’ers are typically accustomed to.
In addition, the event seeding system pits lower-ranked surfers against the highest, most talented and often most experienced CT ones. So these rookies will be facing not just the best in the world– but the best of the best, right off the bat. This year, that includes Medina who Dantas will face in his very first CT heat. It’s just a tough ladder to climb, although Snapper will give both a fair shot. Ultimately, both Ferreira and Dantas could easily find themselves fighting to stay on tour by the end of the year.
Andre, Pupo and Toledo: Muddling in the Middle
…Ditto Jadson Andre. Jadson is a extremely talented surfer and by all accounts, a great guy. But he has ambled inconsistently along the WCT since arriving with fanfare in 2010 when he finished 13th. Since then, Andre has finished 22nd (2011), 32nd (falling off tour in 2012 and having to re-qualify in 2013), and just making it back this year by securing the final 22nd CT-issued slot by the skin of his teeth (or CJ’s foot). He also qualified via the QS, and may well wind up having to do it again, this year. But, will he ever break away from the lower third of CT performers? He seems to be stuck in the rip as Alejo Muniz, despite Alejo’s valiant year-end effort.
What about Miguel Pupo and Felipe Toledo? I loved seeing more of these guys, here. They’ve been on the cusp of breaking out with Toledo showing a bit more promise both in small waves and larger ones. Felipe finished 17th overall last year (15th in 2013) and also won the QS while at it. He finished with two 5ths at Pipe and Portugal, which bodes well for his future. On the flip side, Toledo himself has admitted that he needs to work on his heat strategy. And head games can often prove to be more of a lingering problem than things like acclimating to larger surf. I do believe Toledo will crack the top 10 and that we may see him end up swapping places with Adriano De Souza, this year.
As for Pupo- I’m pulling for him. He seems determined to keep up with his peers and has had moments, but has been plagued with significant health problems (now corrected). Most of all, he has battled inconsistency with a 36th, a17th and two 19th place overall finishes, including one year off the CT over the past 5 years. If Miguel can just get rid of one or two more of his 25th place event finishes, then he could potentially become a long-term fixture in or around the Top 10. Otherwise, his career begins to look much like Jadson Andre’s and Alejo Muniz’s- promising, without ever really being able to really pull it all together in a way that fulfills that promise.
De Souza: Battle-tested. Battle-weary?
Adriano De Souza is a battle-tested CT elite, a perennial top 10 guy never finishing lower than 13th in the past 7 year with three top 5 finishes, a 7th, 10th and an 8th last year (even while missing Pipe). Adriano has been criticized for everything from a squatty stance to over-claiming. But he’s a plenty stylish, sure-footed surfer who rips in all conditions. Most impressively, he has always risen to the occasion, no matter what was required, including elevating his aerial game over the past years as rising talent levels demanded. But De Souza has a persistent knee problem and a pack of hard-charging young talent hot on his heels. He could easily slip out of the Top 10 this year.
Medina: Under Pressure
Gabriel Medina. He earned his title, even despite Kelly’s seemingly diminishing desire and John John’s late charge. But as one astute pundit pointed out on The Inertia, it’s one thing to win a crown. It’s quite another to wear it. As great as the pressure was on the boy king to win the title last year, will it be any less to repeat with the pride of his nation overflowing, the death of Ricardos dos Santos heavy on hearts and minds, and the global surf media beside itself over the prophesized Brazilian apocalypse? He is still 21, after all.
It is also worth mentioning that two of Medina’s wins last year came by .03 pts each over Joel Parkinson at Snapper and Kelly Slater in Tahiti. That’s not to suggest that luck had anything to do with it, only that they were that close. Slater won his first title at age 20 in 1992, but didn’t win his second until 1994. I believe that entrenches himself in the Top 5, but will be surprised if he repeats this year, given the weight upon his shoulders… again.
Old Guys Rule
Kelly Slater (age 43), Taj Burrow (36), Joel Parkinson (33), Mick Fanning (33) and right behind, Josh Kerr (31) are the core CT elders who continue to clog up the Top 10 each year, making it extremely difficult for lower seeds to make their way up the competitive ladder. And these guys should never be asked to apologize for their enduring health, talent and competitive drive. The question for their competitors is how long does desire last for each? If success equals talent less motivation, then you have to wonder if Kelly’s recent comments in Surfer are indicative of the beginning of the end, as even Slater himself finds it unusual that his losses aren’t bothering him as much these days. And I can’t help thinking that if Slater finally declares himself satisfied, that it might have a domino effect within this group. For the time being, these are the guys who really dictate the world order, year in and year out.
Brazilian Storm: You’ve Got Company…
Finally, Brazil is hardly the only nation with rising young prodigies on the brink of fulfilling their destinies. Although credit goes to Gabriel for being the fastest to punch through, South Africa (Jordy Smith), Australia (Julian Wilson and Owen Wright), America (Kolohe Andino and Nat Young) and Hawaii* (Who da guy?) all have young guns in contention to step into those top rung spots and potentially secure a championship for their respective countries. Every one of these guys are rock solid in big waves or small, all are coming on strong right now and at the end of the day, there are only so many spots at the top.
*Hawaii is America’s 50th state.
Note: This article was originally published on The Inertia
You know, I’ve lived long enough and experienced enough to understand that things are never as good or bad as they seem. Life, for the most part, is what you choose to make of it and there are tradeoffs for almost everything. What you see on the surface doesn’t always accurately reflect exactly what’s underneath.
If you’re a surfer and an adventurer like me, then you’re going to want —you’re going to need— to keep this top-of-mind when you watch this beautiful film from Cyrus Sutton. It leaves me with many questions, but I’m not going to bother asking them. Nope, I’m just going to enjoy it for what it is. Hope you do the same.
To be certain, glory and adrenaline are powerful forces. But is anything worth this?
If you could have your dream job, what would it be? Is it safe to assume it might revolve around surfing? Would you desire it to include heavy doses of travel and adventure, allowing you to surf the world’s best waves in exotic destinations? Would playing a role in helping others realize some of their own dreams help top things off?
Most people never get to live their dreams, because they don’t pursue them. Others, like Bryan Pohlman, do, precisely because they make it a point. His job, as Global Sales Consultant for Waterways Travel, the world’s largest surf travel agency, is a veritable Endless Summer.
In fact, the parallels between Bruce Brown’s iconic surf film, which celebrated the virtues of travel, wonder and discovery by following two surfers–Mike Hynson and Robert August–as they chased summer around the world, and Pohlman’s own life and career, are uncanny.
Pohlman not only spent a significant part of his career shaping boards for August, but also constructing a life to satisfy the deep wanderlust within him and the DNA of pretty much all surfers, that Brown’s film so beautifully conveyed. Indeed, the film’s concept was born at the suggestion of a travel agent who informed Brown that a flight from LA to Cape Town, South Africa and back would cost $50 more than a trip circumnavigating the globe. This inspired Brown’s idea to make the film about chasing summer around the world and to call it Endless Summer.
Pohlman, who began his career with Air New Zealand and also worked for Quiksilver Travel, has surfed in multiple locations around the world this past year alone, all while collecting a paycheck and helping others pursue their own endless summers. I caught up with Bryan to gain some insight about his professional journey, and his current dream job at Waterways.
Tell me a little bit about Waterways, and your own career timeline.
Waterways is the largest surf-travel agency in the world. We’ll be celebrating our 21st anniversary in 2015. I’ve personally been in the travel business since 1996. I started at Air New Zealand and worked there for three years, took a break to be a ghost shaper for Robert August, shaped 600 boards, and then started Quiksilver Travel in 2001. I worked there until 2013, before moving over to Waterways.
How’d you get the job?
I met Sean Murphy, the owner, on a surf trip to remote Panama in 2007. Even though we were competitors at the time, we got along really well. When Quiksilver Travel shut their doors, it seemed natural to transition over to Waterways, since they were the biggest and best at what they do. And I knew that Sean was probably the only guy in this business who I could still learn a lot from.
How great is your job?
I love it. Getting to interact with traveling surfers keeps me stoked. It also keeps me in tune with tour operators all over the world and gives me a unique perspective on global surf patterns. This year alone, I logged tube time in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Not too bad!
What does a typical day/week look like at Waterways?
Normal office job from 9AM – 5:30PM, but Sean is the best boss ever. He’s always buying lunch for everyone and we’re looking at photos and watching surf contests. Working at Quiksilver for over 10 years was pretty special and had some insane perks, but I think on a day-to-day basis Waterways is a fun place to work because of the people that work here, not to mention our many awesome clients!
Have you always been a frequent traveler?
Always. I’ve been going to Baja since I was 8 years old. I’m just one of those people that sees a map and says, “I have to go there.” So, that’s what I’ve done.
So, you get to travel and surf a lot for work?
Yes, we all get out to R-and-D our surf tours several times each year. I like that part because not only do we get to know our tour operators well and really evaluate their operations, but we also get to meet our clients. I can honestly say that having been in the business for so many years, that most of my best friendships started as client/agent relationships. I love being able to help others fulfill their own dreams. Obviously, I can relate.
Do you get special rates?
We turn down tour operators all the time that want us to come down to their spots. Everyone wants us to check out their tours, because we are the front line of the sales force. So yes, we do get offered lots of free trips, but we don’t expect free trips. We understand that our tour operators need to make a living and we don’t take advantage of them. Plus, I find it’s better to pay, because then you don’t feel obligated to sell a specific resort if they aren’t up to Waterways’ standards. The old saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch” is definitely true in the travel business.
Where all have you been?
(Laughs) a lot of places, and most of them multiple times. Sumatra, Mentawai, Bali, Sumba, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Samoa, Hawaiian Islands, Chile, Peru, Panama (Pacific and Caribbean), Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mainland Mexico and the Dominican Republic .
What’s your favorite destination?
I’ve learned that every destination is unique and different in its own way. But my favorite wave in the world is probably Macaronis.
Some have said that travel is increasingly become a luxury item, a privilege enjoyed primarily by the wealthy. Would you say this is true?
I definitely think having a discretionary income to travel is a luxury. Of course, a lot of surfers travel while they are young and before they have families. And if you’re smart, you can get great value on a surf trip.
Who are your primary customers? Do you work with traveling pros at all?
Here at Waterways, we’ve been in business since 1994, so most of our customers come back every year or every other year to book their surf trips. I don’t have any official stats, but I think an average age of about 35-45 year old men, some traveling with their non-surfing companions, make up the bulk of our customers. We work with pro surfers and photographers on a regular basis, because many of our destinations offer world-class waves with the best accommodations possible.
Did the recession impact your business significantly, as it did so many others? If so, how did you weather the storm and are you seeing continuing improvement?
Yes, things slowed down some for a while, but we are back on track. Waterways is a niche business with a great reputation and track record. We’ve always offered great prices and work with the best surf tour operators in the world. When you’re the best at what you do, people will buy your products in good times, or bad.
What are some tips for cost-effective surf travel?
Well, if you have more time than money, you can just go with the flow and show up places. You can meet local surfers and do things on the cheap. But most of our clients can’t leave work and family behind for a month at a time. Most are traveling for 7-14 days. When you have only a few days, you can’t take 3-4 days getting settled in. You need to hit the ground running and be connected with someone who can take care of the other little things like food, transportation and lodging logistics, so you can forget all that, relax and go surfing. That’s what you’re there for and that’s our specialty at Waterways–maximizing the value of your time.
These days, people are increasingly placing value upon “experiences” over “things.” People have realized that you can lose “things” (like homes) and are realizing that these kinds of material possessions can be fleeting or lose their value, whereas experiences last forever. And of course, experiences help shape our identities and define who we are. Have you seen evidence of this in your job?
Absolutely! As a group, surfers have always placed a high value on experience. That’s what surfing really is… it’s an experience. And no one can ever take that away from you. At the same time, you can’t take a wave home with you after you ride it. It’s gone and that particular experience is over until you paddle back out for another one.
I’ve done a great deal of surf-traveling myself and know that sometimes, things can go wrong. Have you seen much of this in your career?
Things can go wrong on any trip, but for some reason, we love to talk about the worst surf travel experiences in our surf media. I don’t know if it’s a “badge of honor” or if people just love to hear stories about trips gone awry, but my motto is, “Expect the best, be prepared for the worst and the trip will probably fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.”
What are some of the trickiest situations you’ve had to deal with?
As an agent, we deal with al sorts of issues from airlines losing bags to guys getting injured and needing to be evacuated, but cancelled flights are one of the biggest headaches for travelers and agents alike. As a surf traveler, I’ve fended off crackheads, walked through knee-deep mud to find waves, super glued my cuts and had to figure out foreign lineups all alone on some really sketchy days.
For readers, of the places you’ve been or promote, where are some of the best destinations for each of the following:
Nothing but hardcore surfing:
Sumatra, Salina Cruz, El Salvador and G-land
Samoa, Galapagos, Mozambique, Dominican Republic
Namotu, Matanivusi, Chaaya Island and Nemberala Beach Resort
Tavarua, Waidroka, J-Bay, Bocas Del Toro
Best with an unlimited budget:
Kandui Villas, Chaaya Island, Macaronis Surf Resorts
Best on a tight budget:
Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, G-Land, El Salvador
So, do you need some help setting up an East Coast office, so that we can get folks off to the Caribbean, Nazare, Mullaghmore, Mundaka, The Canary Islands and J-Bay most efficiently (hint hint)?
Ha Ha! Maybe some day. But not now.
Ok, well at least there’s still hope!
Where are you personally headed next?
This year, I was in Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, the Maldives and the Dominican Republic. Next up is Teahupoo, Tahiti in March… nothing booked beyond that.
Any words of wisdom for those wishing to pursue their dream of a career like yours?
You know, the travel industry has changed so much since I began in 1996 that it’s hard for me to give advice to newcomers. I’d just say that if you want to travel the world, do it any way you possibly can, whether that is being a travel agent, chef, boatman or a teacher. Experiencing different cultures and getting to know people that come from completely different backgrounds is truly a priceless, life changing and enlightening experience that will forever shape how you view others and the world around you.
When you hear Kelly Slater talk about his life, he doesn’t brag on world titles. He talks about being a citizen of the world and how many wonderfully diverse friends he has who have taught him valuable life lessons and provided him with differing perspectives… This is because he has been traveling the globe for the past 30 years. The fact he’s the best surfer who ever lived is just a bonus for the rest of us.
Note: I originally conducted this interview and created the article for Waterways Travel and The Inertia. You can find the that post, here: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/dream-jobs-bryan-pohlmans-endless-summer/#ixzz3PPtMnsok
Boy, if you think Shipsterns is the most mutant wave on the planet, you’d better take a look at “The Right” in Western Australia. Ryan Hipwood got a good view. Wow. For more on this spot, check out this story on Networka.com. Enjoy!
Love this relaxed edit from Jason Lesh, Justin Buulolo, Aloha Aerials and Ryan Meichtry. Nice work! Beautiful waves and barrel riding…
The guys from the Surf Station dug this one up. As Matt O said in his blog, Kelly Slater + Rincon = Endless watchability. So true. Rincon is the perfect break for surfers with perfect style of which Kelly is certainly one. Here’s a clinic on style and form. Nice work Michael Kew and crew.
Any wonder why they call this spot the Mentawai Wavepark? The man in the video getting barreled over and over is Christie Carter, official MD for Mentawai Wavepark. Not a bad place for an office.
Well, the 2014 Association of Professional Surfers’ 2014 World Championship Tour ended with the culmination of the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii, yesterday. The ASP crowned a new World Champion, Gabriel Medina- at age 20, the youngest world champion since Kelly Slater. Medina narrowly beat out Slater and Mick Fanning for the title, which would have been Kelly’s 12th. The best surfer to ever walk the earth may possibly retire, or not. At age 43, he still has the ability to win it all and it is only his interest level and motivation that will likely determine whether he comes back or not.
I completed another year of Surfer Magazine‘s Fantasysurfer.com competition (a fantasy surfing league where you have a $50,000,000 budget and select and manage a team of surfers), where the men’s side winner wins a trip to Hawaii. It’s a fun game. Just like all fantasy leagues, you need to know a great deal about all of the surfers, their abilities and tendencies, the breaks and what kinds of conditions each surfer performs best in, etc. I’ve cracked the top 50 in the men’s side previously, and had another good year this year.
On the men’s side, I came in 453rd this year out of 33, 907 teams- finishing in the top 1%! On the women’s side, I came in 250th out of 22,189 teams, also in the top 1%! Unfortunately, Surfer Magazine does not give out a prize for either the women’s side or for combined performance. If they did the latter, I think I’d have a great shot of winning the whole thing. Oh well, maybe one day they’ll at least let me fill in for Shea Lopez and/or Ross Williams to write for their Fantasysurfer.com blog!
As we head into the homestretch of the 2014 ASP World Championship Tour, we know that a fast-approaching storm of inevitable controversy, heartfelt conviction and colorful commentary is headed our way. We don’t even have to wait to spot it on the horizon. It is coming just as surely as that sneaker set at your favorite big wave surf spot.
Just sit deep and get ready for it.
By December 20th, the entire surf world will be blowing up over botched scores, titles earned or gifted, the new world order and the very future of our sport. Or… err… “activity”. (Dang it! I knew that one was coming and still took it right on the head! When will I learn?)
Jokes aside, I say this because I know full well that in the midst of all the coming noise, the loudest voices won’t be from those interested in the compelling storylines that the ASP, ZoSea and the world’s greatest surfers will have delivered for us. Nope. It’ll come from those who wish that professional competitive surfing would just pack up its sh#t and go away.
After all, surfing is too diverse to be siloed. Too sacred to be packaged and sold. It was always meant to be, “free”.
The continuing segregation of surfing into two camps, “freesurfers” who believe that surfing at its core is a spiritual activity inherently at odds with competition and consumerism, and those who support professional surfing as an acceptable way to advance and enjoy the sport, is as old as competitive surfing, itself. But these days, like so much other social and ideological phenomena, the divisions just seem to have grown deeper, the conversations more shrill and cynical, our ideological differences pulling us further apart in ways that are neither fun, healthy nor productive.
Maybe it’s just me. Heck, I’ve been “freesurfing” for the past 25 years! I haven’t competed in a contest since college, when I launched my own citywide surf league. And even then, when we competed, it was always in the spirit of fun and fellowship.
At the same time, if I had sufficient talent to make a living competing as a pro on the WCT, would I do it? Hell yes- in a second! I do love competition. Professional sporting competition. Professional surfing competition! As a result, I’ve followed it closely for nearly as many years as I’ve been surfing.
And therein lies the biggest disconnect of the whole, “surfing as an activity vs. surfing as a sport (or a business; or product)” narrative: Why should any of us have to choose one over the other? Can’t we enjoy all of the various aspects of surfing? Haven’t most of us always done so, to one degree or another?
Following the careers of surfers like Shaun Tomson, Tom Curren, Kelly Slater and John John Florence… watching live contests in places most of us could only dream about in conditions we could only imagine… enjoying the sheer drama of the battles for glory that have provided the fundamental appeal of all athletic competition since the first Olympiad in 765 BC?
Increasingly, it seems that the freesurfers of the world –the real freesurfing purists and not those like me, who are only half-in– would have us be free of everything but their opinions and their judgment, ever-projecting a self-righteous air of pretentious enlightenment that the rest of us poor souls who watch contests more than clips, could only ever hope to understand. And, while I couldn’t care less about how anyone might try to frame me as one kind of surfer or another- that mindset, old as it is, is fast becoming as stale and sour as the rest of the ideological antipathy that we increasingly see grinding our country and our communities to a halt.
Interestingly, the Pew Research Center noted in a recent study that people with strong political views are increasingly constructing their lives around people who agree with them, while shunning those who disagree. The report stated that this kind of ideological rigidity is increasingly leading people to actively avoid others with divergent opinions, making them not only more likely do simple things like defriending on Facebook, but also affecting their decisions about where to live (think Red State / Blue State- all the way down to the neighborhood level); where to eat; where to shop and do business; even who to start a family with (“My name is Canyon. I’m 25. I love surfing and traveling, ride a ’73 Steve Lis fish and am looking for a girl who hates Paul Speaker as much as I do.”)
It begs the question: Are many surfers today really not traveling down the path of independent thought, but rather, simply following the well-trodden and increasingly crowded path of rigid ideologues whose close-minded thinking continues to sabotage compromise, civility and acceptance in so many areas of society, today?
No offense to my friends in California, but I often wonder if the whole freesurfing “purist” vs. “competitive” or “commercial surfing” narrative is primarily a Calicentric industry phenomenon? Because I rarely see so much hand-wringing about it over here on the East Coast.
Here, by and large, all competitors are idolized, from world champs to mid-level CT’ers and QS’ers to local blue-collar rippers. They are supported at every level from the amateur ranks to the pros. When they win, we all win. And when they lose, retire, get hurt, run out of money, head back to college or into the real world, it’s no big deal. They are welcomed right back into the water where you could always find them anyway between their competitions, heats and traveling- freesurfing.
I understand that California suffers from severe crowd-control issues at many spots (don’t we all), and that a common complaint about ZoSea, current owners of professional surfing, is that their ultimate goal to bring surfing to the masses via the aggressive marketing of professional competitive surfing will only worsen this frustrating trend. Truth is, shifting demographic trends and local zoning and development regulations are far more likely to impact these issues than people from Ohio watching the Teahupo’o contest live on ABC, or breaking heats down afterwards on YouTube.
Heck, in a well-researched article written earlier this year by Stu Nettle on Swellnet, his organization’s findings suggest that you could see the crowds at your local break plummet by as much as 30% as soon as Slater decides to retire! (Or at the very least, folks will be unplugging from watching professional surfing, online).
Ultimately, the fear of increasing crowds is just one of a laundry list of justifications that surfing “purists” cite for being skeptical of professional competitive surfing generally, and ZoSea in particular. There’s too much we know about them, and too much we don’t. I for one think they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job with the exception of the name change to the World Surfing League (I understand their reasoning, I just don’t like their choice). Regardless, the ASP and professional surfing have survived name changes and many much larger challenges in the past, and both have only continued to grow.
If the conspiracy theories are true and ZoSea ends up leaving surfing at the altar because like others before them, Paul Speaker, Terry Hardy and (allegedly) Dirk Ziff can’t figure out how to wring a dime out of it, rest assured, it won’t stay down for long. As long as there are surfers who yearn to make a living out of their passion, there will always be others willing to try.
As for me, I’ll continuing to keep an “open mind”, something surfing’s “purists” like to own, but which doesn’t resonate when they continually insinuate that those of us who enjoy professional competitive surfing are somehow uniformed, immoral or something less than “pure”, because we value surfing both as an activity and a sport. It is both those things and so much more.
Note: This article originally appeared on TheInertia.com. Go here see to the original version, and full ensuing discussion.