Surfing today: Best waves or most money?

photo by The Wandering Angel (Flickr CC)

When I was a kid in the 1980s, my friends and I used California surf slang, wore Jimmy-Z and Quicksilver gear and were generally ‘Californianized’ by surf culture.

Hardly any of us actually surfed, unless you count the odd trip to East Coast beaches in Maryland, Delaware, Florida or the Carolinas. Even there the emphasis was on body boarding, skimboarding, with maybe a few of us trying out small wave surfing.

Our excuse of course was skateboarding – same clothes, same vernacular, and the same Mecca: California. Our inspiration came from music and youth culture a couple thousand miles away on the opposite coast of the US.

So I know that surf merchandising is not a new thing. It was huge then and it’s huge now. My junior high school was full of Sex Wax t-shirts, loud Jams shorts and imitations of Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

I guess ‘surf cool’ died down in the 1990s, but it’s back and maybe even more corporate then ever. But there are probably more diehards than ever too, with new, exotic surf spots being discovered by intrepid explorers in places like Portugal, Bali and beyond.

Former World Surfing Champion and hall of famer Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew sees the friction that popularizing the sport, along with the growth industry of surf merchandise, especially clothing, is doing to the true spirit of surfing.

And Bartholomew should know. In 1998, he helped take over the Association of Surf Professionals and transformed it into the sport’s most-recognized body. By focusing on a mantra of “best surfers, best waves,” he took the sport to far-flung destinations such as Bora Bora and Bali. Though an expensive and expansive endeavor, the efforts of leaders, along with the work of world-class cinematographers and photographers, had legions of fans tuning in to events online and in magazines.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal – if that, in itself, doesn’t say it all.

This entry was posted in Weekly Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.