“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” —Søren Kierkegaard
I was consulted this week. Someone commissioned by a surf brand was doing research on what was wrong with “surf culture” — trying to pinpoint trends and patterns in surfers behavior and why so few young ones want to look like they rip these days. After theorizing and rambling about Millennials, Gen Z, social media and saying the word “cool” an uncomfortable amount of times, I stopped and said, “Now don’t take this the wrong way, but this is what’s wrong with surf culture. Instead of doing, you’re polling.”
Their brand was on a quest to solve a math equation. And 2+2 still equals 5 here. Surf brands got to where they are/were by being unapologetically themselves, and subsequently bad at math. By letting their team riders be themselves. And having fun along the way. That was why I worshipped them when I was a kid. I was a full believer in the Voodoo Buddhist Psycho Romantic Absurd Religion that was surfing and surfers. I wanted to be one. To be seen as one. And now I am one. But these days, I often don’t look like one. And apparently neither do a lot of you. And that seems to be a problem for the surf industry.
We started What Youth about five years ago, when the US economic crisis really got critical. And started affecting surf. Great timing, right? Downsizing was the new party. Diving into your bunker and hoping that paycheck came through was accompanied by everyone looking over their shoulder (checking the feed) to see who was gonna bite the dust next. This new conservative and copy cat approach in surfing was also happening all across the economic landscape. A race to the bottom. To save money. And along the way, all the “fuck it” that made people fantasize about surfing and partying and girls and waves and travel and bottles of wine in the sand at dawn was replaced with dire conservatism. Number crunching. Science. WSL. And that just doesn’t work here. At least not on it’s own. We started What Youth because we suck at math and science but we want to find a way to articulate what it feels like to be young, restless and salty in the modern world. And we’re getting closer to figuring it out (even though we all know by now that we’ll never be able to, but we can acknowledge that that’s exactly the point).
It feels more and more like the rest of the world is on the verge of a panic attack. There’s a reality star leading the “free” world (formerly America). And Surfing Magazine is just the latest in a series of closures. But we just want to be the first to say: It’s OK guys. We’re still surfin’ USA! Hell, we’re still surfin’ the whole globe. Indo. Oz. France. Africa. Youth are still on the run. We did a trip across the globe in this issue. To Indo, to surf with Craig, Yago, Chippa, Eric Geiseleman. Dillon Perillo and Lee Wilson. We got hit with the 50 year storm and nearly capsized, but guess what, we didn’t! And that’s all in here.
We also realized while putting this together, our 17th print issue, that we had an answer for the Bobs: This is our final answer. Put us in your consulting machine and see if it all adds up. Chances are it won’t. So swipe a different card and see if that goes through. —What Youth
Get What Youth Issue 17 here.