There has been much discussion regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on society today, which just so happens to include our little surfing community.
A few weeks ago, as beaches started closing around the world and surfing was quickly included on the banned activities lists, vocal protest began circulating on message boards and other community forums. If you bucked the system and actually paddled out, citations were issued and arrests were made to insure that social distancing guidelines were adhered to.
Damn, gunshots were even fired!
Through all of that, two very distinct groups began to form within surfing’s general community.
The “Do The Right Thing” group vs. the “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” group.
Both sides actually make a compelling argument if you happen to already lean one way or another. The Right Thing crew making the big picture point of community responsibility while the Don’t Tell Me gang making a seemingly valid argument about the minuscule odds of the disease spreading through actual surfing activity, with a not so subtle undertone of the “ocean is free” argument thrown in for good measure.
An unofficial count of the major surf-related website message boards to date would put the participation at about 4 to 1 in favor of the Don’t Tell Me group.
We have a theory on that.
It was very probable that if you started surfing at an early age there was a good chance you picked surfing, or even skateboarding, because it appealed to you in ways that other sports did not. You could probably put the mountain kids who chose snowboarding over skiing in this group as well.
Anyway, the theory being that we were essentially non-conformists at heart before we even knew it. Not big on rules, structure, coaches, time clocks, etc., we sought freedom, expression, exploration of an art form, and all that jazz. Assuming such, surfing gave us all those things, and more, in spades.
It also gave us something else: The broken hero, the rebel, the rule breaker. We had Miki Fucking Dora on the team. Way before our time, Miklos Dora wasn’t the first or the last surf rebel, but he may have been it’s best. Ya see Miki could walk a line few could via a combination of intelligence, unique communication skills and outright belligerence that just seemed to embody a perfect foil to what was fast becoming the early precursor to today’s commodification of surfing culture.
And, he could back it up in the water. He was the perfect anti-hero.
As we scroll through surfing’s short but rather broad timeline, there were many who proudly carried the torch of today’s Don’t Tell Me movement. Picking up where Miki left off, virtually every surfer in the early ’70s was on the ”Fuck the Man” program. Moving into the late ‘70s and employment of choice for many surfers was somehow related to the blossoming drug trade that the Vietnam War had inadvertently created. No 9 to 5 gig for anyone calling themselves a true surfer, we were going to do it “our way.” And it continued on with guys like Baddy Trealor, Rick Rassmussen, Joe Engle, Marvin Foster, Christian Fletcher, Andy Irons, and even a more modern version with guys Dane, Creed, and Noa. Of course, many, many others as well.
There was, is, and apparently always will be a dark side to our little cabal.
Which brings us back to today.
The Don’t Tell Me What To Do gang is simply echoing a long-standing anti-societal behavior of which is motivated, at least partially, by a simple distrust of anyone who doesn’t surf.
The Man, the establishment, the rule makers, jocks, etc. You know the ones.
For many, it’s truly in our blood. Perhaps a loose strand of DNA that simply cannot allow us to see the world in any other light but through the narrow lens of our somewhat bitter existence. Let’s be real, the most ardent of our group are often quite angry cunts in general. Dora sure seemed to be.
But love us or leave us, surfers will be surfers and that will often include a deeply ingrained attitude of which still very much represents Mr. Dora’s stiff middle finger.
Stay safe, be well and fuck the Man.