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Take Five EP 006 Do politics belong in surfing?

/ PRV
60 years. It was a good run. Photo Divine/Surfer

A few days ago, Surfer Magazine’s Editor in Chief, Todd Prodanovich, penned an opinion piece that was posted on their website (Here). It was a rather direct endorsement of Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for the upcoming presidential election here in the US. 

Most of Todd’s well-written opinion was based on issues of which he felt directly impacts all surfers, regardless of political affiliation. Specifically, the environment, clean water, climate change, etc. It was a rather clever call out as there is a very clear track record of which political party in the US has and is the most supportive of environmental issues. Yet if your politics lean to the right here in the US, and whether you like it or not, you have been mostly voting directly against a cleaner planet. Based on what was presented as rather unarguable facts, Todd hopefully caused a few readers to rethink their position. Or at least, be honest with themselves as to their voting motivations.

Well, probably not unfortunately.

Two days later the other shoe dropped: Surfer Magazine announced that after 60 years as surfing’s ultimate media voice, they would no longer continue in the current configuration. (Editors Note: As of this writing we are not sure if things at Surfer might continue in a digital form or not.)

So, was Todd’s piece actually a middle finger to the conservative ownership of AMI, or was he simply exercising one last opportunity to write something meaningful, regardless of the consequences?

As predictable however, the comments sections on not only Surfer’s webpage and Instagram but others as well, were very deeply divided.

Within those comments, one theme really jumped out to us.

That being the “no place in surfing for politics” argument that was thrown around quite a bit. For the record, what we take this to actually mean is more like: “no place in surfing for politics of which I don’t agree with.”

Right?

We are fairly confident that if a prominent pro surfer were to take a conservative (that’s Trump’s side of the US political spectrum for our non-American readers) public stance, it would be all thumbs up emojis from these very same people.

However, like it or not, and regardless of where you personally stand, politics are well entrenched in every aspect of our lives, including surfing.

We didn’t have to dig very deep to find a few easy examples.

We’ll start with the legendary transition-era surfer Nat Young who stood on a contest stage and in a very controversial manner handed over his third-place winnings to the political party of his favor in Australia. Years later Nat ran, unsuccessfully, for a local government seat on a mostly environmental platform.

In the mid-80s, pro surfing’s then cream of the crop, Tom Curren, Cheyne Horan, and Martin Potter, joined defending world champ Tom Carroll in boycotting the South African leg of the then ASP world tour.  Cheyne took it a step further the following year by writing a huge “Free Mandela” on the deck of his board, referencing the long-time symbol of racial oppression in South Africa.

The 1968 World Champion, Fred Hemmings, was elected to the Hawaiian House of Representatives in 1984 and the Hawaiian State Senate in 2000 and was deeply entrenched in Hawaiian politics for many years.

More recently, Australian surf media legend Sean Doherty has been waging a fierce campaign against big oil and other mineral stripping, environment destroying entities, including what he feels is a very complicit Australian government. His work has potentially saved thousands of miles of pristine coastline as well as many other important environmental concerns. Check out his Instagram if you want to see what real activism looks like (@sean888).

And, of course, the Surfrider Foundation has long been a very politically charged agency of which was founded and is mostly managed today by surfers. They have done amazing work to preserve access to clean beaches while also providing important organizational services and wide public awareness as they help us clean up the mess we’ve made.

Even simple city council meetings at small coastal towns are often discussing issues like beach access, parking, “blackball” regulations, and other subjects which directly impact surfing.

Who we vote for even at the lowest level can often impact our surfing experience.

Yes, surfing has and always will be intertwined with politics.

However, what really struck us was the vitriol and the level of voiced outrage to Todd’s opinion, which was quite shocking. (For that matter, there was a similar reaction to Tyler Wright’s public moment of raising social awareness a few weeks back.)

Have we as surfers always been this polarized?

Why are we so afraid of a simple conversation?

Putting Todd’s opinion itself aside, we very simply support his decision to take a stand on an issue knowing full well it would come with huge consequences. Why? Because that’s what media is supposed to do: Create a conversation. For so many years it’s been: “We can’t say that we’ll lose an advertiser. We can’t run that photo the sponsors didn’t pay us enough.” You know, that same bullshit that has been slowly killing surf media for years now.

We all complain about it yet when someone does take a stand of which we don’t agree, we quickly rush to destroy them.

Like Tyler Wright is actually a marxist.

That’s the best argument we can come up with?

So how about this concept: If you don’t like it, stop reading and just turn the fucking page! Or, find a publication, or athlete, that actually supports your beliefs.

So to Todd, and Tyler, we applaud you for taking a stand on something you believe in, regardless of what the cowardly, anonymous keyboard warriors have to say.

Well done.

What Youth

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