About this time last year, most of us were closing the books on 2019 and looking forward to what might have been an exciting year, at least in surfing.
John was back from injury and looking fresh. Jack Robbo was ready to stamp his name all over the CT. Italo and Gabs both seemed engaged and looking to continue some more Brasilian dominance.
Our lady friends were also looking strong, especially some of the young ‘uns like Sierra Kerr, Sky Brown, Caity Simmers, and others, who will surely be shaping women’s surfing for years to come.
Dane launched a vlog.
Moniz’s and Colapinto’s.
Kelly, STILL ripping.
And damn, like it or not, surfing was going to be in the Olympics!
Exciting stuff, but by the end of January word began to trickle out of an unknown super-virus that had begun to spread out of control globally.
By March, we were screwed.
Beaches closed, comps cancelled, no non-essential travel, etc.
No one had any idea in the early stages of what we were up against but one thing was for sure, we had and continued to have a lot of opinions on the who, why’s and what’s of just about every conceivable conspiracy theory possible.
Even the normally behind the scenes Surfrider Foundation, who calmly and correctly suggested to surfers to adhere to local guidelines about beach use during the pandemic, got absolutely crucified for that position.
It quickly became what was quite possibly the most divided our collective surf community has ever been.
Stay at home.
Wear a mask.
But that wasn’t even close to the end of it as the senseless tragedy of George Floyd was soon upon us.
Racial inequity has long been a very real thing on this little planet of ours. However, here in the US very open acts of violence at the hands of the authorities have been committed upon people of color for so long it’s actually become a sad but very real part of our heritage.
In that regard, it would seem that George Floyd perhaps didn’t die in vain.
Black Lives Matter became so much more than an organization for change but a rallying cry of which sparked protests the US hadn’t seen in decades. In a nod to the depth of this crisis, people of all color, religion, and political faction joined hands in the streets to protest what had become an abhorrent culture within law enforcement that simply had to change.
Yes, there’s an argument to both sides of that debate and how best to move forward but to not accept that people of color around the world live under a different set of rules, would simply be ignorant to the facts.
Our opinion, of course.
We will close with the story of Tyler Wright, who very publically took a knee in protest prior to her heat in a WSL specialty event. The desired attention was meant to shed light on racial problems from an Australian point of view, specifically, the indigenous Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders that lived there well before the continent was settled by England. Those “first peoples,” as we know them, have also been subjected to years of oppression and mistreatment.
Seems like a worthy cause, no?
Well, from the message boards and comments sections you would have thought Tyler had killed Mother Teresa with her bare hands. Apart from the almost unanimous support from her fellow WSL tour professionals – men and women – the hateful vitriol from so many everyday surfers was shocking.
It’s one thing to disagree with someone but to then elevate that to an attack on the person, their family, their sexuality, whatever, was, in Tyler’s case, just such a disappointing low point in surfing history.
How do we even share a line-up with each other?
Tyler Wright rips and has undoubtedly had a positive influence on so many young girls, yet apparently her desire to use the WSL platform to raise important social awareness was just a bridge too far for those with a different opinion.
“No politics in surfing” they screamed, completely oblivious to the fact that surfing has long been an open exchange of ideas and theories.
Nat Young (The original one), stood on the podium and signed over his 3rd place check to a political party of choice back in the ’60s. The list of political protests by surfers during the ’70s is too long to mention. In the ’80s, Cheyne, Tom Carrol, and Potts boycotted the Gunston 500 in South Africa based on a protest of racial oppression in that country. More recently, Australian surf media legend Sean Doherty has become a freaking monster when it comes to saving Australia’s pristine natural resources.
And don’t get Kelly started on just about anything!
Point being, we, as surfers, have long been a group that isn’t afraid to put down a marker when we feel the need arises.
What we saw in 2020 was different though.
We turned on each other.
It’s a time for some understanding.