I have the worst taste in music because of surfing. And yeah, I suppose music is entirely subjective, but I spent my formative years listening to a melodic and generic emo version of punk rock that is now married to my obsession with surfing. And I don’t blame Taylor Steele. I thank him. It has been my life’s pleasure turning all the enthusiasm it created into my own wonderful surfin’ life.
Good friend and (definitely not a surf journalist) Chas Smith just penned a bit of the magic I’m talking about on his website Beach Grit today. And I wanted to reiterate his point a bit, and celebrate the part where he references the “surfing life” William Finnegan created in Barbarian Days and stand shoulder to shoulder with him on it, and explain what I feel everyone seems to be missing from this wave pool stuff (aside from the country club vibes, which are very real too). It’s the fact that we’re assuming the act of surfing is all we’re after. Standing on a wave, alone, riding it. When really, the real chase, the way we create our unique surf life is all in the foreplay. As a surfer, we spend our lives rolling the ball up the hill with Sisyphus stoked as hell that it will fall back down and we get to do it all again because between the bottom and the top is where all the surf magic is created. Otherwise, you’re just standing at the top. Riding a wave. And that’s fine and what we’re after, but that will lead to a misunderstanding of the art of the surf life. That’s what makes us the weirdos we are. Weirdos who knew what MCD, SMP and ASP stood for (RIP). Who earnestly debate whether to use grip or not on the front of a new board. Or understand the technicality and beauty of Justin Poston’s backhand turn. Insane, ridiculous psychotic details that make an otherwise mundane surf check magical. Otherwise, we’re just there, on a wave, riding, the same one everyone is on.
I’ve seen all of you saying that this wave pool is just the same as a skate park and that street skating still exists so I should chill and stop complaining. And I have my beanie off and waving in salute to the technology that goes into this wave and into my phone and into the airplanes I sit on, but I have to tell you I can still find a beautiful existence without them. My life will not improve riding a man-made wave.
A wave pool is probably really “fun.” And what they’ve created is oh so impressive, but you’re still just bottling up what shouldn’t and cannot be bottled. We have a good thing. Surfin’. A thing that uses the planet, for fun, and for making a surfing life. And we’re just trying to fuck it to death. We’re skipping dinner. Flirting. Nervous texting. Hugs. Drinks. Everything that makes living life an art.
So, I sit here today, shoulder to shoulder with Chas, planning a surf trip with him to Who Cares Where to celebrate all the ridiculous things that bring us joy along the way. Including going to the airport. Lugging a board bag. Paying a high sum of money to transport it. And to probably get skunked as all hell. But there will be surfing! And there will also be a lot of good living. Surf living! And I’ll promise you right now that I have no desire to surf the wave and will politely decline should that offer ever come down the pipe. I love Kelly Slater and I think he’s done more for surfing than could ever be asked of him. But I love what you did to “Superman” by Unwritten Law in Good Times more than anything you can or will create with a wave pool.
And right now, since it’s small where I am, and I already surfed, I’ll blast this ridiculous song that I know all the words to and I will think of Shane Dorian surfing small waves in France and wherever else from his part in Good Times. And you can call me nostalgic, but also call me happy. As a clam. —Travis