This selfie of Reggie Smart has nothing to do with the rest of the content of this post. The caption could be, “Not enjoying the view.”
WE SHOULD, perhaps, set some boundaries on where we rank surfers we hold in high esteem… and why we position them where we do. The SURFER EVALUATION SPECTRUM (SES) would go from a low point of ‘Insufficient evidence to make a judgement (so we have to believe the surfer in question is a total kook), through ‘maybe the surfer is better in better waves,’ past ‘not a Kelly or a Stephanie,’ to the ‘holy shit, total John John/Dane/Carissa/fill in your own names’ category.
OKAY, so we have a rough scale on surf performance as one of the factors each of us might use to determine if a particular surfer is worthy of our being appreciative of, a fan of, a follower of, a worshipper of… whoever. Surfer, surf hero, surf god. Small g.
This already becomes difficult because we, and this is me assuming you and I rate other surfers in a similar way, the COOLNESS FACTOR (CF) must be included in our assessments, because, yes, it is unavoidable. While a certain self-confidence dealing with mundane situations is an important element (ie; stylishly handling waves that are not ‘of consequence’), casualness under difficult conditions and circumstances is… well, it’s another consideration.
There must be, or there should be a mathematical equation to quantify the CF. EXAMPLE- A few years ago, a surf contest in France in heavy conditions saw everyone just getting annihilated. Except for… John Florence. He was, like, comfortable. So, like nine on the coolness, nine on the challenging conditions. 9/9. OH, that’s, if my math is correct, ONE. I would also place Felipe Toledo’s performance at Jeffry’s Bay, with two airs on one wave that put him deep in the pocket, a ONE.
BUT WAIT, that’s still performance related. Maybe I have watched too many World Surf League (WSL) contests, too may YouTube videos. While most surfers can be as arrogant and rude as they can away with, and back up with quality surf riding, in order to be a professional, sponsored surfer, one has to develop a public persona that is gracious, humble, generous, grateful; all those qualities that are, perhaps detrimental for someone whose job it is to out-perform everyone else in their bracket. But they are good for the IMAGE. For the fans.
The YouTube video (live stream, actually) that brought this sort of fakieness to mind was of a kid’s contest at Trestles. Ten and twelve-year-olds, some of them sons or daughters of former professional surfers, others with paid coaches, all working on their resumes, refining the moves the judges are looking for. Rehearsed after-heat interviews, sponsors’ gear on display.
I can’t help thinking of the contest at Malibu, 1967. My sister went. I saw the article in “Surfer.” Miki Dora, pretty much flipping-off the judges. Arrogant. Cool. I saw live action of Andy Irons in a boat at a contest. Paraphrasing, “Why are you talking to me. Talk to the winners.” Both of those surfers had flaws, Andy tragically so. Gerry Lopez, as cool under pressure as anyone, admits to some of his. Wave Hog. I forgive him. Dane Reynolds says he’s only won (something like) one contest, ever. Honesty. Nice.
There might just be something to be appreciated in realness.
HAMARTIA- I looked up ‘heroic flaw.’ Evidently all the really cool heroes have one. Or more. Maybe lesser heroes have lesser flaws. NO, I am not even thinking about some formula.
It just might be that what we are looking for, hero-wise, is someone to emulate. In surfing and in life, we copy, we practice, we keep what works for us, and try to avoid what doesn’t. Eventually, whether we are happy with it or not, we develop our own style, our own identity. We peak at some point on the surfing and the coolness and the decent human being scales. And we keep going. The thing about surfing, and life, is that none of us are 9/9 all the time. Or even a decent percentage of all the time.
SORRY, I’m off track. I think. I start writing. It all changes. I wanted to say that I have had a few surf heroes in my many years of surfing. Bucky Davis, local surfer from Fallbrook, was probably my first hero. When I was fourteen, he was coolness personified. That changed. Less hero, more real. Real is better. GEEZ, that’s the whole story. I’ll get to Bucky another time. OKAY, like, pretty soon. I am pretty busy trying to finish my “Swamis” manuscript, so I can sell it. If writing is a humbling process, selling something is more so. We’ll see.
LOCAL HEROES, MAGAZINE HEROES, SURF CONTEST HEROES, YOUTUBE HEROES. In retrospect and in conclusion, I have to say my spot on the Surfer Evaluation Spectrum is ‘appreciative of.’
One last thing (because I’m still… thinking): At some breaks, the bigger, outside set waves are not always the ones that line up best. Roll throughs. In passing up some of these waves, I have called out to others in the lineup, “Go on, be a hero.”
Happy New Year to you & yours, Erwin!