Heroic Out Loud

illustration_5 This has everything to do with (big-wave) surfing. Illustration by Noa Emberson

February Issue Shawn Dollar should be on a Wheaties box and Greg Long should be on ESPN every single night because if there is one thing the general public loves, it is shark attacks, but if there is another thing it loves it is brave men and women riding giant waves. The general public goes and watches Chasing Mavericks (grammar error not mine) and gasps as a curly-haired actor airdrops to the trough of a beast. It watches Blue Crush and holds its breath as cute actresses surf Oahu’s outer reefs. If there is one thing the general public loves, it is wacky wipeouts, but if there is another thing it loves it is gallant souls conquering massive walls of water.

But Shawn Dollar is not on a Wheaties box and Greg Long has never been on ESPN’s Top 10 and why? Why are our big-wave heroes not household names and not even surf household names? Why do they toil in obscurity? I have pondered this question for years and have gone so far as to ask players in that game why no one knows who they are. Some have told me that it is a small, tight brotherhood and talking oneself up is frowned upon. Others have told me that modesty rules in an arena that can crush mere mortals. And this makes sense. Those who talk themselves up — Laird and Garrett, I am staring at you — appear rotten and, karmically, taunting the wild ocean is not a good idea. But still. You should all be famous! You should all be walking red carpets with starlets on your arms!

I want you to be walking red carpets with starlets on your arms. You deserve it far more than the boys on the WCT, and so I am going to help you.

First, the humility has to stop. There are ways to be narcissistic and self-serving and make it look good. You are all right to semi-sheepishly hang your heads when asked directly about your superhuman feats; it looks appropriate and manly, but it does not garner attention. That is what publicists are for. Publicists plant stories about your daring. They tell Oprah that you defy death every time you paddle out. They bring you, and your humble charging, to the world. And so you all must hire publicists. I understand that you don’t want to taunt the ocean but if all of you are doing it then it is like paddling out with a larger group to surf shark-infested breaks. Chances are, fate will gobble another. I have two publicists and both of them are great.

Second, style is everything. The nature of your game is function uber alles and this is right and good, in the water. Function can save your life when the waves tower. But on land, a giant baggy sweater is not functional. It is ugly. Dress the part, men! Look tough and mean and brave. Look like fighter pilots. I can see you, Big Ben Wilkinson, in aviators and a supple brown leather bomber jacket with patches of waves you have bested sewn right on. Look like race car drivers. I can see you, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, on the boat out to Maverick’s in a white leather one-piece. Look like cowboys. I can see you, Derek Dunfee, wearing chaps and a 10-gallon hat whilst wandering the streets of La Jolla. Yes, you must look the part. Like soldiers or astronauts or firemen. Really, anything is better than the nervous junior high boys you look like now. My two publicists would very much agree.

Third, keep the nerdy swell-following business to a minimum, at least publically. Big waves appear, to outsiders, like magic. They appear to come from the belly of some beast. But when you are talking about buoys and intervals and something-rather feet at something-rather seconds and smoke-screening others by saying it is going to be small and blown out, etc., it strips the magic. Act like you don’t care. Act like you just happened to be out at the Cortes Bank deep sea diving for shark teeth when all of a sudden, the ocean rose up and, cool, good thing you had your 12-foot gun.

And, fourth, when Olivia Wilde’s publicist calls and asks if you would waltz her down the red carpet to Rush, have your publicist say, “But of course.” Have her say, “But of course” even if it is something-rather feet at something-rather seconds and Jaws is going to be all-time. Jaws will break again, but Rush only opens once and when the press corps sees you, so brave, in your supple brown leather bomber jacket, they will turn to each other and ask, “What are the Dungeons? What is a Puerto Escondido?” Your publicist will be there to tell them, “Only the most dangerous waves on earth. Waves that my client dances on.” And then you will be famous and everywhere you should be, starting with Wheaties and ESPN.

Shawn Dollar, are you listening? Greg Long, shall I have my publicists call you? –Chas Smith