By Evan Slater
Surfers get squeamish around politics. It makes them feel uncomfortable and uninformed and say things they think are right but aren’t quite sure. “Free health care for everyone! Oh…yeah, and…uh, no new taxes.” Even Kelly Slater, fan of government conspiracy theories and attendee of an early Los Angeles Obama rally, told us he “hated politics” when we started working on this issue. Deep thinker Dan Malloy could have been Slater’s running mate when he voiced his concern about being quoted and admitted he “doesn’t like to get involved in that stuff.”
And we understand their reluctance. In a lot of ways, the long, hard road to policy-shaping and legislation is the polar opposite of surfing. Riding waves, in its essence, is autonomous, completely free and – as long as you’re not bailing your wife or girlfriend on her birthday – comes with no strings attached. Politics, on the other hand, has more strings than a 30-man kitesurfer collision at Ho’okipa.
But since we’re on the eve of a monumental election and a whole new chapter in American history, since surfers as a group continue to be targets of discrimination everywhere from the airline check-in counter to the oceanfront neighborhoods of the rich and famous, we figured it was high time to broach the subject everyone hates to talk about. To assess where we – as a special interest group no different from all the other organizations protecting their rights as citizens – stand in the face of the suits signing bills and sealing our fate. As our Senior Editor Matt Walker found, it ain’t pretty. Time and time again, decisions get made without our vote. And it’s time we did something about it.
Don’t just take Walker’s word for it – simply look at this photo. The site of a 115-foot trawler dry-docked on the reef of one of Indonesia’s most famous waves. With the Rip Curl Pro Search scheduled to run here just two weeks after the incident, the company did everything in its power to work with the government to remove the fuel-leaking Ho Tsai Fa from its shallow grave. Promises were made, money exchanged, but the boat kept leaking and nothing happened. Can you imagine if a Goodyear blimp crashed along the third baseline of Yankee Stadium during the World Series and officials told the teams to “just play around it”? This is essentially what happened at this year’s Rip Curl Pro Search – although, being surfers, they pulled off an amazing event anyway.
Which is almost a liability for us. Surfers are fluid, we’re adaptable and we almost always find a way to work around the system (or, in this case, a grounded tanker). But what happens when the loopholes close – when even a high-ranking dignitary like Slater can’t find the doggy door? We can only think of one solution: crash the party before it rages on without us.
Download Exclusive SURFING Wallpaper From The November 2008 Issue