September Issue 2010 Surfing Magazine

posted by / Magazine / July 21, 2010

Surfing has evolved into more than just a hobby for elites lucky enough to be born on the bluff. I’ve never been one for public speaking, but recently I found myself under the hot lights of my high school’s annual surf team banquet. Being a surf mag editor, I guess, I’d been mistaken for some kind of expert, and I took the stage facing a room of teenage surfers and their families. It was a bit surreal; just nine years before, I’d been one of those kids in the audience — in that exact banquet room, no less, at Meadowlark Golf Course in Huntington Beach. Now I was back, albeit under slightly different circumstances.  Prior to speaking, I stood in the buffet line for Meadowlark’s famous lasagna dinner, looking around the room at the “groms” in attendance. What I saw was dramatically different from what I’d come to expect of an Orange County surf team. It’s my own fault for bowing to stereotypes, I suppose, but this was startling. There weren’t just the blonde, sun-dusted groms and neck-tanned surf rats that made up my Class of ’01. What I saw now was a patchwork of different styles and faces. Some looked as though they could have played on the football team just as easily. Some looked like science nerds. A lot of them were girls. It was a melting pot of kids there to celebrate a year of surfing for PE credit.   After sweating through my speech, I remembered what the team’s coach, Jeff Joyce — who was a classmate of mine and fellow surf team member once upon a time — had said about the current crop: “They don’t look like we did,” he told me. “They don’t have that one-track mind about surfing. They’re into a lot of other things besides surfing.” And that’s a notion I know I would have laughed at when I was in high school. Hell, I once asked my mom, in all earnestness, how so many people survived their petty lives without ever surfing. (I’ve since learned that there are ways, though I’m still not entirely convinced.)   But looking around that room, Jeff was right; the kids were multidimensional. Many played other sports, had other talents, pursued different interests. They were writers and painters; some played in bands — and I think that’s great news, because while surf oversaturation is loads of fun (believe me, I know), there’s an opportunity for American surfing to continue its evolution into something more than just a hobby for elites lucky enough to be born on the bluff. It’s something for everyone and anyone. It no longer fits in a box.   I stuck around to watch the kids receive their accolades and devoured a few rounds of that lasagna, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how diverse we are these days; how the modern grom’s surf experience is so different from the one I enjoyed just a decade ago. And while they don’t all look or think the way I did, they sure surf just as much — every single day, in fact, which is more than I can say for myself at the moment.   This movement — the broadening of our tribe — goes way beyond the beaches of Huntington, and it’s a damn good thing, too. In Nick Carroll’s essay, “Peaked” (pg. 74), you’ll read about the fate of the major surf nations as our populations age and as surfing goes truly global. It’s safe to say that whatever the “average surfer” looks like in 50 years will be a far cry from today — far from anything we’d call average.   As always, our hopes lie with the youth — but not just in SoCal and Coolangatta. We’ll look to burgeoning surf cultures in Bali, Europe, Brazil and beyond. Places that are on the rise. Places we haven’t even thought of yet. Places we once plundered that will soon out-surf us at our own game, such as Java, where Indonesia’s next great hope, Dede Suryana, is even now wrestling with the demands of opportunity (see “A Perfect Prison,” pg. 86). How many Dedes will sprout up in the coming years? And how will we respond to them? Things are about to get very interesting.   As they do, however, I hope we can continue to agree on one thing: that wherever you’re from, and however you dress, and whatever you do after toweling off post-session — there really isn’t a wrong way to be a surfer. And lucky for us, I don’t think there ever will be. —Travis Ferré

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