A Decade in Acronyms
By Stuart Cornuelle
Stand-Up Paddle surfing, not unlike Germany’s National Socialist movement, has shown just how much a committed group of hugely misguided individuals can accomplish.
The days of rancid surf and three to the beach judging are gone (except when they aren’t), and heats are no longer physically painful to watch (except when they are). This has been a decade of refinement for the Association of Surfing Professionals. Improved webcasts, non-embarrassing prize purses and crowning Jordy Smith as world champion are next on the ASP’s to-do list.
In 2004, Mick Fanning’s right hamstring took a leave of absence from the bone to which it was tethered. His future was uncertain. Months of beer and movies on the couch of his new Coolangatta home didn’t portend a strong return to surfing. However, through rehab and personal training at the C.H.E.K. Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology, and also the last name of founder Paul Chek), Mick came back literally stronger than ever. His intensity was credited with the competitive success that followed (Micktory!) and “training” has become as popular as Dane Reynolds — albeit among a slightly different crowd.
The day Gordon “Grubby” Clark chained up the doors to his Clark Foam factory in late 2005 was a Rosa Parks moment in surfboard history. An “I Have a Dream” speech for blanks. It marked the desegregation of the board market from decades-long polyurethane domination to include minority materials like epoxy and expanded polystyrene. Quivers will never be the same.
Andy Irons signed with Billabong in 2000 and never looked back. He was solid gold from 2002-2004, racking up world and Triple Crown titles and fueling the decade’s definitive surf rivalry. Andy v. Kelly produced some of the most memorable heats, rides and sound-bytes in competitive history. As of 1/1/2010, we are in a two-month countdown to AI’s Second Coming.
Surfing does not save marriages, or money, or lives, or Ferris. But it did help save Trestles. In 2009, after a long battle, the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) proposed extension of California State Route 241 through San Onofre was publicly battered and lynched by a mob of concerned citizens — many of them surf enthusiasts who didn’t want to see the wave at Lowers come to harm. We fought city hall, and city hall got all f—ked up.
The Britneyfication of amateur surfing was a confused, embarrassing and mildly entertaining tragedy for young American surfers this decade. Unable to reconcile their on-again/off-again relationship with each other, our disjointed competitive organizations squeezed out “official” US Surf Teams that fared about as well as Britney and Kevin’s own children probably will. Gold medals have been scarce for the red, white and blue.
The Eddie and the Mavericks contest and assorted other big-wave events had great success in the noughties, but it’s been the Billabong XXL Big-Wave Awards that have delivered the decade’s heaviest rides: Makua at Jaws, Parsons at Cortez Bank, everyone at Shipsterns and Teahupo’o. And the awards show itself gets pretty loose as well.
Beginning with 5’5” x 19 ¼” and culminating in the Wizard Sleeve, the small surfboard movement — from progressive to retro — can reasonably be traced to the work of Matt Biolos and the …Lost “Round Nose Fish.” For more than ten years running, they’ve made surfers feel like they were ripping (though few besides Andy, Cory, Wardo, Curren, Kelly and Dane actually were ripping).
Personal watercraft have had a transformative effect on big-wave surfing: new spots (such as Ghost Tree, temporarily); heavier waves (the modern slab was essentially invented post-2000) and water safety patrols in Tahiti and Hawaii. But jet-skis have also unleashed a school of tow-at aerial poseurs and falsely amplified punts. Airs, like Iraq and Afghanistan circa 2003, are better left unassisted.