Lewis Samuels is great at something maybe. Metaphors. Or connecting with an opaque online fan base. Or something. But he’s got our beloved pursuit all wrong. Like, totally. For instance, in the latest and very fine issue of SURFING Magazine he writes:
“I have this recurring fantasy. In the near future, surfing will become as uncool as rollerblading. If they find out you’re a surfer, the hip, with-it people of the world will literally laugh at you.”
And yuck! Why? Why does he say such things? He goes on to explain that, if surfing becomes uncool like rollerblading then,
“People will quit in droves. Lineups will be left empty. A few of us will keep surfing anyway — the ones who really loved surfing, or were used to being outcasts. You reckon that’s too much to hope for? It seems like we’re headed in that direction.”
All wrong. Cool is as essential to the DNA of surfing as three fins. As a tan. As the cutback. As bikini’d girls on a white sand beach. As salty hair. Surfing is cool, quintessentially cool, and it has always been thus. From the Hawaiian kings to the Duke to the Eddie to Matt Archbold to Kelly Slater to Luke Davis to Leonardo Fioravanti.
There is something both simple and gorgeous about being a surfer. Something that translates and inspires. Every New York scenester would trade Brooklyn for a Topanga Canyon bungalow, yellowed boards against shed, in a heartbeat. Every fashion designer, and I am talking high fashion here, has, at one time or another, looked at pictures of Miki Dora or Christian Fletcher for their inspiration. Every acclaimed filmmaker, writer, poet, artist, musician since 1950 has thought, “Yeah. Dig,” while soaking in the raison d’etre of surfing. Because surfing is cool. Simple. Gorgeous. Otherworldly.
And, certainly, the lineups get choked from time to time. And kooky mid-Westerners, thrilled by images in magazines, films, books throw shakas in ill-fitting boardshorts while ditching longboards in that choke. But still but still. Any attempt at stripping the cool from surfing is akin to changing the pursuit itself. It is the same as saying, “I wish I could surf without riding waves.”
And even beyond, wishing surfing to be uncool undermines the very concept of cool itself. Surfing and rock ‘n roll will always be cool and money, fame, power be damned, for the cool shall forever inherit our earth.
Lewis Samuels is not good at metaphors. —Chas Smith
Chas Smith is a writer and correspondent for SURFING, and this is his regular web column. He is right now in Palm Springs, CA finishing a novel. For reals.