Ozzie Wright, a master of his own discipline. Photo: John Respondek
Excessively. The kind of sweat that oozes through layers of fabric, forms a visible patch of moisture on the outermost piece of clothing and forges a vicious cycle of discomfort. Is the discomfort causing the sweat or the sweat causing the discomfort? Probably both. It doesn’t help that I’m weaving my way through an ensemble of white cloth tables, trying (in vein) to convey some sort of gracefulness while hawking very inexpensive raffle tickets at a very expensive dinner party at a museum fundraiser, a byproduct of my haphazard willingness to volunteer. It definitely doesn’t help that I’m wearing a suit and tie.
My raffle sales, shockingly, aren’t so high. Most interactions are brief and pointless; they always end with a no. Every word I speak seems halfway heard, as if the people I’m speaking with can smell a lack of importance on my breath itself, though that may be the Jack Daniels I keep nipping in the bathroom.
The sweat continues. Patches expand. Everything is uncomfortable. I don’t like shoes, I hate wearing them. I haven’t owned a pair of underwear since ’08 and I don’t ordinarily make it through an entire day without spilling something on my clothing. Coffee, juice, a far-ranging and often eclectic selection of international sauces — whatever it may be, it is guaranteed to end up somewhere on my wardrobe before sundown. In other words, I’m a mess with (very hairy) legs.
Yet here I am, trying to act put-together, trying to be organized, trying to make small talk with a community of people who perceive themselves as elite, trying to be someone I am not. And sweating.
You’ve just read 281 words that have nothing to do with surfing. But please, trust this column’s name.
This has everything to do with surfing because this has everything to do with style. Style — defined, for the intents and purposes of this article, as the way we approach things — has everything to do with surfing. Because your style in life mirrors your style in surfing.
It’s not such a far-fetched concept. A naturally focused and calculated person will approach everything in life with a certain level of focus and calculation. Take, for example, a wave. Think about Mick Fanning. Think about the way he surfs. Think about the way he acts. Think about how much his precise carves at Bells parallel his gracious, politically correct sentences during a post-heat interview.
Now think about Christian Fletcher.
And Greg Long.
And Adriano de Souza.
And finally, yourself.
The more skilled you are at surfing, the more blatant this parallel becomes. But that’s not to say that you can’t find similarities even at the earliest stages. Consider where you sit, the waves you paddle for and how you conduct yourself in the lineup.
It’s worth investing thought into because there are a lot of people who force style. And isn’t that an awful way to live? Style in surfing, in life, should be inherent. It should come without any form of thought or effort. When you force a certain style into your surfing, it is no longer considered style and instead becomes a maneuver. When you force style in life, you end up becoming that 45-year-old guy driving a hideous orange convertible who was trying to dress hip and act cool but ended up getting exposed in the Ashley Madison data breach and now eats TV dinners in a one-bedroom apartment and makes alimony payments.
When you feign it, you begin to play a permanent charade. You live in your Halloween costume.
That’s not to say you can’t look at Joel Parkinson or John John Florence or Alex Knost and think, oh, I want to surf like that. Just like it’s not wrong to look at a cultural icon and think, oh, I want to live like that. Observing other people can help us better understand ourselves. That’s why we have books and movies and campfire stories. But there’s a very distinct difference between inspiration and emulation. You need to understand that. And you need to understand yourself.
So if you, yourself, feel like going straight and trying a 360 shuvit on an overhead wave, I say do it. If you truly feel like doing the coffin and then trying an air reverse, be my guest. If SUPing is what calls to you, then fine, I guess, but I encourage you to conceive and execute weird shit like tickling the lip with your paddle.
Add diversity to our lineups. Make them fun again. Copy machines have always been f–king annoying — ask anyone who works in an office — so don’t be another warmly inked sheet of paper in an identical stack of 50. Don’t be Alex Knost (unless you are Alex Knost). Surf like yourself. Have your own fingerprint.
Back to the banquet.
Night falls and my sweat becomes less profuse. I feel more relaxed — thanks, Jack — and time doesn’t move so slowly anymore. Soon enough, I’m relieved of my duties. I get in my car, rip my fancy clothes off, throw on an old pair of pants and a lucky, stained T-shirt and head straight to a nearby casino.
I walk in the door and it smells like decaying flesh mixed with depression and cured ham. Ahh, but it feels like home. A certain table calls to me. Cue the sound of chips hitting the table, a quick shuffle, the slap of cards swiftly meeting felt and suddenly the king of diamonds is staring at me under an ace.
Blackjack. First hand. For the first time tonight, I feel like me.
The bottom line is this: Know your style and stick to it. In life, in surfing, always. And on an unrelated note, you really ought to think before you volunteer to sell raffle tickets at a fancy party if you’ve never even worn a suit.