Is God a Surfer?

9 12 2009

Stained glass tributes to Curren should be the norm.

Wish I was ocean size
They cannot move you
No one tries

—Perry Farrell from Ocean Size

Years ago Australian surf legend Nat Young reportedly tried to register surfing as an official religion. He did not succeed. It’s a ludicrous concept you might say. Blasphemous even. Well, not so fast. For centuries the religious have honored and respected the ocean. But for surfers, the ocean has always been sacred. The art of riding its waves is often compared to a spiritual experience. The ancient Polynesians were the first humans to view surfing as a spiritual endeavor. Religious even.

Well, let’s imagine for a moment Nat Young was successful. What might surfing be like today? And more importantly—is God a surfer?

Would churches have enormous stained glass windows embossed with images of the Duke, Dora or even Curren? Would the holy water be salt-water based? Would the Sabbath or a swell take precedence? Would the pastor often be a no show because of it? “Sure fellas. I’d love to preach the Good Book today but Blacks is six foot and firing. See ya.”

Holy days would depend on swell too. Employers would grant these days as holidays. The human resources department would make sure of it. Sit back and think about that. This is the world I want to live in. Not one where Christians fight Muslims. A world where a confessional means atoning for all those poor souls you snaked at Rincon during the swell of the year. Nothing else. I want to live in a world where we are separated not by our beliefs, but brought together because of our love of the sea. Wouldn’t mankind be better off coming together as one and ridding the Earth of the real dregs of humanity—the stand-up paddleboarder and the bodyboarder?

It is no coincidence the Earth is more than 70 percent water. And they say Jesus walked on water. So he must have been a surfer. Maybe even the first. Right? He was also a carpenter and a craftsman. Not unlike a shaper really. You think Merrick makes a good board. Every “Jesus” board would be magic. And you can bet your ass he would need a machine to do it. Young punters beware. He might have a preference towards the alaia though.

Religious institutions pride themselves on giving and helping the needy. They pray for them. Surfers pray for surf. We even sacrifice surfboards for the greater good. Now if that’s not giving I don’t know what is. I want to live in a world where we are not judged by the color of our skin but by our punts and nose-riding skills. I want to live in a world where a black bodysurfer from Hawai’i can become President, yet a bodyboarder is still a second class citizen. That is my world. That is Nirvana.

The “Soul Surfer” by default nomenclature alone may be the most holy of the lot. You know the type. They usually look like Jesus anyway. Long hair. Flip flops. He speaks in a language few understand. His own linguistic cocktail of surfer, pigeon and some extinct dialect that fizzed out in the Middle Ages.

I have no doubt in my mind God was a surfer. Tell me divine influence didn’t create Jeffery’s Bay or Pipeline or Teahupoo. If the Earth was God’s canvas, its waves were the brushstrokes. On the seventh day God wasn’t resting. He was surfing perfect Indo. Still think I’m full of shit? For further proof one only needs to refer to Genesis.

And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

Or if the Bhagavad-Gita is your thing. Khrisna said: “I am the ocean.”

Yep, I’m certain. God is a surfer.


Style Bandits: A Case Study

23 09 2009

Style pioneer Miki Dora at Malibu circa 1966.

Style isn’t any exact science. In fact, it’s not science at all. In competitive surfing style is undoubtedly the most overlooked aspect of the judging criteria. If you commit and do something radical, nearly fall, and foresake any resemblance of style you’ll get a better score. If one makes surfing look too easy, the scores will suffer.

There are exceptions, but those with the best style usually hone their skills surfing points and reefbreaks. It makes sense, right? Stinkbug punters and grovelers, for the most part, grew up surfing beachbreaks. Surfers like Curren, Parkinson and even Dora perfected their gifts at world-class pointbreaks.

There is a shift that’s been slowly happening for decade or so. Sadly, style is not what is once was. I see it every day in the lineup. Kids are trying to emulate the Dane Reynolds and Julian Wilsons of the world. But Reynolds and Wilson are fin-free freaks…with style. That is a rarity. Not the norm. These days groms learn airs even before they perfect a simple cutback.

The ASP judging criteria states… “A surfer must perform radical controlled manoeuvres in the critical sections of a wave with speed, power and flow to maximize scoring potential. Innovative/Progressive surfing as well as variety of repertoire (manoeuvres) will be taken into account when rewarding points for waves ridden. The surfer who executes these criteria with the maximum degree of difficulty and commitment on the waves shall be rewarded with the higher scores.” (Note: It was obviously written by an Australian, hence the spelling of “manoeuvres.”)

Did you notice anything peculiar other than the funny spelling? You guessed it. It does not mention style. Repeat. It does not mention STYLE. Not once. Sure it states “flow” will be scored, but not style. Webster’s Dictionary defines flow as “proceeding smoothly and readily.” So if I’m reading it correctly, this means Jihad Khodr will score a perfect 10 on every wave as long as he shaves his entire body, lathers his skin with baby oil and gives the judges a playful San Francisco bath-house wink. If it’s flow they want maybe Marlon Lipke should cohearse Jay-Z to be part of his entourage. Would he then have a better chance of ever making it past the first round? It couldn’t hurt. 

Earlier I stated style is undoubtedly the most over-looked aspect of the judging criteria. Disregard that. I was wrong. It’s not even a part of the judging criteria.

ASP judges, much like a kitten that just witnessed a bird fly past him, are easily distracted. Waving your arms wildly (also known as claiming) scores points. Don’t believe me? How do you explain the longevity of Gary “Kong” Elkerton and Victor Ribas? Maybe the problem is that the long-time ASP head judge was a Brazilian and the system is still recovering, even years later. The irony is the average Brazilian wouldn’t know style even if it crawled up his ass, built a campfire and started roasting marshmallows. But this isn’t about the proper technique for making a Brazilian s’more. I’ll cover that in a future post.

Most will agree Joel Parkinson is perhaps the most stylish surfer on tour right now. His surfing is like sex on satin sheets. It’s slippery smooth. It’s wet. It’s exciting and fun. He’s the world champ-elect for good reason, despite a judging criterion that has always been a few steps behind the times. In the September issue of the Surfer Magazine Parkinson stated this in regards to claiming a wave…“People can give me shit about claiming, but if that’s what it takes to win a world title, then I’ll claim every wave.”

So there you have it. If you wave your arms after that last turn, you’ll win a world title. Now that’s science.