The Sportsmanship of Surfing and Life, Part IV of IX

Give ya delusions of grandeur
And a evil eye,
Give you the idea that
You’re too good to die …
— Bob Dylan, “The Disease of Conceit”

Surfing is something like a smorgasbord.  We come to the table to indulge our appetites.  Some of us act restrained, try to be fair.  We are not first in line, and we’re careful to leave the sundry offerings more or less intact for those who will follow us.  Others enjoy an all-you-can-eat mindset, rushing to the food, heaping their plates to overflowing, dropping stuff left and right as they stagger off with pig grins and slavering noises to shovel it away as fast as possible so they can get back in line.

I stopped eating at places like the Viking’s Trough, the Golden Wheelbarrow, and the Burst Bowel years ago.  It wasn’t just the food quality; it was that oppressive feeling of being in a place where too much greed was too freely circulating.   It made me queasy, especially when I found myself enthusiastically sharing in the debauch, vaguely haunted by visions of starving [fill in a nationality here].

It’s that same feeling out in the lineup as the hungry pack stalks the next set.  Like desperate smorgasboarders [sic.] waiting for the next tray of stroganoff to arrive, there is no “we” here, just a bunch of primordial I’s. Everyone wants first dibs, everyone wants the best slice of swell — a prime cut with no one else trying to slide a piece of shoulder off their plate.  “Hey, kook!  MY BEEF!”

Like many, I dine elsewhere.  Some days, at some surf spots, you get no respect for just being human, you get no respect unless you’re very good or very bad — like evil bad.  Evil gets all kinds of respect.  Show me an evil surfer, and I’ll show you a wave hog.  The worst are the GOOD wave hogs.  Man, they’ve got the power, and they know it.  They get all the waves, and I just watch.  It’s their territory.  If I drop in, him and his buds will NOT let that stand, nor will they GIVE me a wave.  But, man, I’m hungry.  “Maybe I should find some place else to surf.  Maybe that new artificial reef.  But jeez!  There’s a hundred guys out!”

Perhaps we COULD simply begin manufacturing artificial reefs at an alarming rate, something like 13 per day, create lots more territory.  But would even this be enough?  Doubtful.  Nature abhors a damn vacuum, and humans (because of their so-called free will) do not distribute themselves evenly, like a gas.  Instead, they collect at the world’s honey pots, like bees.  Build 13 artificial reefs a day, and 13,000 people a day will take up surfing.  Just watch.

By the year 2025, the average surf session might well consist of 1.7 rides per surfer per session.  For modern surfers, crowds simply come with the territory, and the territory is finite.  Yesteryear’s secret Mexican points are today’s South Pacific reef passes.  As globalized surf-consciousness lures millions to the ancient Polynesian pastime, just about every little nook and cranny will be surfed, publicized, and popularized.

Trying to stem this tide of surfing’s popularity is fruitless.  “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” says Hamlet.  It’s the same with every surfer “claiming” his or her territory.  We’ll just have to cope.  Come to grips with the situation.  Contemplate the forces as work.  Understand the situation here — the friend, the foe, the ebb, the flow, the history.

To be continued: “The Sportsmanship Of Surfing And Life, Part I – IX”

Painting by Reggie Holladay of the Beach Culture Gallery. Click Here to learn more.


DREW KAMPION is the author of ”The Book of Waves” ”The Art of Christian Riese Lassen”, and ”Stoked: A History of Surf Culture”, the number-one selling book on the history of surf. He is a regular contributor to The Surfer’s Journal, Adrenalin, Longboard, and many other magazines. His website features some of his abundant and thoughtful work.

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