Everybody surfs, at least thats how it seems nowadays. Surfing is the new skiing, eagerly embraced as a lifestyle choice by the middle classes, anxious for their own slice of “flow” psychology. The revolution has been rapid – and it has been televised! Back in the early 70’s, (when I began) surfing was a sport for drop outs, counter culture vultures and staunch individualists.
Acceptance was earned – you sat away from the peak, gradually moving over as your ability allowed. You took your waves (after the locals) and in time a nod and a greeting was offered up. You became part of the tribe – a made man. Each area of the British Isles had its own crew, ranging from urban to country, and you came to know one another intimately over time. The globalisation of Europe began in earnest in Biarritz, France, in the early 1980’s with Quiksilver taking over the old Freedom shop near the Palais. Spearheaded by Harry Hodge and Jeff Hakman the company embarked on its journey from purveyors of boardshorts to industry giant.
Today, surf fashion, lifestyle and culture are sported by surfer and non surfer alike. It would wrong to cast the finger of blame at the industry itself – after all it is only selling an image. Courting controversy, I point the fickle finger at the surf schools. These schools or academies as they are often called, have been set up by surfers to enable them to earn a crust from the sport they love. Ironically most instructors (like lifeguards) spend less time riding waves than they originally anticipated. Their main clientele tend to be the children of the Bodenese, Willsanians, Hollistarians and Abercrombites, the parents of whom think nothing of spending 35 English pounds an hour for Milly, Tilly, Jilly, Jonty and Jasper to ride the wild surf.
Don’t misunderstand me, as a youth I was utterly convinced that only a surfer knew the feeling, and was amazed that more people didn’t take up the sport to experience the freedom and thrill that was the preserve of the surfing tribe. Now of course they do, and in their defense the hard working surf schools have put a huge smile on the faces of the able and disabled alike. What is notably absent from the children of the revolution is etiquette. The new breed of surfer is not taught to position themselves in the line up so as not to interfere with other surfers. They paddle towards the rider, not away, failing to take their lumps in the white-water. The surfer on the peak regularly has their ride cut short by a wind-milling paddler dropping in like an unpredictable motorist at a road junction. The worst trait however is not looking behind when jettisoning a board in the face of a larger set wave – learn the ropes first and we shall all be safer in the water. I have faith that the surf schools will change this.
The film is a real treat, although the tongue is firmly in the cheek, it may be a little close for comfort.