Where do we want this to go

There has been alot of talk about progression on this site and l’m keen to maybe get your ideas on what our beloved surfing lifestyle should become, IE: is it to take surfing into the air even more so that we are hardly ever touching or needing the wave? To fill the sea up with people so that there is more room to move on the land? To have surfboards worth the price of a big Mac so that we can throw it in the bin if we dont like it and go get a different burger? To have it so that anybody that is half good at surfing become “Nighted” and have a wax figure made for display? What are your thoughts? KR

Hmmm…you’re describing where we’re at already…or maybe it’s just this “holiday weekend” here in California…

History writes itself.We can nudge it a bit,but evolution just kinda happens.

perfect trim and the curl…

The sport slowed it’s progression in board evolution once the pro surfer’s quit shaping their own boards. There was a vested interest in making his board better than the rest that is absent today. Now it seems were working towards the McBoard: cheaply made, disposable, one size fits all. Soon the water will be full of folks dedicated to price point rather than the sport.

Where do we want this to go? First, where is it going now? On the one hand, there’s the “dude, did you see my gnarly, dude, heavy, dude, air, duude” jokers. Fun with aerobatics. Whatever they like, though it doesn’t appeal to me. Then there are the retro types, with 10’ plus boards, round rails and pretty much a straight line on a wave plus assorted poses, something I myself find about as exciting as watching resin gel on a very cold day…but whatever turns them on, I guess, as long as none of them run me over. And everybody else, including yours truly. Surfing getting so popular that the ocean fills up with nitwits? Well, maybe, but surfing isn’t that easy, it takes some time and effort to learn it and become competent and the masses want instant gratification. Lots of jokers will buy a molded piece of … and flounder around for a while, but they’ll give it up, mostly. Right now pop culture is pushing surfing. Next, who knows what they are gonna push, BASE jumping or board games, it’s all in how they can market it to make a buck. Same sort of thing has happened a number of times, the surf marketing craze of the mid to late sixties is when I got into it, but 90% plus of those I started with are inland wearing shoes now. I’m not gonna sweat this current surfing hype, it’s temporary. Where is surfing gonna go? I have no idea. Somebody in a little garage somewhere, fiddling with an odd shape, he does, though he doesn’t know it yet. Not somebody that’s established. We are all dinosaurs, we just don’t know it yet. The one thing I am sure of is that it’ll be different from what we think of as surfing. Consider Simmons ( and how the solid wood and hollow paddleboard makers and riders must have hated those new foam things that were so light and turned too damned quick, ‘that’s not real surfing’ ) and Greenough ( Shorter boards? Nah, real surfing is done on a board over 9’, and if you’re on one of those short things you’re only fooling yourself ) and on and on. It’s always changing. doc…

now more than ever you can get whatever kind of board you desire. i think we are going away from a “McBoard”. Look in the lineups today - there is more diversity in surfcraft out in the water now than any other time. People ride what they love. They are not restricted to the most ‘progressive’ design available. A lot of people go for the joe-pro fall apart in a couple months boards, to them that is worth it - those boards are progressing - at a fraction of an inch at a time - but some people have enough skill to really utilize that small change - and to them, it is great progression. They dont need the board to last forever - they need to make some small adjustments to KEEP progressing. But a lot are also realizing now that they dont want to define their surfing by how ‘progressive’ it is, by how many ‘new sick radical’ tricks they can pull, but they want to surf the way that feels right to them. There is also progression going on right now that is on the order of the foam/fiberglass surfboard, and the shortboard revolution, and the thruster - its main man is Laird. As for materials, you can make a surfboard that is as durable as a snowboard if you want - it doesnt even cost that much more. I say we are progressing probably more now than ever before.

I think design wise, we are at a pretty exciting point in surfing. If you go into a shop or look in the water you see everything from 5’8 fish to 11’ longboards and everything in between. When I was growing up in the 80’s everyone seemed to be riding the same 6’2 shortboard. I think the early 90’s and the dominance of Slater and his rockered out, low volume, potato chips went so far that the average surfer couldn’t really surf the boards the manufacturers were putting out. It forced people to go back to the drawing boards and dig back in history and find out what worked. I would argue that today more people have boards that function well for them then at any time in the past. Of course this makes the water more crowded with people competing for the same waves as you. Add in the rise of women taking up the sport and it’s general popularity at this moment and you’ve got a very dynamic but very crowded time. Personally I think surfing is pretty healthy right now. It’s splintered into a myriad of sub cultures (longboards, shortboards, retro, airs, tow-in, etc) but it’s thriving. Maybe I’m overly optimistic coming off a great east coast hurricane season but I don’t think it matters where “we” want it to go. It’s going to progress and move in 15 diretions at once and “we” have no control over it as a group. It’s just each individual persuing his or her trip. Thankfully, lots of folks here like to share their knowledge and design explorations and we have forums like this to chat which were formerly limited to the guys you knew in your town. Rob

KR, You say you’re 40 and wane whimsically you were 50. I’m 42 and started surfing in 1966. The reality that we are facing is that ridable surf is a limited resource locally and the population of surfers is increasing rapidly. Whenever, you have a limited resource and demand outstrips supply you are going to end up with competition. Surfing as a sport has progressed emmensly due to this competition. Jack O’Neill wanted to be able to spend more than a half an hour in the water at a time to get more surf. The result was the wetsuit. Several other surfers wanted to spend more time surfing and less time swimming. The result was the leash. If you look back at the old surf books, many of todays most popular breaks were considered unsurfable. New equipment was developed that could take advantage of those places that were too steep and critical for the early surfboards. Obviously, there are, on average, far more days of small surf than medium to large surf. Specialty boards were developed to enjoy surfing when in less than perfect medium sized waves. Surfing is all about having fun. Some people are predisposed to the glass is half empty, others are more optomistic. Getting upset because more people are attempting to enjoy something we’ve been doing for decades is very self-centered. When I started surfing Trestles, it was a limited access military installation. We had a permit and were allowed to park right at the Lowers break. Crowds rarely exceded twenty. Now as many people as care to make the walk can be found out there before light. Do I bitch and moan? No! I just find ways to take advantage of the waves that are available out there. And, no I don’t do it by riding a Hybrid or a Fun/Long board. I just paddle harder and respect the others that are doing best that they can to also enjoy the waves. And, you know what? There are still rare days where we get it uncrowded and perfect. But, you’ve got to pay your dues by consistently getting on it to get those days. There are also hundereds of thousand of miles of coastline in remote areas that can produce great uncrowded waves. The problem is getting out and exploring. Time and opportunity are not readily available. But, if you make it a goal there are ways to escape the masses. It’s up to each of us to find the best way to enjoy the surf without enfringing upon the rights of others to enjoy that same resource. But, all to often I hear people claiming victim status. It’s not going to change anything other than the moods of people around you. It’s time to stop bitching and realize that we are all out there to have fun. And, bitching does not enhance the experience.

Where do we want to take this? It will go where IT wants and we have little say. In the realm of high performance there is this; a straight line from the past that will ultimatly define the future, and that is two overriding aspects to surfboard design. One, the boards of today and looking back in the last 30 years continually attain more horse power. Drive and speed. This has been attained through fin, rail and bottom design primarilly. The other aspect is responsivness, which has been attained mostly through reduction of weight and volume. It will continue down this road, for better or worse, and I doubt we’ll see much in the way of stray from this line. Recreational surfing is another story…

Being a waterman, instead of just a surfer, can enrich your ocean experience, and increase your options. I wouldnt be too concerned about the latest trends... real surfing has always been an intensely personal activity, based on creative, individual choices. Follow the dictates of your heart... sounds like its in the right place.

l dont think that you guys understood what l was getting at, l will put it another way, EXTREME SPORTS, l was watching TV the other day and an extreme sport show was on, here are these crew putting their lives on the line for the sake of entertainment, now most of these crew would’nt even attempt what they are doing unless it was on film (same as the jackass series), so anyway the crowd gets tired of seeing them make it and not get hurt so they have to risk even more just to please the viewers, now you can only take it so far before the viewers are not happy until they see death, is this progression or have we gone full circle and are heading backwards to the gladiator arena’s? another way to put it is to take golf for instance, the equipment is superseeding the course’s themselves by not offering enough a of a challenge to the professional player and this becomes a bit boring to the viewers when they keep going 20 under par, now do they change the golf courses and make them longer and harder to get birdies, no, they dont because the average player will get sick of shooting 50 over par and the golf equipment places won’t be able to sell their super proggresive products. What l’m getting at here is that sometimes what we think is proggression can quite often be regression, l like surfing on the face of the wave because to me that is what it is all about (and how it started)l did a lot of skateboarding over the years and could comfortably do back to back airs in big ramps but l never wanted to do them in the surf because that was what skating was for and l tell ya plugin an air and landing on the flat hurts alot more than landing in the water. So, all ready we have seen surfboards get to the stage of superseeding the average surfer, slow down, let them catch up, they will be better surfers in the long run or is it a matter of " quick there are people interested in what we do, lets rape and pilage". KR

Progression is in the eye of the beholder. To refer to mainstream surfing as an “extreme sport”, is laughable. Compared to what? One fact is certain: the medias eye is incredibly fickle, and its present superficial relationship with surf culture will fade away soon enough. So when surfing isnt so cool anymore… will you still hunt waves? If no ones watching, how (and what) will you ride? Do you need input from the latest videos and surf mags to know what (and how) to ride? Or can you identify your personal surfing needs and translate them into valid equipment for your local conditions? Advanced board designs have always exceeded the average surfers abilities. Theres nothing new about that. In the end, whatever skill level a person is at, FUN should be the common denominator, hopefully based on intelligent and creative, INDIVIDUAL choice. It also demands commitment and sacrifice. But thats the fertile ground of raw inspiration and progression… not in front of the boob tube.

There will always be some surfboard manufacturers who hop on the bandwagon and sell trash. The '70s was all about that, twin fins, Weber Pigs and G&S Eggs and all those, hyper-kick noses and general ‘you gotta have it’ jive junk. Surfing survived. You will always get idiots who want trick boards, even if they are 5’3" and 360 lbs. Heh…there was this kid who came into the shop one summer. He’d probably looked in some magazine and come up with a laundry list of what he thought he wanted. Wings, stings, things, channels, more fins on it than a school of mackerel. I sent him off to California to get it. Which is also where he might have gotten in the water for the first time, as he sure hadn’t surfed before. I know another idiot - 45 years old and he thinks he is gonna be on the pro skateboard circuit. I see a body cast in his future. Thing is, it’s the job of a good surf shop to get somebody going right, teach them a little about what works and what doesn’t, how they don’t really want what the pros use until maybe they can learn to turn a board. At least that’s how I see it. And how I do it. Funny you should mention the Jackass series - the producer is a surfer from out my way and a nice guy, happily married and I think he’s got two kids now. The show is his take on California. doc…

Extreme sports exist because there are people too lazy to get off the asses and participate themselves. They want to get there adrenaline fix vicariously through another set of people that choose to risk life and limb inorder to make a living doing something “fun”. If there weren’t a viewing public that wanted it, would there still be people out there risking life and limb? Sure there would be. But, there would be far fewer and their progression would be an expansion of their personal limits. Not a quest for a bigger sponsorship deal. The thing is surfing is a participation sport. We are out there to have fun. There are lots of different ways to have fun surfing. Whether it’s the rush of a late DOH drop on a crisp offshore dawn. Or, pushing your kid into their first wave and seeing the joy in their eyes. All the way to, having a beach party and surfing with your 75 year old father and his grandkids. There is a joy that surfing brings to our lives. We just need to appreciate that joy and be willing to share. The extreme thing…well it’s pretty amazing and given some of the things I did/do…it would be a pity to die trying to impress anyone other than ourselves.

It will always boil down to you, your board and a WAVE.