Monday, October 5, 2009

The tribe

For me surfing is a tribe not a f-ing sport

This quote taken out of a recent issue of surfer magazine has me thinking on the state of tribalism in surfing. While the author is a bit larger than life and beyond my analytic reach I do feel his words illustrate a pervasive mindset, which is the schism between competitive surfing and well, I hate this phrase but lets just call it soul surfing for now.

Its easy to see the athletic/competitive component to surfing as godless. Especially on a professional level I would imagine that the business side of peoples careers could become really overbearing and the culture around that downright stifling. But I am attracted to competitive surfing. I feel it serves its purpose in nourishing the spirit of the culture even though on the whole I don’t see surfing as a sport either.

The thing is that tribes can be exclusive to the point where the expression gets inbred. And the idea that on any given day of a pumping swell that people are not competeting, not just for waves, but energy and shine is naive and in some cases dishonest. Take the etiquette of surfing. These rules are observed for our safety and so that the palette of a wave is not ruined by our chaotic behavior. But actually etiquette is a guidline, the real underlying principle is judicious sharing. True enough that any old a-hole who paddles out does not deserve a wave but if an individual is legit then there is no reason why a guy who just got a ride should paddle back around deeper and take another wave first just because by law he is entitled to do so. What is the motivation? It’s a stilted psuedo competition based on a skewed interpretation of the „rules“ to suit the whim of the prevailing tribe.

This sucks. It makes the surfing at the break crappy and mutes the soul. There are lots of stupid things about surf comps and the business around them no doubt. But there is also something democratic in the criteria. You don’t need to be liked, you don’t need to be in with the tribe. Although favoritism does exist, in theory its about letting the surfing speak for itself.

Pushing each others limits in the name of growth as opposed to blind progress is at the heart of the matter. Sometimes this is best exemplified by a contest and sometimes it is better expressed at a session where like minded individuals are getting their flow on.

Stay focused......

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