Friday, March 14, 2014

The Rockaway Classic via Italics & Hyphenations

There's this extra added regard when some landlubber finds out you're a surfer. That dollop is tempered, of course, by the necessary personal acceptance that ego-capitalizing on that instant and misplaced confidence is a toxic bit of self-delusion. Shit, if you want to capitalize on it to make some scratch, to pay your bills or to get a kiss, that's all fine. Just don't start thinking you're a surfer and giving that any credence whatsoever. That'll just mark you. Now, try adding to that dose the almost overwhelmingly cool exclamation that not only do you surf, but you surf in contests. It's almost too much for your mud-hugging friend to handle. They've been introducing you as their surfer friend for years and have been asking you to teach them how for almost as long. To each new acquaintance and to each beseech, you've tossed your salty locks, squinted ever so slightly to make those sun-painted creases flex just so about the ends of the eyes, and laughed it all off blithely. And now you surf surfing contests. If you were a single guy... you start to imagine all the free love you'd luck into. It's almost too much to ignore. For a moment, a real bonafide moment, you allow yourself to cross that line. I surf contests! you say to yourself in your best Keannu Reeves inner voice. The glass cracks, the crow darts, a dog barks and a horse neighs uneasily, scratching softly at the dirt. The hair rises on the back of your neck, itchiness descends upon your wrists, a bit of dirt suddenly lodges in your eye...

The fact is, surfing is a spectator driven activity at every turn. You aren't trying to put a ball through a net. There's no guiding rule about what a score is. You're just trying to look good. Whether it's for a bevy on the beach, a crew in the water or just for personal satisfaction, the whole goal is to be smooth, nonchalant and stylish while making the most of the precious face time. Or at least not look like a kook trying.

And here is where the very idea of entering a surf contest, no matter how homemade, inconsequential or half-assed you're telling yourself it is, fills you with inexplicable dread. The looking-dumb-possibility-matrix is pretty high in a normal surf session where you can laugh off a blunder with an I-meant-to-do-that-goofy-shit wink. But in a contest you're using up precious wave time allotted just for you to look good in front of judges and spectators. The psychological mini drama playing out in your head running up to the event can get out of control.

But when you're not looking stupid while surfing, you're looking great, frankly. At least I think so. And I'm of that certain age where I think it's ok to not care any more. I think to myself, "I've reproduced, I'm outta that biological rat race, I can look any way I damn well please." And so it is. I'm going to try and enter as many surf contests as I can. I won't win a single one, but it won't matter. My kids will think I'm rad.


Benoit Balz said...

No, your kids will probably think you are a kook. Do you really want to pat yourself on the back for having "reproduced" or "gotten out of the biological rat race..."?

The best thing you can do for your kids and for surfing is impress upon them how stupid and meaningless competition is, especially surf "contests" which usually serve as platforms for commercialism and conspicuous consumption.

EditorialBoard said...

Heh. Maybe, maybe. But my kid is stoked (for the moment at least) that his dad is out there trying and failing.

And yeah I totally pat my own back for having gotten out of the biological rat race. Not because I think that is the ultimate goal of our existence, rather because I take great joy from it, personally.

I don't buy that competition is either good or bad intrinsically, but I'll lay down one moralistic line here, and only for you: lighten up.

Benoit Balz said...

Point taken. Lightness always preferable.

But commercialism, propaganda in surfing and otherwise, is still no good.