Sunday May 19, 2013
South African Jordy Smith just won the Billabong Rio Pro against Brazilian national favorite Adriano de Souza by a score of 17.80 to 16.34 in clean two-to-four foot waves at Barra Da Tijuca at stop number 3 of 10 on the ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) in the dwindling hours of the the Billabong Rio Pro waiting period. The ASP Top 34 ripped a wide ranging cast of conditions from shreddable little nuggets and ramps to throaty, shallow tubes.
Jordy has finally shown his contest potential since bursting onto the scene. He threw down the gamut of his abilities from smooth power surfing to multiple aerial variations, looking much like the Martin Potter of this generation. But the real story is Adriano de Souza taking first in the ASP ratings. Now, I have been critical of de Souza in the past (not for his nationality) but rather for his lack of style. I got some flack for bashing Brazilians, but I have actually never bashed anyone but de Souza. In fact, I have called Gabriel Medina a serious threat for the world title on several occasions. But I guess I have to pull back and admit that de Souza's hard working ethic is effective. He posted two major finishes in the first few events through sheer will.
Sure, other surfers looked much better losing their heats, but de Souza made it happen. For me, I am still holding out for a big result from my man Sebastian Zietz. He exhibits shades of Andy Irons and even a little John Florence all wrapped up in an amped out, surfed out, rashed out surf maniac. I am feeling that his energy and stoke will translate into ratings. Florence will be the world champ at some point, and Slater will put in at least one grandiose performance before the fat lady sings for his career (Then just wait for his most epic signature video retrospective to drop).
For now, Jordy Smith is just a breath away from 1st while de Souza plays defender to the lead he has stolen.
Tuesday May 14, 2013
Women's surfing is on fire. Today's girls don't hold back. They are pulling in deep and going for broke on and above the lip. If you've ever seen Carissa Moore surf live, you know that there are very few surfers on this planet that can out surf her (that includes guys). The girls are putting themselves into situations that 20 years ago would have been thought impossible. But it's not as some say that this generation just stood up and declared an end to their second class citizen status and started charging and grabbing their piece of the pie. Oh no, it has been a painful incremental inching towards legitimacy against one of sport's most male dominant hierarchies. You say "What?" Surfing ain't chauvinistic. Surfers are just a bunch of mellow all-accepting dudes. However, you might be wont to notice that women have had a tough time in the lineup (still do) because of male dominant attitudes and behaviors. Women have been charging for decades, but they very rarely had sponsors willing to offer them a free ride to the world's best waves. Women had to wager their savings and safety to make sure they made it to the next contest or the next great spot.
Male surfers have never really fit the media stereotype of the chill near-do-well without a care in the world. Put a surfer in the lineup when the swell is pumping, and you will see a greedy savage whose lust for satisfaction is unrivaled. Women surfers who were often alone in the midst of the frenzy had an impossible time getting waves. But incredible surfers like Marge Calhoun, Sharon Webber, Rell Sun, Frieda Zamba, Lisa Anderson, Layne Beachley, and now Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore have continued the charge. I have left off countless non-competitors who have been ripping lineups amid objections from bullies who drop in and take waves incessantly. Today, girls arrive in force and populate the lineup like a battalion of soldiers. They inhabit fashion magazines and shred distant, exotic waves. But they don't do this in a vacuum. Instead, they ride waves on the shoulders of the women who have come before them. For every Lakey Peterson (Check out my interview with Lakey parts one and two) and Alana Blanchard, there were hundreds of women who paddled out every day for the love of riding waves regardless of how they were treated in the lineup. And for that, ladies, you should be thanked.
Tuesday April 30, 2013
"When asked precisely how many surfboards his company sells, he demurred. 'The more boards you sell, the less cool you are. The more success you attain, the more people don't like you. It's just surfers, man!'" That quote concludes a great article in Bloomberg Businessweek and speaks volumes about our day to day existence. Do tennis players ruminate on the purity of their sport under the leaning slab of capitalism? Doubt it. And I know that baseball fans have all but accepted the marketing of every minutia of their beloved "past time." Not a sport but a past time. That's what it was. Not an industry but a past time, a lifestyle, a culture. Baseball was once a group of young maniacs stoked on the exhilaration of competition and the purity of comradery. Sound familiar? If not, read about the young surfers who explored the North Shore back in the 50's and 60's. We've come a long way in quantity, but we haven't gained much in quality. Have we sullied our lifestyle for convenience? Sure, but now we have heats on demand and surf camps and wave cams. I ain't gonna lie. It's nice. I get more sleep and ride more waves than ever, but it all feels dirty.
The article tells how Dane Reynolds pulled a blank out of the trash, smashed the tail with a rock, and now it's making up 15% of Channel Islands' sales. Sounds like a fairy tale, and if you've watched Reynolds surf, you'd swear he's magic. He's like a hipster Harry Potter who harkens back to a time when surfers let the wave lead the way. Watching his imperfect art, I laugh aloud like when I hear the White Stripes live or read a great "Far Side" cartoon, but how much of this is manipulation? Who cares? You shout. This is progress! You say. Surfboards are better than ever and surfing is at its most exciting. But the article illuminates the reality behind the most popular brands of surf gear and how they have built this behemoth on the backs of surfers and shapers who see very little of the pie, if any...the tail wagging the dog, he writes. But we bought in to this whole deal and I doubt very seriously that we will be breaking this cage any time soon. It's like wherever you tread into this "surfing versus capitalism" issue, you step on a double edged sword and fall down a slippery slope. Maybe it's time to quite complaining and admit that surfing now belongs to the world. It is an industry and like all great sports industries, the essence will forever be found in that glimmer in the eyes of the young, those girls and boys who stumble upon this great life with no understanding of what it has become. They find soon enough that if you just go surfing, everything is all right.
<p>That said, the rise of the Fred Rubble has insured the era of signature model will remain as new surfers take to the waves on these stock equipment. However, full disclosure, I rode a Rubble, and it ripped.
Thursday April 25, 2013
Why is it called surf music? Music and surfing are inseparable. Their kinship goes back to the ukulele no doubt as Hawaiians recomposed amidst post-olo board sessions (picture Eddie and Clyde Aikau chillin' around a fire after a Waimea session, ukulele and some cold ones in hand) , but the term "surf music" waxed electric a generation later as Californian beach culture exploded. 1960's acts like Duane Eddy and The Ventures developed the instrumental rhythms that would stoke legions of surfers. The sound was honed to perfection by Dick Dale and exploded in beautiful absurdity via The Surfaris' "Wipeout." While the genre faded as the 70's approached, surfers still turned to music as fuel and therapy. But as the years went on, the sounds of such giants as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Lynard Skynard, and the Stones showed how difficult surf music was becoming to categorize, but the power to amp was always the secret ingredient.
Reportedly, Rabbit looked to David Bowie for tunes to get tubed by while Tom Curren looked back to the Who to inspire his swooping cutbacks.
The 80's saw the rise of the modern surf flick and bands featured in movies like "Son of the Last Surf Movie," "The Performers," and "Mad Wax" became synonymous with pre-surf stoke sessions. The Hoodoo Gurus, Gangagang, the Talking Heads, the Untouchables can conjure vivid images of entire movie segments with a single chord or verse. At the same time, traveling surfers had gravitated to Bob Marley who defined the parameters of reggae and consequently created a genre that could probably be most closely associated with the term "surf music."
Surfers in the nineties were pushing surfing to radical heights and thus needed more musical energy. Surf movies exploded with frenetic soul from Jane's Addiction, Nirvana, and Sublime (and if memory serves even Limp Bizkit and the Offspring). Tom Curren provided his own soundtrack to "The Search" and single-handedly put a guitar in the hand of every pro surfer for the next decade, inspiring the likes of today's surf music purveyors like Jack Johnson, Donavon Frankenreiter, and Timmy Curran. While the Beach Boys weren't known for their full on surf skills, today's biggest surf rock artists are also top-notch wave riders themselves.
What does that mean? Did surfing influence them to create something great or are surfers just so narrow minded we only support our own kind? The big question is what's next?
Undoubtedly, I missed about a million great bands that have stoked you out. So share your favorites with the world and include them in the "comments" below.