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Jay DiMartino

Searching Winter for the Surfing Spirit

By January 19, 2013

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The Pacific is going off. Epic waves are bombing and the lineup is packed beyond capacity. But the real story that should never be told is how many surfers are right now scoring waves to themselves without cameras or jet skis. All over the islands and Cali there are endless little nooks and crannies that with a little imagination and skill offer all the potential thrills without all the distractions. Surfing has become the sport we all thought it deserved to be: a high profile, high paying professional endeavor, but it has lost more than it gained in terms of the spirit and purity of the adventure.

No doubt, all the folks traveling the world making bank for their performance art in front of the camera got the same goosebumps as you and me. They look at a good wave with all the salivating hunger and see all the blood pumping  possibility in a perfect section. But they are giving surfing to the world, handing it over to the masses. All our passion has been monetized and packaged and, yes, word processed and spell checked into blogs (like this). I understand my part in all this. Can we go back to a time when being a surfer was dangerous and would prompt elevated eyebrows or (even more satisfying) a scowl of disdain?

Nah.  Not possible. But it's a different world for a surfer today. Wetsuits are heated. Leashes are unbreakable. Board bags are plastic force fields that keep out all evil. Thee mystery of the surfboard has been unlocked by mathematics, and jet skis have made the unridable realm totally rippable even by surfers who just a decade ago would have no business surfing anything over 10 feet. O woe is us and our sad but enviable place in the sports world. We have what we always wanted and now we want to go back. The oft overused adage: "Be careful what you wish for..." is appropriate as always.

But that feral spirit still exists but not just on the edge of  some African desert or Panamanian jungle. It's happening at your homebreak in the heart of a teenager who pulls on that cold neoprene and paddles out in two foot slop in the dead of winter. The surfing spirit is unbreakable and without end.

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