On the surface, surfing is no different from any other sport. It’s a competitive, athletic activity that takes practice and physical conditioning to achieve success. Like other sports, surfing has a list of rules, a playing field, worldwide organizations dedicated to staging contests for all levels and ages, and a computation system that makes it possible to quantify how “good” one rider is in comparison to another. However, that is only one layer of the complex nature of surfing.
Surfing is also an art. The metaphor goes like this: the board is the brush, the wave is the canvas, and surfer is, of course, the painter. Like in art, each artist is unique. Each stroke of the brush is an expression of an individual style, mood, and life experience. And most artists argue that true art can not be judged, can not be calculated, and can not be categorized.
But to muddle the definition further, surfing is a lifestyle that carries with it a style of dress, a regional and global dialect, and even an encompassing approach to life’s realities. While the stereotypical image of the “surfer dude” no longer holds water, folks who have made the move from recreational rider to a life-long waterman (or woman) have a tendency to put the pursuit of good waves above most all else, making their intense dedication seem almost religious.
Okay…To try and summarize what it is to be a surfer, we need to take into consideration that a surfer might be competitive or artistic or might even live and breathe the surfing lifestyle like a monk. Factor in that surfing is a worldwide multi-million dollar industry that churns out so many boards, clothes, accessories, movies, travel packages, and infinitely more consumable products and investment opportunities it boggles the mind, and you’ve got yourself a multilayered puzzle of confusion.
So how in the heck can we define what it is to be a surfer? Are you in it for the exercise, the competition, the artistic expression, the money, or the utter coolness of it?
The bottom line is that none of this matters. Surfing is about the interaction between you and your board, you and the ocean, you and your buddies at the beach. It’s about how much fun you have during these interactions. Surfing’s essence is found in that first time you stand on a board and how you dream all night about that moment. It’s the energy, the rush, and that tight smile across your face. Surfing is about traveling to other countries in search of waves, meeting wave riders in other cultures and realizing they are exactly like you. We, as surfers, all want the same things regardless of our colors, sizes, incomes, or geographical locations. We just want to ride waves and can’t imagine what life was like before we became surfers. We come to the realization that life is better when you surf, whether it’s everyday, once a week, or once a month.
Okay. That said, let’s reel it in and start at the beginning. Let’s get a board and go surfing!