When I were a lad I used to be an absolute sponge for anything related to sliding sideways on a board. Magazines, videos (the cassette type!) and any other way of gorging myself on surfing, snowboarding and windsurfing were things I poured over. Sometimes I literally read the print off the pages.
Surfer dude (?)
It was in one of these publications that I recall an advert from the then hugely popular Headworx surf brand.
The ad was a one page close up of an uber cool looking dude with wavey sun bleached hair; tangles and ringlets strewn across his face in the breeze. He was wearing a pair of black wrap around sunnies, was deeply coloured by the sun, beads dangled from his neck and a blue flannel shirt clung in a casual fashion. He looked the exact cliché ‘surfer’.
My second memory of that manufactured surfer look was during a visit to Padstow, Cornwall, with my folks.
We’d been surfing across the Camel Estuary at Polzeath and had wandered into this little harbour town seeking pasty nourishment. As we strolled along a metallic ice blue classic VW Beetle passed us by, slowly crawling with two shiny white shortboards strapped to the roof. A little way on the VW stopped and I could have sworn it was the same guy from the Headworx advert who stepped out of the driver’s door.
I remember thinking to myself how cool he looked and that I wanted to be just like him. The fact I could already surf helped my cause, it was just a case of moulding my image to reflect what I thought in my head was that of a surfer.
The real deal
These days I’m a bit more follicly challenged but for a while, I did have the long blonde hair and in my mind I was the exact reincarnation of what cunning marketing ploys wanted me to imagine was a real surfer.
The real deal? – Tez
And yet, as much as I’m not naïve enough (nowadays anyway) to believe that there is such a ’thing’, there were definitely certain stereotypical traits that made you stand out more back in the day.
But it’s not just your personal image that used to identify the tribe you belonged to. It was everything. The board you rode, the car/van you drove, your attitude – the lot. All a load of marketing rubbish designed to sell product and hardware, but an image that many of us subscribed to.
Nowadays you visit a popular surf spot and you’d be hard pressed, on the face of it, to identify the ‘real surfer’.
Over the years it’s been widely promoted by the surfing industry that you don’t have to ride a performance shortboard, wear the obvious clobber, live by the coast or even actually be able to stand up to class yourself as a surfer. And, in fact, why not? I subscribe to the mentality that as long as you’re having fun, not causing a problem to other water users then go for your life, be a surfer!
However, at the same time, and this is just my sentimentality kicking in, I do long for days gone by where you could easily spot the type of person I’ve been describing above. Holiday makers looked like just that whereas the surfing crew stood out as wave warriors.
Where are they?
Recently I was looking around my local haunt and thought; ‘where are all the surfers?’ They must be around somewhere?
Maybe everyone who was brought up by the coast has moved to the big city to make their millions, emigrated to warmer climes or can’t be bothered with what is now an overly commercial pastime?
Surfers used to be rebels without a cause – save for scoring that next sesh. Free spirits that lived for the next ride, big swell and barrel. Happy to slum it for the opportunity to score an offshore overhead session, surfers these days seem to have been replaced by blow ins from out of town or families hitting the coast for their sun, sand and saltwater fix.
Less hair, alternative equipment, but still ‘surfing’ – Tez
The only real way to spot a surfer these days is turn up on a firing day. There’ll be plenty of rippers in the water absolutely killing it. Once back on the beach however these wave junkies will just seem like normal everyday people, which they are.
I suppose on some levels I’m getting older and miss those good ole days. Nostalgia by its definition is recalling memories of yesteryear and seeing these rear view images through rose tinted spectacles. Maybe I’m just not seeing the real surfers of now. Maybe it’s a style thing of which I’m the wrong side of 30 to appreciate. Or maybe I’m just babbling…?