Joey Cabell at Rincon, circa 1962
Frame Grabs from video, Bruce Brown surfing film
Courtesy of Surfers' Journal and Bruce Brown
Politics, money matters, work stress, golf, affairs of the heart,
all are cleansed from the recesses of the brain when you're in the
water chasing waves. A flight of pelicans undulating along the swell
line comes into unusually clear focus. As seen sitting astride your
board sixty yards off-shore, the topography of the land and adorning
human structures looks completely different from when you're standing
in the middle of it. It becomes apparent that the structures are
merely superficial add-ons. From this viewpoint one can see clearly
that land and sea flow together in a powerful logic, and those things
that seem so important on land become extraneous.
Within the context of the above, you can begin to understand how surfers see the act of riding a wave as a pure form of spending time, a non-productive, non-depleting pursuit, the epitome of the here and now. Spiritual. Personal. A dance form on a liquid stage, complete with audience, democratically open to all, in which stars and plebes alike share the same space.
Thus, it is with some sense of irony that I must state that this unique and charismatic sport of surfing, arguably the antithesis of organized social behavior, has become bonded at the hip to a billion dollar surf industry, a term that wags like to call the ultimate oxymoron.