The Surfer: Categorizing the Unknown | SURFER Magazine

3/30/11 11:29 AM

HOME

FEATURES

VIDEOS

PHOTOS

FORUM

MAGAZINE

FORECASTS

BLOGS

FEATURES

SEARCH SURFERMAG.COM

THE SURFER: CATEGORIZING THE UNKNOWN
A LOOK AT THE DIFFICULTY OF DEFINING THOSE WHO RIDE WAVES
BY SURFER / POSTED ON MARCH 22, 2011

LATEST

CONTEST WIRE

INDUSTRY NEWS

TWITTER

Like

239 people like this. Be the first of your friends.

13

Sharing Water Trailer
A preview of the upcoming surf flick from RVCA. ...
MORE

Single-Fins on the Sunshine Coast
A groovy longboarding gallery from Noosa, Australia. ...
MORE

A Day in the Life of a Surf Reporter
Insight into the surfing world's most obscure profession. ...
MORE

Rain Man 2
Julian Wilson rips through some stormy waves in Oz. ... MORE

Cold Water Classic: New Zealand
See highlights from the entire competition at Gisborne. ... MORE

O’Neill Girls in Hawaii
Watch the ladies shred and strut in super slow motion. ... MORE

Grass and Trees Part 2
A groovy little edit shot by Sean Lesh around Santa Barbara. ... MORE

Taylor Steele Interview
Are you a surfer the second you get to your feet, or does it take more to earn that title? Taylor talks about the first Innersection and what to expect in 2011. ... MORE

In The History of Surfing, Matt Warshaw described attempts during the 1960s at creating a census of American surfers. Rough estimates varied widely: foam-maker Gordon Clark estimated that there were around 200,000 total surfers in the country, while Newsweek generously estimated that there were close to 1,000,000 wave riders nationwide. According to Warshaw, the reason for the varied numbers was simple: it’s difficult to define exactly what a surfer is. Is a surfer someone who owns a board? Or what about someone who only surfs during the summer? For that matter, what about a sponger or body surfer? Do they even count? Of the many who have sought to answers these particular questions, no one has offered a more poignant conclusion than the mainstream media. In the ’50s, U.S. newspapers and magazines warned concerned parents about the danger of the lawless surfer; they only cared about sex, drinking, and of course, waves, and their immorality would inevitably corrupt innocent suburban youth. The movie Gidget, and other surf movies like Muscle Beach Party or Ride the Wild Surf, portrayed surfers as an innocent, fun loving bunch, who—despite their lack of responsibilities— were actually quite harmless. In the movie Point Break, a group of tribe-like surfers funded their “endless

FOLLOW US

http://www.surfermag.com/features/the-surfer-categorizing-the-unknown/

Page 1 of 4

The Surfer: Categorizing the Unknown | SURFER Magazine
were actually quite harmless. In the movie Point Break, a group of tribe-like surfers funded their “endless summer” by robbing banks Wild Bunch style—swearing, shooting, and then swearing and shooting some more. And who could forget Jeff Spicoli? All were marketable hedonistic hooligans. But countless books, articles, movies, and TV programs capture only simple facets of surfing. What the media often chooses to negate during their process of simplification is that the nature of surfing itself is something that is complex, misunderstood, and highly fluid. Surfing has few rules or guidelines. There isn’t a court, a field, or a stadium. There are contests, but they are subject to the fleeting will of the ocean. It is not easily mastered, and requires a lifetime of dedication. While a mountain or skate park may remain relatively consistent, surf spots vary remarkably, and range from frozen freshwater lakes as well as tropical paradises. There are countless styles of surfing, reflecting the evolution of a sport that has existed for centuries. A surfer’s ultimate goal varies from person to person; one might aim to surf the biggest wave, while another dreams of getting barreled, and still another may simply hope to one day stand up. Surfing is so intricately complex and constantly changing it begs the question: Shouldn’t a surfer reflect that immense complexity? I take it to heart that being a surfer means more than owning a board or perpetually smelling of salt and neoprene. A surfer immerses himself into an alien world, where the constrictions that ground society on dry-land are cast away. He creates and embraces a form of expression that is free from rules or guidelines. Because of that freedom, no social construct—such as money, outward appearance, or social reputation—comes to define a surfer. So, it’s safe to say, that we are more than what Hollywood portrays us as. With all that said though, when do you consider yourself to be a surfer? What separates someone who has surfed occasionally, from someone who calls the water their second home? -Stefan Slater

3/30/11 11:29 AM

Surfer Magazine on Facebook
Like 86,753 people like Surfer Magazine.

Raquel

Jhoselind

Andre

Sandra

Jose

Hayley

Melih !ahan Miguel A

Jesse

David

Facebook social plugin

Share and Enjoy:

< Prev | field notes from a surfboard expo …

japan’s meltdown … | Next >

RELATED LINKS SURFER SPOTS: TEAHUPOO ...
WELL KNOWN FOR THE WCT SURF CONTEST EVERY YEAR IN MAY. THIS LEFT IS ON ... MORE

UNKNOWN BRAZO WINS 6-STAR ! ...
MR PRICE PRO 6 STAR ASP WORLD QUALIFYING SERIES (WQS)EVENT #19 OF 51 N ... MORE

COLLECT ALL FOUR COVERS OF SUR ...
THE AUGUST 2009 BIG ISSUE OF SURFER IS DONE AND ON ITS WAY TO NEWSSTAN ... MORE

SURFER'S BIG ISSUE 2005: ...
EDITOR’S NOTE: I CAUGHT UP WITH SURFER EDITOR CHRIS MAURO TO DISCUSS ... MORE

WHO’S THE FASTEST SURFER ...
QUIKSILVER INTRODUCES GPS TRACKING FOR THE UPCOMING SNAPPER EVENT. ... MORE

http://www.surfermag.com/features/the-surfer-categorizing-the-unknown/

Page 2 of 4

The Surfer: Categorizing the Unknown | SURFER Magazine

3/30/11 11:29 AM

COMMENTS
Lexi March 22, 2011 at 9:51 am

Reply

I believe that just like sexuality or personality types, there is no one definition or label that fits a surfer because each surfer is unique. Whether we surf occasionally or are on the water every spare moment, we are all bonded together by our love of the waves.

claudio elias March 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

A surfer is someone whose life was irreversibly changed by that first wave

Reply
111makai111 March 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

Reply

Hey, I like Claudio’s definition… When your life is changed after your first wave! You plan trips to surf, put surfing at a priority when the waves are good, yeah, that kind of example, you read about surfing, go to surf on your own and all that stuff that others just can’t understand or wonder about! Nicely done, Claudio!

Victor March 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Reply

Yeah Claudio’s def is perfect. Whether it made you buy a board for summur or surf every single day, as long as ur life has been changed by that 1 wave on way or another, ur a surfer.

Jeff March 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t be more like the guy in the video.

Reply
james March 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Reply

I live in Bali. I miss a lot about home – the security, my mates, the pub, a decent cup of tea, my folks and sometimes I feel as homesick as. Just when I feel like I’m ready to chuck it in and get on with life I drive 40 mins up the coast to a spot I have to myself most days. Perfect 4-6ft rights with volcanos and palms in the distance, sometimes the moon is still visible hanging overhead at daybreak. It’s 5.07am here in Bali now and I’m about to go load the car. I’ve been so excited about the swell due to show this morning that I could barely sleep. I’ve been feeling like this for 10 years ever since I moved to Java from London to learn to surf. Does this make me a ‘surfer’?

Geoff March 22, 2011 at 10:01 pm

James, I think you’re bragging. Go back to London and smoke a fag, kook.

Reply
Shane March 23, 2011 at 1:13 am

Reply

It’s a matter of passion. Does surfing make you come alive? In contrast to James story, I was born and raised on Kauai, riding waves as long as I can remember whether it was on a sponge or a surfboard, but I realized when I was 23 that I wasn’t really a “surfer.” I was on an around the world trip and I had just flown from Germany to South Africa. Sitting around a table of guys in J-Bay listening to them talking about Andy and Kelly’s performance at the Billabong pro at Super Tubes, they asked me how many boards I brought. When I said I didn’t have a board and that I was from Hawaii, they were stumped. Haha, I realized that I didn’t care at all if I surfed in Jeffrey’s on a borrowed board or even if there was swell or not! I know I can always surf when I get home, even though Kauai has really horrible surf! I love surfing, but I’m not a surfer.

Amanda March 23, 2011 at 11:13 am

Reply

I think Claudia put it nicely. I surf a ton in the summer and I even began traveling to do it a lot more as well (I live in NY). Hence, no matter how hard I try I will never be Kelly Slater, and I’m ok with that, I am just having fun! So is it safe to say you have to be pro-status to be called a surfer? Or dedicate all your time and energy into one sport? I don’t think that’s fair. I think its definitely a feeling and if you enjoy it, reach a certain level where you can control the board, turn left /right and not be a total kook, why can’t you be proud to call yourself a surfer? I don’t think being able to hold that “title” you ultimately have to move to a foreign land, own a quiver of 12 boards and have a sponsorship…but that’s just me….either way surfing has enhanced my life and I think that’s all that matters in the end…

Mike March 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

Reply

Do you do it consistently? Then you are surfer. Just like if you run regularly, you are a runner. Do you golf regularly? Then you are a golfer. Seems pretty straight forward. If its something that you practice and do regularly then its part of who you

http://www.surfermag.com/features/the-surfer-categorizing-the-unknown/

Page 3 of 4

The Surfer: Categorizing the Unknown | SURFER Magazine
are.

3/30/11 11:29 AM

Tidestruck March 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm

That video was painful

Reply
djconeuk March 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

HAHA Quality Vid! British humour @ its best!! some people just don’t get it

Reply

LEAVE A REPLY
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Name* Email * Website Comment

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> POST COMMENT

SURFER PROPERTIES
Features Videos Photos Forums Magazine Fantasy Surfer Surfer Hot 100 Surfer Poll

SURFER GUIDES
Buyers Guide Surfboard Guide Holiday Gift Guide Surf Camp Guide

INFO
Subscribe Subscriber Services Digital Edition Advertise Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use

ASG | GRIND NETWORKS
Surfer Surfing Powder Snowboarder Skateboarder Canoe & Kayak Bike Standup Paddler Dirt Rider ATV Rider Paved Swellwatch GrindTV Newschoolers Motocross Ridemonkey Skateboard Snowboarder

Copyright © 2011 SOURCE INTERLINK MEDIA. All rights reserved.

http://www.surfermag.com/features/the-surfer-categorizing-the-unknown/

Page 4 of 4