Haunting vintage water plate collodion style photography by Hamptons artist Joni Sternbach. Sternbach teaches a course later this summer at the International Center for Photography. Enchanted by her series, SurfLand—which you can check out at her website: http://www.jonisternbach.com/index.html
Childhood collecting obsession now reborn for the 21st century. Check out Chuck’s terrific surfer hairdo.
When I say “groveler” I’m referring less to my general state of mind when deciding when and where to pursue my next surf trip, than a more general term for a surfboard whose dimensions fall in some range better suited for smaller, non gigantic waves. Transworld surf described them eloquently as, “They’re generally two to six inches (or more) smaller than your regular shortboard, and wider as well. ..the idea is that the shorter, wider shape maintains speed through flat sections well, but it’s enough like a shortboard so that it’s got high performance characteristics as well…are the board of choice for most of the pros on the WQS, who are suring mostly average waves like the rest of us.”
As an example, check out the Channel Islands’s Motorboat groveler here. Transworld was referring to the 5’6” length one in particular, but a host of options is also shown.
And when you’re done there, watch the video of Timmy Curran riding one—and calibrate visually the size of the waves he’s boppin’ around on.
Here’s an excerpt from Brad Melekian’s terrific article, “Freedom,” an interview with surfer-turned-pro-turned-normal-surfer-again, Alex Gray. He has a really introspective take on why surf lifestyle even exists as a journalistic form. Like other means of written inspiration—-seeing others push and succeed in their own definition of success becomes that internal braid of energy that inspires readers, armchair surfers, and tourist wipe out artists to climb back on when we’ve gnarled ourselves into a reef bank, to paddle out one more time when our shoulders are already burning from an uneventful day in the lineup. This immerse-interact-inspire experience of the reader with the idea of surfing really does evoke that “transcendent power” Melekian refers to. Inspiring read.
“The celebrity profile is an almost unreadable thing. The reason this is true is because the writer of the celebrity profile almost always tries to take the life of someone whose special talent is really only a skill, and to turn the application of that skill into a metaphor, and to transform that metaphor into a lesson. The celebrity isnt’ a person, that is, but rather a chimera upon which the writer suggests he and his reader might rest all of their hopes and fears, which is why the celebrity profile always ends on a hopeful upswing, affirming our collective human need to believe that redemption is always close at hand.
The surf magazine profile is the same, only more so. Written primarily by a surfer, for a surfer, the surf magazine profile contains a certain dynamic between writer and reader regarding the meaning of surfing itself, and our abiding belief, as surfers, in the transcendent power of our surfing experiences. We write and read these profiles to confirm to each other that what we do in the water carries meaning, creating character sketches about people who have been fundamentally altered by the dact that they ride waves. In this way, we’re affirming not just the profile’s subject, but the humanity of our surfing expriences. “
|—||Brad Melekian, Surfer, Journalist, English Instructor at UCSD|
|—||Lewis Samuels referring to Kelly Slater’s consistent world record domination in surf.|
“Is Anyone Listening?”
In a 2011 Surfing Magazine article, the two San Francisco surfer/writers described by the magazine as “the closest surfing has to qualified cultural critics,” Matt Warshaw and Lewis Samuels talked about the state of surf life in the article, ‘Is Anyone Listening?’
In reading the article, you feel like you’re overhearing a state-of-the- union conversation on surfing at a seaside bar. Comparing themselves to the two old guys in the box seats of the Muppet Show, you can almost hear Warshaw and Samuels’s banter taking place over a couple of Coronas as they watch surfers across a spectrum of skill levels off and on the waves before them.
Their chat centers around those balancing and unbalancing scales of surfing for surfing’s sake versus the marketing firestorm by the top surf brands and the celebrities that are cultivated as a result.
Surf and surf celebrity are two different monsters emerging from the same mad scientist’s lab. One is the beast of research and development, which for surfers means exploring the waters on their own, trying out new things on the waves that match what they like, learning how to ride the waves better.
The other is the beast of marketing, the arm of the surf industry where a strong brand and advertising campaign create a transcendental moment for surf consumers, whether it’s attracting surfers into the “ideal” of surfing through the brands and people representing the sport or through the surf-themed mall store shopper to whom surfing halos beyond boards and waves to an entire lifestyle of beaches and salt water, seagulls and beach chairs.
It’s easy for anyone to get lost in the entanglement of both ideas—the real image of surfing which in essence has no image, and the “manufactured” image of surfing which is every image of surfing that ever appears as a photo spread in a magazine or on the logo on the corner of a pair of board shorts, that decal on the underbelly of a board as it rockets off a wave into the photographer’s view.
Surfing is a world that can provide the financial capability to surfers to make a living off of the sport while promoting it to future surfers. At the same time, though, there is the warning of over-commercialization, where people take to the waves in pursuit of the image rather than of the ideal, which is great for the surf market, but not so preferable to the no-logo, no-brand, surfing purists. Whether one is in their first decade of surfing or in one’s family-rearing years where house and home now compete with the sun and surf, the worlds seem to ebb and flow into one another.
About a month later, a writer and associate editor of Surfing Magazine provided a quick riposte to the Warshaw/ Samuels article. The riposte transitions to an assist (sorry for using a fencing analogy followed by a basketball analogy to make a point about surfing…) when the dialog is view holistically: two surfers and surf-writers documenting their conversation, stanza by stanza as they move from beach-side to historic restaurants, to the tides in wetsuits, to wineries and then back again. Surfing is cool for surfing’s sake. It’s an integrated-into-life kind of cool.
But with regards to that ‘titanium core of coolness’ that Warshaw and Samuels refer to: I am a believer that it’s a center of gravity that re-emerges over and over again, like some hidden law of the universe. It re-emerges for that singular moment, whether an individual is riding a wave back to shore for the first time or for the Nth time. Then for even that brief instant, all the symbolism vanishes, all the imagery, commercial or ideal, gets diluted into the sea spray.
The wave underneath you at that very moment is all you hear and it’s steady. It’s a voice. It’s reliable. It’s present.
And it’s enough.