Jamie O'Brien Burns ASP Rule Book

Jamie O’Brien, aside from being an outstanding surfer, is a very savvy businessman. Burning ASP Rule Books? Wise business decision.


The Inertia

The debate, such as it is, about the future of professional surfing has calcified into two main groups. The first enjoys professional surfing in the ASP mold. They tune into the webcasts, read power rankings, play Fantasy Surfer, and generally treat the sport as they would any other. I call this the Australian view of surfing.

The second group disdains the paradigm of competition on the grounds that it has made surfing beholden to corporate interests and in doing so, forced it into a homogenizing mold that sucks “soul” from it. Those who favor this opinion hold a more American view of surfing as the semi-divine pursuit of an elite, counter-cultural vanguard favoring freedom and hedonism over the restraints of the dominant, land-based culture. In this vein, surfers like Adrian Buchan and Adriano de Souza are viewed as boring, or un-cool, while guys who have been marketed on the opposite end of the spectrum, like Dane Reynolds, Ozzie Wright, and Jamie O’Brien reign supreme.

Guess what? There is little to no difference between these two groups. In one, young men lug board bags around the world to surf in what is, at best, a strange and incongruous way to package a strange and incongruous activity, and at worst an elaborate marketing campaign. In another, young men lug board bags around the world in an elaborate marketing campaign. The waves are better, and the men are better looking, but other than that, “freesurfing” is just a creative way to sell soft goods.

I’m not a rabid fan of competitive surfing, though I do follow it and watch the occasional web cast.  For all its shortcomings, one thing I like about it is that it still contains the odd unscripted moment. Nobody, least of all Billabong, wanted Joel Parkinson to lose the World Title in 2009, but no amount of corporate backing could save him. It was painful to watch. The highs and lows of competition also defined the career of Andy Irons, indeed made him the icon that so many adore.

In comparison, freesurfing has no unscripted moments because its only internal logic is to serve larger corporate interests. In fact, I think that the word “freesurfing,” in its current paradigm, should probably carry a trademark sign. It’s not a lifestyle; it’s lifestyle marketing dedicated to selling people their own culture based on hoary tropes like freedom, booze, drugs, virgin frontiers, innocent outlaws, willing women, happy go lucky bums, road trips when gas was under 5 dollars a gallon, cultural exploration before suicide bombers, living rough for the sake of your art, and on, and on, ad infinitum.

It’s all utter bullshit.

When Jamie O’Brien burns an ASP rule book in his video, which retails for $8.99 on iTunes, the decision to do so, whether his own, or that of one of the writers or producers of the film, is discussed, developed, and shot by a team of professionals, probably numerous times. It is not a spontaneous moment; it is not an act of deep-seated rebellion; it is the melodramatic pantomime of the advertising agent of a global snake oil brand. It is the recreation of the imitation of a symbolic act, a picture of a facsimile, less than meaningless.

O’Brien, aside from being an outstanding surfer, is a very savvy businessman. In this way, he is similar to that other oft-mentioned brand, Dane Reynolds. Reynolds, you will recall, penned what some called a manifesto when he left the World Tour. He outdid the grandiosity of even his fans, but in a, you know, ironic way, (cuz he was like, so over it, presumably) and titled it “A Declaration of Independence.” In it, he paints competition surfing as prescribed and stolid and his decision to leave it as a turning point in a personal quest for learning, growth, and high performance surfing. And now he’s free™!  To surf how he wants, ride what he wants, and make an estimated $23 million dollars over six years to do it. Wait, what?

Behind the thin façade of Asperger nonchalance that Reynolds cultivates sits a man who, either through his own shrewdness or that of others, is very good at controlling the image he presents to his adoring public through the media. This, combined with great surfing, has made him the new messiah of all those people who want to believe in freesurfing™. What he either doesn’t understand, or more likely is unwilling to admit, is that his quest for freedom is, like O’Brien’s rebellion, just branding.

None of this lessens either surfer in my eyes. When they stand up on their surfboards, they are my favorite riders in the world. The same goes for their non-competing brethren, most of whom are simply are not cut out to consistently flourish at a highly competitive level.  Freesurfing™ allows them to make a living doing what they love and allows us to enjoy their talents via web clips and magazines. You should respect their savvy as businessmen and brands. But whatever you do, do not buy their bullshit gospel of freedom and rebellion.

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  • Al Baydough

    Michael Schoaff needs to go on a surf trip with you.

    • Al Baydough

      I take that back. He may be boring but he’s not nearly as full of s**t.

  • Erik

    Amen. I find competitive surfers more honest because they are not trying to hide their motivations. They are competitive and want to rip. Hipster poseurism is just that, posing and preening; it is fashion and pretense.

    Surfing is a simple act. “Surf Culture” has evolved into a self important fashion show. It is about as important to the larger real world of conflict, war, greed, atrocities, love, and beauty as a dog show.

    Go surf. Have fun. Then do something that matters for your fellow humans.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sea.addington Chris Powers

      Competitive surfers and free surfers are both competing for attention and approval in different venues. Fashion or sport? Neither is more or less honest, or more or less self important or contributing to society. There are interesting parallels in this debate to our wider mainstream vs counter culture. Both will always exist, will always need the other to exist, and will claim to be the more legitimate than the other while simultaneously being very flawed. It is just the nature of identity formation. In and out groups have existed since there was more than one something competing for something looking for collective competitive advantage. Its natural. I personally enjoy Dane’s perspective more, as it fits my personality better and I can relate to it. I don’t blame him for taking the money, I would. I am glad he makes his art it brings me great happiness. While I think he is very competitive, his competitiveness lies in his attempt to make an aesthetic contribution to humanity, which is a noble goal as much as any other artist, vs the competitive accomplishments of organized sport which seem more shallow to me but are valid nonetheless. Should we be angry with an artist for selling his paintings? Or Cobain for selling out? Im sure Dane is already hard enough on himself, and I greatly doubt he is crafting his image with any intention other than radness. His sponsors are just holding onto his coattails not mischievously orchestrating from the shadows.

      • ted

        Good points here.  I think it’s well put that he’s trying to “make an aesthetic contribution to humanity.”  I’m not sure I agree with the statement, but I like the notion that it proffers just the same.  Can surfing be that elevated?  I’d like to think so, but there are days when i doubt.  

  • Ben Adler
  • Chris Cote

    Dude. Lighten up.

    • Al Baydough

      Maybe. But you could stand to develop something more substantial in your own writing, fluff master. 

    • Duncan

      remember that there are many journo’s and not so much to write about. 

    • Duncan

      remember that there are many journo’s and not so much to write about. 

  • Anonymous

    Well written piece! You even threw Banksy in. I second the Amens!

    • Al Baydough

      The Cult of Banksy is breeding drones no different than the robots that mindlessly eat up the adverts he rails against. Just more reactionary bullshit manufacturing pseudo-anarchist consent. 

      • Anonymous

        Dang, Al, you are a wordsmith tried and true! You need to do a piece for The Inertia. You have a David Parmenter side to your writing. I hear some Hunter S. Thompson, too.

        I have a tough time putting my finger on Banksy’s motives especially after seeing Exit Through the Gift Shop. He does some, um, things that  push the political/social envelop. Definitely up there with the Yes Men!. His elephant in the room piece was something else. But then again, maybe it is just a package of pseudo-anarchist product ready to fed to the masses.

        So, what do you make of Dane? I think that he is another chill surfer from the Central Coast who just got burned out with the contest circuit. He never once stated that he was a freesurfer ( who categorized him as such?). Nor did he ever denounce corpos, the WCT, and other competitors. He just simply stated that he did not like the direction he, personally, was headed in. The media wants to roast the guy just for staying true to himself. They gave him a title and expect him to fulfill it. It is like they expect him to make barrista wages in order to represent the wandering bohemian freesurfer image.

        Is Dane worth the $23 million figure? If we look at what the biggest outdoor company in the world (Quiksilver, correct me if I am wrong) makes off of the guy then he should get some fruit from the tree. Plain and simple, the guy brings in the dough. The same goes for the singer from the Goons of Doom. 

        I think that Dane is going to punish us by not posting anything on http://www.marinelayerproductions.com for awhile. We’ll probably have to see what he is up to through http://www.captainfincompany.com 

        • ted

          I’m fine with his wages and his chosen direction, I just think his marketing is a farce.  It was ridiculous to me that anyone should claim that he was “waisting his talent” by not competing.  I think he’s actually maximizing his talent by not competing, and from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I’m glad he’s doing it.  Let’s just not hold him up as the messiah of non corporate surfing.  Oh, I hate the music on his vids though.  

          • Anonymous

            Is Dane’s marketing the same one employed by Billabong with Rasta and Donovan? Or RVCA with Archibold and Knost? I mean to say that the freesurfing market has been around for quite sometime. It just seems to be more viable these days. Thank God there are new and more exciting routes for today’s surfers. Who knows, Kolohe may find find himself on this career path if the WT doesn’t work out.

  • Cyrus
  • Tim Hamby

    “Not-for-freesurfing™”

    Nice piece. Even better the second time I read it, trying to find some holes. (I couldn’t)

    Greed remains the world’s greatest stumbling block. Dishonesty and hypocrisy are not far behind.

    It’s perfectly OK to make money surfing– whether that’s competing; traveling; peddling t-shirts, energy drinks or words. We just need to be clear about what we’re selling (and buying). Thanks for helping. I think Erik’s got the right idea.

  • Cori S

    Excellent, Ted! 

  • Andrew

    You nailed it.

  • Andrew

    You nailed it.

  • Ruskin

    Beautifully spoken

  • James

    Agreed. Two sides of the same coin, and arguably a bit hypocritical. But the negative sentiment hinges on all companies being big bad evil marketers. Are all companies in fact bad? Can some be good? Maybe some of these surfers (or anyone for that matter) can help promote the right kinds of messages whether there’s a price tag attached or not.

    • ted

      all companies are not bad, but I’m not sure they should be looked at under that lens.  I think all companies, including Tetsuhiko Endo LTD. are self serving, even the Toms Shoes, and Fair Trade enterprises of the world.  Asking them to stand for anything other than making money is like asking a fox to guard the hen house.  Foxes aren’t bad, they just naturally enjoy eating chickens.  In the end, I don’t think throwing off the capitalist system or some other such outdated notion is the answer, I think making corporations serve my needs, instead of the other way around, is the way forward.  Which means calling their bullshit, for a start.  Thoughts?

      • John Reb

        Calling bullshit is the only way to start.  

      • John Reb

        Calling bullshit is the only way to start.  

  • Lance Burkhart

    Total straw man argument.  Also, pandering.  If I was “free to surf how, when, and why” I chose then I’d be pulling in-the-barrel backflips at 20ft. Teahupo’o for a million dollars a pop.  (Fair market price).  PS> What about when JOB mounted a turtle?  That was a spontaneous moment.

    • ted

      I’m inclined to agree that I pandered a bit in the end.  Little too sentimental, maybe, but it seemed right in my gut, and it’s nice to pull out of a couple of paragraphs of criticism with a higher note.  I think the fair market price of taking a wipe out at 20′  Teahupo’o on purpose is one of the more interesting questions that has ever arisen from a comments section.  If I were JOB I’d charge 25 grand a wipeout, film it with three red cameras (including one of those helicopter mounted ones) and say I was doing it to show how lame the ASP was.  Modern spectacle at its greatest.

    • ted

      I’m inclined to agree that I pandered a bit in the end.  Little too sentimental, maybe, but it seemed right in my gut, and it’s nice to pull out of a couple of paragraphs of criticism with a higher note.  I think the fair market price of taking a wipe out at 20′  Teahupo’o on purpose is one of the more interesting questions that has ever arisen from a comments section.  If I were JOB I’d charge 25 grand a wipeout, film it with three red cameras (including one of those helicopter mounted ones) and say I was doing it to show how lame the ASP was.  Modern spectacle at its greatest.

  • ctwalrus

    1. If you compete as an athete, or you teach surfing, then you are a professional surfer.  Who earns his (her) living on the basis of their skill set.

    2. If on the  other hand, you earn your living setting up photo shoots, you are a fashion model who happens to have a physical skill set.   Other wise known as a ‘photo whore’

    Now this should really flip out a good sized chunk of the reader ship……but, after 50 years of surfing this is how I see it……there are surfers who surf for fun, surfers who compete for glory and $, and then those surfers who whore themself’s for the Advertizing department of the soft goods dealer.

    • Jeff Byrnes

      Don’t kid yourself. We’re all whores. Or, more honestly, we’re all pimps whoring out the ocean for our own gratuitous desires. 99% of those using the ocean couldn’t care less how many diseases they pump into her ravaged c–t on a daily basis, whether they wear a jersey or not. We make parasites look like the paragons of virtue.

      And I’d love to see you tackle Pipe with your “physical skill set” the way JOB and Reynolds do.

  • ctwalrus

    1. If you compete as an athete, or you teach surfing, then you are a professional surfer.  Who earns his (her) living on the basis of their skill set.

    2. If on the  other hand, you earn your living setting up photo shoots, you are a fashion model who happens to have a physical skill set.   Other wise known as a ‘photo whore’

    Now this should really flip out a good sized chunk of the reader ship……but, after 50 years of surfing this is how I see it……there are surfers who surf for fun, surfers who compete for glory and $, and then those surfers who whore themself’s for the Advertizing department of the soft goods dealer.

  • Steve Shearer

    The first enjoys professional surfing in the ASP mold. They tune into the webcasts, read power rankings, play Fantasy Surfer, and generally treat the sport as they would any other. I call this the Australian view of surfing.The second group disdains the paradigm of competition on the grounds that it has made surfing beholden to corporate interests and in doing so, forced it into a homogenizing mold that sucks “soul” from it. Those who favor this opinion hold a more American view of surfing as the semi-divine pursuit of an elite, counter-cultural vanguard favoring freedom and hedonism over the restraints of the dominant, land-based culture. ”Loved the article Ted, but fantasy Surfer is an American invention and Morning of the Earth is an Australian movie. I know it was a glib statement, still inaccurate though.

    • ted

      whatup steve?  I knew someone would call me on this — it cut cut down slightly in editing and didn’t quite convey what i wanted.  The point is not to “blame” any one side for any one paradigm.  I just noticed when I spent a very pleasant year in OZ that the sport had a certain mainstream appeal on the central coast, where I stayed.  guys talked about the WT in the lineups like people might talk about a football game.  I thought it was kind of refreshing.  Americans, AS A GENERALIZATION, tend to run with the pseudo spiritual line a bit.  Hope what i wrote doesn’t come off as too black and white.

  • Al Baydough

    Dane’s awkward demeanor is as genuine and unpretentious as it gets. I definitely can’t say the same thing about this op-ed, which is loaded with vitriol and is about as hypocritical a read as any I have encountered anywhere. It certainly isn’t journalism.

     None of you know Dane, that much is absolutely and stunningly clear and it’s incredibly irresponsible of you, Ted, to demonize him for your and your readership’s self-righteous amusement, feeding them this well crafted pablum to sate the appetites of their petty jealousies, their “bad wolves,” under the actual pretense of reportage. 

     This is probably gonna delight most of the readership here but I’m done. This site is sliding rapidly into the same abyss that swallowed Salon. Shame. Could have been better, MUCH better. Keep sucking Nike’s pendulous green member, I’m sure that will have a much more positive effect on surfing than what the industry has cultivated. 

     Goodbye, Inertia, I’m going surfing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M0NX1lcCiQ

    • ted

      Hi al, I’d be sorry to lose you on the site, I think you bring a lot to the comments.  You’re right in that I don’t know Dane, I only know the marketing that Dane puts out there, which blurs the line between who he is and what his brand is, intentionally I believe.  As I said in the article, I don’t think that schilling for Quiksilver actually lessens him as a person, he’s doing a job and he’s very good at it, but it’s disingenuous to claim it as part of some larger freedom quest.  It’s also in bad taste given exactly how much money he makes.  
      I don’t know anyone at Nike and, you might recall, I criticized the misogyny in their Leave a Message vid last year.  If they offered me a large sum of money to write for them, I’m not exactly sure what i’d do.  Perhaps I’ll write about it some time.Finally, Banksy gets on my nerves too, but i like that quote.  Did you know that people in london who own the walls where he graffitis will now either take down the wall and sell it or cover it up and make an installation of it?  it’s pretty ridiculous.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not sure how Dane is being disingenuous. He doesn’t like competing, isn’t good at it, and so he left the tour. Freedom for Dane means freedom from the tour. If the guy wants to get paid a shitload of money to surf Silver Strand all day, why is that a problem? Did he claim to eschew money or point up some dastardly business practices Quik partakes of? Nope. If any company came to me and said they wanted to pay me a couple million a year to go surf in front of my house and wear their crap, I , you, each and every person on this site would crawl over broken glass to sign the contract. It’s disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

        • ted

          that’s an interesting point.  When people throw money at you it’s very hard to  be pious about these things.  I think where I disagree with you is that Dane isn’t payed to surf Silver Strand every day, Reynolds is paid to produce an image, through videos, magazines, clothing design, etc, that makes it LOOK like all he does is surf Silver Strand every day.  I have a kneejerk reaction to this kind of marketing simply because it’s untrue, certainly not unique to surfing, but untrue nonetheless.   As I said in another post, I have no problem with his career choice, and I think any claim that he is “lazy” or wasting his time pretty myopic.  No one makes that kind of money without working hard. 

    • Tim Hamby

      Al, 

      I sure hope you’re feeling better after your surf. I have to say personally, that when I read this piece, I did not interpret it as some big personal dump on Dane, JOB or others. Those guys are chasing “free”, and in many respects –at least, seemingly, by their own standards– have navigated much closer to it, as close as they can without being completely self-destructive. But the fact remains that as long as you take a paycheck, you are never really “free”. To me, that’s the simple core message here. And the call-to-action is not to take it out on some individual surfer(s), but for two seemingly divergent groups of surfers (and their rabid advocates?) to recognize that the differences between them are not as great as some (most notably, marketers), might have you believe.”If you are willing to accept the assertion that surfing is a colossal waste of time, then I’ll concede I’ve wasted my life. But in a better, more graceful manner than any of my two-legged counterparts, no matter what the cost or consequences.” – Miki Dora

    • Cambria

       That’s so funny that you took such personal offense to any questioning of Dane and his motives that you can’t even think to consider Tetsuhiko’s premise –  that freesurfing and freesurfers do not represent the themes marketers tend to imbue them with. You read it a couple of times and got a little angry? Even after supporting it at the outset. There is so much interesting, thought-provoking shit on this site that it’s absolutely ironic that a condescending and prolific internet addict like you can’t handle it when someone voices an opinion that conflicts with your own. You’re going to miss out on a lot of intersting stuff from people all around the world because you want to gargle danes jewelsacks. That’s fine. It’s your life to live. Live it hard.

    • Anonymous

      No problem, Al. I got this. 

  • Patrick

    I was out somewhere in Mexico yesterday morning and it was freezing and small but clean… four guys in the water at first light — actually, just one, me — and then three more a half an hour later.  I knew two of them; the other guy was from the States.  An hour and a half of excellence; no chatter, except for our teeth.  I can’t remember what brand of board shorts these guys wore or what kind of sunblock they used.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry, but in which surfing circles does this supposed debate take place? Your argument is of course valid, but it’s also about 30 years late. 

  • Anonymous

    You’re really tilting at windmills here Ted. None of the real surfers I know — “real” meaning people whose lives have been permanently altered for better or worse by their addiction to surfing — give even a fraction of a second to thinking about free vs competitive surfing, and which of the two is, or is not, genuine. Not because they have the wool pulled over their eyes, but because they thought about it when they were thirteen, shrugged, and moved on. 

    The only people in any kind of danger of buying into a “bullshit gospel of freedom and rebellion” are those scratching their chins over which NSP soft top to buy at their local surf shop. 

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ScottTX

    Big assertions in this article, good thoughts Ted.  But what do I know, I just surf brown waves in Galveston, which sometimes come waist high.  And by that I mean that paying mind to the circus of sponsorships, non-competitive sponsored freesurfers, non-competitive sponsored WCT surfers, etc. ad nauseum is about as appealing as having a crab snag my pendulous green member.  I just surf shitty waves and don’t talk about it much, but it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

    I wonder why Al Baydough found it necessary to announce his suspended readership?  Al, I think many of us really respect your viewpoints; you’re very articulate.  Why don’t you write a piece for this website?  Perhaps a feature counter-piece to Ted’s article above?  Maybe you care, but not about whether or not people care that you don’t care….and if so, I can understand your affinity for Dane Reynolds.  But then you mentioned a cult of Banksy…

  • ted

    That’s as even handed and interesting response as I’ve ever gotten on an article — thanks.  You’re being kind about Banksy, too: quoting him was not a proud moment for me.  I try not to write about Reynolds because whenever you do people have this sort of knee jerk reaction to talk about how sweet and humble he is.  I don’t really feel one way or another about him but I used him as an exampl because I think it’s patently ridiculous to hold him up as the anti-corporate messiah simply because he doesn’t surf many WT contests.  It also sells short a lot of great surfers who do.  I’m not suggesting that you are doing any of these things in the above post, simply explaining what I had in mind when I was writing.  My bigger worry is that surfing, and all culture for that matter is sort of cannibalizing itself to make a buck.  The last bastion for people without tons of green is the imagination, and if they /we monetize that as well, we’re really fucked.  To me, the marketing of “freesurfing” represents the branding of the imagination, and that is really abhorrent to me.  

    • Bert

       I don’t think we’re witnessing the “marketing of free surfing”, at least not more than the marketing of endangered species or even the marketing of war…
      Marketing is still a give and take, and you’re not forced to take. politics and religion will do the same, at their own levels. As for rebellion, when a young and healthy guy is loving his mum, his country, free enterprise and private property, I can’t understand what he is revolted against.
      And notice how it’s not the guy himself who is pretending to be a rebel, but it’s an image others are trying to use. I agree with you about the principle, but it has nothing to do with those who voluntarely collaborate with the system, ie the “freesurfers”… It’s just another marketing stupidity.
      Look, I still don’t understand how the image of Bob Marley can sell clothes in 2012, i’m sure not a good marketing analyst!

  • ScottTX

    Tshel…those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  • Surfpaul50

    When I get dressed today I’ll choose what I want to wear – although I sometimes wear a T shirt I often dress, just by choice, in clothes that wouldn’t make people think, ‘Oh, he’s a surfer.’ I’m completely free to be me – and if I head to the beach I don’t feel any need to wear surfing type clothes. I’m free to make my own choices in the clothing department. It feels ‘Me’.

    I think the slightly belittling thing about sponsorship is to see someone you’d look up to for their surfing having to wear a cap, T shirt etc with a logo, and even making sure they get the logo on the nose of their board in the camera / video shot. 

    I understand why they do it – funds to continue focusing on a surfing career – but it is slightly humiliating. Small-ish price to pay – but I don’t have to pay it. I guess in that sense I’m freer than Kelly or Mick in what I wear.

    It is a bit humiliating to have to wear a silly logo on the clothes you wear … there’s no deep statement there really!

    A pity it comes down to that – JOB or Dane, Kelly, Tom Curren even – we look up to them for their surfing – and they are seen having to get the logo exposed somehow. It’s not the greatest of daily tasks! So it is a bit sad to see our surfing heroes humiliated like that. 

    Even Ted has is, I assume, putting a bit of an edge into his writing to get some exposure for something? Exposure for ‘The Inertia’ website? or his own writing career? That’s the problem with being paid to write. Same problem as being paid to surf – there is often some sort of compromise involved.

    It was pretty good the time Tom Curren rode a white sticker-less board at Haliewa and upset his sponsors (and lost them I think) … that was seen as a bold anti-industry statement. But then in the grand scheme of things – today people in Bahrain are risking their lives on the military patrolled streets to make public statements about Formula 1′s and the deadly Dictatorship they live under – surfing without a logo is not the bravest thing going on today…

    Anyway – I have to decide what to wear today [my own choice by the way]…. smile.

  • Surfpaul50

    PS – I took another look at the photo on this article of JOB burning the ASP Rule Book. It looks like a bold statement of course, but in the background he’s wearing a Red Bull logo cap?

    It’s not really the deepest of statements is it…

    Anyway – what to wear this morning?… hmm. Paul

    • Jeff Byrnes

      He’s burning the rule book, NOT the entire institution. I’m blown away that so few people commenting here fail to make this most important of distinctions.

      The ASP competition rules are a f-ing joke. They’re also a HUGE reason why people new to surfing act like morons in the lineups with all their “tactics.” They see what the pros do in heats then mimic the crap in the water.

  • Jerry

    The fact that you’ve “been in publishing for 13 years” and can’t even begin to consider questioning the paradigm of athlete sponsorship and meaning-making is so representative of this little surf world it’s laughable. It’s called voicing a strong opinion – and this one isn’t even offensive if you take it for what it’s worth. It’s absolutely grounded in truth. Sure, there’s no reason to take any of this shit seriously, but if you want to think a little harder about it….this piece is AOK.

  • Anonymous

    it is a discussion. ideas get thrown around. how does working for surf magazine qualify you any more than the average joe? you simply have corporate funding and leverage. you got a job working at a surf magazine; we didn’t. you were willing to live in san clemente. we were not. you started surfing at ten. some of us started earlier than that. i am still trying to figure out why you think that we would give a flying ghost about what age you started surfing. is that supposed to intimidate the readers or makes us say, “gosh, he is right”.

    i think that the readers of the inertia are just as qualified to make distinctions among the professional surfers. they may not always be spot on, yet their voices carry meaning nonetheless. 

     coming in with a pious overtone and listing your credentials in hopes of muting everbody is not working lee. surfing media has come a long way from the magazine darkroom.

    lee, again, this is a conversation. even if ted is off-point, he still got the neurotransmitters firing.  

  • John Reb

    “Nationalist pride, like other variants of pride, can be a substitute for self-respect.”
    -ERIC HOFFER
    Replace “Nationalist” with “Surf Industry” and you sum up people who vociferously defend their broken and adolescent world view.  

  • ted

    Gettin complicated now!  I’m going to try to address this, but I’m not one hundred percent clear on your point so please forgive me if I fall short.  I was arguing in this article that there is no difference between the so called “commercial” side of surfing and the “free” side of surfing.  I see it as mostly part of the same thing and what I was criticizing was not any one surfer, but just that they should market themselves as if there is a difference between their supposed freedom and another’s supposed “selling out”.  If I were to judge Reynolds purely on the aesthetics of what he does, this article would have been a paean.  However, I believe that his brand sells better because he, or someone, markets it as something that it isn’t.  I don’t care if he gets paid, and I don’t care if he gets paid a lot.  i do care about surf companies — and all companies —  trying to brand our imaginations.

  • Dave

    Also disagree with your American / Australian views on surfing. Here a list of some  currently internationally renowned Australian freesurfers, all with enough ability to win  heats on the world tour.
    Dave Rastovich, Chris ‘Chippa’ Wilson, Wade Goodall, Dion Agius, Laurie Towner, Ozzie Wright, Craig Anderson.
    let us not forget a few of the originals, Wayne Lynch, Brendan Margison, Gary Green.
    Just examples and by no means exhaustive lists. It is possible, if you put a list down of all free surfers, Australians may have a greater number than any other country. It is not all about competitive surfing in Australia , obviously.

  • Tdog

    And this is the editor writing this?  I am beginning to like this publication.

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Ted, for all your rhetoric, you still wind up kissing all these guys asses in the end. What are you, on the take? Personally, I disdain pro or free surfers from kelly to dane and every one in between. I have no desire what so ever, to watch a pro event or mass marketed video, and probably would puke if I did, The surf industry- pro surfers-free surfers -ect.,-is not surfing. I got so disgusted with the surf industry, pro B.S. and their greed and exploitation of the lifestyle, for their own personal gain, that about 8 years ago, I took all my surf tees, (quickdollar, rip cur, biiabog, ect., put them in my yard, poured some gas on them and burnt them, ( true story), and never looked back , (a small gesture, but a start). I’ve also tried to be a vocal critic of this surf industry b s. Just remember, the best wave ever ridden, (by a pro or free surfer or anyone) will always be the one that you catch yourself, whether its 2 feet or twenty. And hey dude, would like to hear your reply. Peace

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Hey tet, my post was fifteen minutes ago and it got put in the middle of a bunch of one year old comments-instead of being posted as the most recent.. What, are you afraid of some one actually reading this? Does the truth hurt?

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Hey tet, I posted a comment about half an hour ago, and it got put in the middle of a bunch of one year old comments. What’s wrong? can’t you handle a little heat (the truth)?

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Can you please put my first post in the correct spot, as the most recent?

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Ted for all your rhetoric, you still wind up kissing all these guys asses in the end. What are you, on the take? Personally, I disdain pro or free surfers from kelly to dane and every one in between. I have no desire what so ever to watch a pro event or a mass marketed video, and probably would puke if I did. The surf industry- pro surfers, free surfers, ect.- is not surfing. I got so disgusted with the surf industry,-pro B.S., free surfers and their greed and exploitation of the lifestyle for their own personal gain, that about 8 years ago, I took all my surf tees, (quickdollar, rip cur, billabog, ect)., put them in my yard, poured some gas on them, and burnt them, (true story), and never looked back, (a small gesture, but a start).. I’ve also tried to be a vocal critic of the surf industries B.S.. Just remember, the best wave ever ridden, (by a pro surfer, free surfer, or anyone), will always be the one you catch yourself, whether its 2 feet or twenty. And please don’t bury this post like my others, please keep this post in its correct spot as the most recent, and I would like to hear your reply, Peace

  • nettwench14

    The real freesurfers will always outnumber the professionals and the “trademarked” stars, thank goodness!. Love the Banksy quote! I find the rules and judging criteria of professional surfing to be opaque and restrictive to any real soul or creativity. The very best, like Slater, are so talented they rise above any box someone could put them in. Or somebody like Clay Marzo, who will never fit into that mold. I’m just glad someone’s paying to film them so I get to enjoy what I otherwise would have no way to see or appreciate. Marketing is always bullshit in some form or another. When I see surfers in “herds” or professional events, even at my local beach break, it just makes me uncomfortable. Surfing was never about that to me. Out in the ocean all by myself, with nobody on the beach, are the times I really felt most at home.

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    Hey moderator, why do my posts from a day ago, keep getting buried in between a bunch of one year old posts, instead of being the most recent, can you please explain this to me?

  • Ronin

    all you have to do is look in the same part of the world as dane reynolds. bobby martinez has opted for C, which you have brilliantly written in your article. i smell a story….

  • Jeff Byrnes

    I’ve never worked for the surf industry. I was once modestly sponsored and was offered opportunities within the industry. But I walked away from all of it for a variety of reasons.

    And I disagree with almost everything Endo wrote here. It’s much too sanctimonious.