Surfer/Trader/Ocean Advocate
Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

The Inertia

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will mark the official point in history that puts soul surfing to rest. Thank goodness. Soul surfers are as embarrassing as your hippie uncle with claims of attending Woodstock and efficaciously listing, between sips of Miller Lite, all the rock bands that have sold out to the Man. Dream on, Aerosmith works for Walmart now, buddy.

Soul surfing has never been a real thing anyway. As Matt Warshaw, surfers’ reincarnation of the Greek biographer Plutarch, explains in the Encyclopedia of Surfing:

Soul surfing is a “Durable if overused phrase generally used to describe the type of riding practiced by a non-commercial, non-competitive surfer; a ‘pure’ surfer; a surfer who rides for personal enrichment only.”

Historically speaking, soul surfing is a relatively new concept that became the Yin, characterized by earthy, feminine principles, to the latter half of the 20th century’s rise of competitive, professional surfing – the male Yang. At best, it is an ideology, all too frequently morphing and forming into oxymoronic hybrids like the “competitive soul surfer.”

The entire idea has been dying for a long time now. It’s been a semi-comatose Weekend at Bernie’s experience, providing just enough credentials by the commercial surfing establishment to convincingly link our ancient Polynesian origins before it will finally be dumped, Dexter style, into the crimson, radioactive waters off the coast of Japan.

The most recent and relevant example of this devise was the late, great, legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku’s name invoked more times to celebrate the announcement of surfing’s acceptance in the next Olympics than Ronald Reagan at a Republican convention. Food for thought for the name Kelly Slater a hundred years from now.

The clock is ticking. We have just under four years to prepare for soul surfing’s ceremonial burial. It will be a moment marked by tears and hopefully a liquored up Hoda Kotb gushing over Slater’s 48 year old pecs. While a number of important details are still being hashed out, like explaining to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame winnerAl Roker the important differences between a goofy and regular foot, I prepared a list of suggestions as we await the first surfer to ever chomp into a gold medal. The following proposals safeguard that soul surfing never resurrects, insure that competitive surfing won’t be a one hit Olympic wonder, and provide objective reasons for the millions of viewers to tune in:

1. Judge for Top Speed.

We have the technology. Let’s use it and slap speed trackers on the competitors’ surfboards. Fuck style and all that Yin, child of the flowing Universe, crap. Most of the worldwide, Olympic spectators will have no idea what they are looking at and couldn’t describe, let alone care about, the technical aspect surfings’ most difficult maneuvers require for gold medal quality execution. But speed? That’s easy. Everybody understands speed so let’s give the couch potato in Urumqi, the most remote city from any sea in the world, something to cheer.

2. Judge for Wave Count.


Perhaps, one of the most debated and talked about worries has been wave size and quality. Yes, Japan does get great waves and the stats show that there is a good chance for fun, but not quite Dream Tour-esque surf; yet we really don’t know for sure what the ocean will deliver. Solution: let’s give points for how many waves our surfing ambassadors catch during competition. Quality is too subjective. But counting the number of waves for points? Now we’re getting closer to beating table tennis ratings.

3. Judge for Longest Rides.

Most of the young grommets these days have too much surfing eye candy to ingest than to be bothered by watching videos of old surfing comps. There was a time, particularly during the ’80s OP Pro days in Huntington, that surfers were judged by length of ride. Some competitors spastically produced the “Huntington Hop” while others, like Tom Curren, would flawlessly zig-zag and breeze atop a Pacific dribble before somehow managing enough power and grace to produce his trademark lip whack as the subpar wave finally exhausted in front of thousands of screaming fans. Let’s bring that back to the Olympics and set the clock, from the moment a competitor stands up until he or she falls.

4. Have a Long-Distance Paddle Battle.

Right from the start, ideally sounded by a Japanese Buddhist Gong, let’s have a paddle race to a buoy at least a mile out in the ocean before the competitors make it to the lineup. Why not? These are the Olympic Games. Let’s prove to the world once and for all we’re serious athletes. We earned this.


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