Now that the New Year’s booze and drugs are slowly draining out of the system of the collective surfing world, it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead. Will Kirra make a comeback? Will Australians stop hating Brazilians? Will we stop trying to ride surfboards designed for pros? Those are the easy questions; The answer is no. However, there are a few more that I’d like to lodge in hopes of starting a bit of lively discussion. Without further ado, here are nine predictions for the world of surfing in 2013:
1. The Brazilian charge will falter.
I have trumpeted the consolidation of Brazil as a superpower of world surfing for the last few years, but I think that their rise is about to hit a bump in the road. It has nothing to do with the talent levels, either. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Ruchir Sharma claims that the decade of economic growth experienced by Russia, India, China and Brazil is already showing signs of stagnation and cannot continue. One of pro surfing’s inconvenient truths is that the viability of a career is heavily contingent on being from a rich country that will provide sponsorship money to fund your globetrotting. If Brazil cannot continue to grow, all but the wealthiest up-and-comers will feel the belt tightening.
2. We will lose a big wave surfer.
2012 was a year without any well-known fatalities in big wave surfing. It was also perhaps the safest year on record with multiple big wave surfers upping their conditioning and safety protocols to a level that has heretofore been unheard of in the surfing world. It’s telling then, that Greg Long came within a hair’s breadth of kicking the can while on perhaps the most safety-conscious big wave expedition in history (it had its own safety crews waiting on the boats). The ugly truth of the matter is that, the bigger they go, the closer they come to death at the hands of circumstances that no training or backup teams can overcome. But then, that’s part of the point, isn’t it?
3. Surfing will lose a bit of its “cool.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, surfing was pretty hot for a minute. Now that the fashion industry has turned to different “heritage” looks and paddle boarding has lost its novelty in the media, surfing does not have the cultural cachet it did even a year ago. This can only be a good thing, unless you actually like going to those lame surf boutiques cum coffee shops and griping about how everyone else is a poser. These things are cyclical, so we’ve probably got at least two to three years of flying below the radar before Hollywood releases a Keala Kennelly biopic that takes a sweet subject, gets it all wrong, and blows the top off the culture again. Here’s hoping Kennelly plays herself.
4. The alternative board trend will slow down.
The last half-decade of growing board diversity in the lineups has, unfortunately, run its course. Since learning how hard it was to ride finless, get vertical on a quad, and bottom turn a Neck Beard, the early adopters who jumped on the alterna-board bandwagon are shelving their more innovative models for shapes closer to the ol’ reliable thruster. This is partly due to the fact that the market has responded to consumer desire, which is good news in that we are now seeing more width and volume in standard short-boards that we would have ever thought possible in the glass slipper days of the late nineties. The bad news is that backyard innovations seems to have stagnated, though I would welcome any reports to the contrary.
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