Senior Editor
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The Inertia

Skip ahead to the 3:32:00 mark in the video above to see the entire speech.

Xanax sucks. Drugs in general suck, really. The whole rockstar mentality sucks – anything that glorifies choking on your own vomit in a bathtub full of vodka isn’t super cool, even if it is for the sake of “art.” Janis Joplin used to buy shopping carts full of Southern Comfort, and look where that got her. But man, could she write songs.

Noa Deane and his entourage are not Janis Joplin. They’re not Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison or Sid Vicious. They surf for a living – and yes, they surf very well. But professional surfing (and professional surfers) will never change the world, at least not in a wider world view. What they do have, however, is the ability to affect younger generations of surfers. So when a few nights ago, at the Surfer Poll Awards, Deane and his posse got up on stage to accept their award for Strange Rumblings (a very, very good surf film), and spent the majority of their time in the spotlight making Damien Hobgood and Alex Smith (two guys who are most definitely good role models) feel very awkward, it seemed a little over the top – Dion Agius by telling the audience how much Xanax he was on last year, while Deane looked on, slightly cross-eyed. If it weren’t such a public setting, it would have been hilarious.

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The Surfer Poll Awards is an interesting thing. In the tiny world of surfing, it’s the Oscars. It’s the culmination of an entire year, all smashed into one night of bro-isms and tiny skirts, with a few genuine hugs and conversations thrown in at the edges. It’s very evident that to many inside it, the outside of the bubble that is professional surfing isn’t see-through. “Someone should let these kids know they aren’t rockstars and this is just surfing,” wrote Albee Layer on Instagram. “Someone had to clarify not all surfers are like this. I’ve watched friends lose their lives to pills like Xanax. I’m all for having fun and not taking things seriously, but don’t force it so obviously and publicly.”

Outside professional surfing, professional surfing is not important. Inside it, it is the only thing that matters. But in an industry that relies heavily on the youth, more importance needs to be assigned to public actions and the whole concept of role models. Of course, when I was in my early twenties, I was puking on anything and everything, jumping off things, and generally being an asshole in public, but no one was watching.

So while it certainly shouldn’t be ok for rockstars, movie stars, or anyone else in the public eye to glamorize getting shitfaced (arguably even less ok, as their public following is much larger), it’s become a large part of the industry – so large that it’s probably never going to entirely leave the stadium. But with the ASP/WSL in a period of heavy transition – the attempt to put more eyes on the sport (and more money in their pockets) – there might still be time to make the industry into something that parents aren’t going to be scared of letting their kids get into. Whether it falls on sponsors, parents, or the individual, acting like a dick in public shouldn’t become an acceptable practice – not in surfing, anyway.

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Update: Read about Noa Deane’s public apology here.

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