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The Inertia

During the recent Gold Coast Challenger Series on the Superbank, the webcast featured that rare bird: a quite humorous interview. Roving reporter Stace Galbraith had crossed to Luke Cederman, who was on hand as the coach of fellow Kiwi Billy Stairmand. 

Cederman, a former QS surfer, is better known for The Raglan Surf Report, rather than his coaching. On Instagram and also as a podcast, his skits and videos that take the piss out of surfing and surfers. And they’ve gathered a solid fan base. 

 

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“I was trying to be a pro surfer when I was young, and that was always very serious,” Cederman told me. “Everyone was trying to look cool and be cool and no one ever let their guard down. And so I did the same. But it got the point that I was like, ‘Fuck this shit.’ Why all the testosterone and all the grumpiness?” He answered his question by starting The Raglan Surf Report in 2015. 

 

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His cameo on the WSL broadcast was a brief respite from the general seriousness that comes with elite professional surfing events. That’s understandable; when the main narratives are based around just how much victory and defeat mean it’s hard to crowbar some levity into proceedings. It’s even harder to squeeze genuine laughs into the cutthroat nature of elite sport. And take that from a man that has tried, and failed, repeatedly. 

It isn’t just the WSL and the competitive realm though that’s a LOL-free zone. Surfing culture, at least represented by the media, and comedy have had an often fraught and checkered dance. It’s more drunk uncle at a wedding than Fred Astaire (one for the kids!). If you’ve seen a Taylor Steele surf flick skit, watched a Big Wave Awards Ceremony, or seen a surf movie it’s usually about as funny as a turd in the lineup.  

“If you could color chart most surf movies, with blue being the surf action, and red being the comedy bits, it would be eight minutes blue, one-minute red,” said the Encyclopedia of Surf’s Warshaw. “That was the surf movie template – it followed on from Endless Summer – some of were funny, most were not.” 

I suppose that’s why Cederman’s humor is such a welcome antidote. And why any such attempts, even perhaps unsuccessful ones, should be applauded. You might remember Matt Wilkinson, who once rollerbladed into his first CT heat at Snapper in 2011, still sporting the perm he’d had done for the ASP Banquet the week before?

Now retired competitively, Wilko is still trying to get a laugh. Last year he released a country and western single titled “Fucken Big Horse,” under the name Uncle Willy (top). The opening lines go, “I’m a cowboy with the darkest soul and a fucken big horse, yeah I’m outta control.” The video featured him wake surfing behind a horse. A big fucken one, obviously.

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More recently Griffin Colapinto and his crew, including brother Crosby, have taken up the pro surfer as comedy-writer mantle. Griff’s skits aren’t always successful, but in an age where surfers, as Cederman says, struggle to take the piss out of themselves, it’s refreshing to see an unfiltered personality at least trying to get some laughs. 

 

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The Australian-based Kiwi freesurfer McKenzie Bowden is another example of a talented surfer who has been putting his head above the comedy parapet. His parodies of surf and surf-adjacent stereotypes have gained traction with a broad audience in and out of the surf world. While sometimes tackling serious subjects like race, peer pressure, and social media anxiety, they generally just make you smile. 

 

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Elsewhere, Insta accounts like @worldsurflols, @surfcore2001, and @thegreenroomtimes have managed to attract fans by making surfers laugh, mainly at themselves.  

Of course, the gold standard for surf comedy may be Sterling Spencer. At the start of the last decade, Sterling Spencer via his Pinchmysalt.tv, wasn’t just the funniest man in surfing, he was the only funny man in surfing. 

After a break with bigger movies and health issues, he’s been back recently in his work under his own Instagram handle of Sterling Spencer. His uncanny impersonations, overdubs, and oddball sense of humor can still create real laugh-out-loud moments, a true rarity when scrolling surf-based social media. 

His skit with American comedy legend Bob Saget, acting as an old-school shaper who knew his mum, in the movie Gold, might just be the finest example of the surf skit genre:

With its undertones of smut, with its poke at the surfer-shaper relationship, and with Sterling being the butt, rather literally, of his own joke, it’s the type of humor that surf culture needs, but all too rarely receives.

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Look, maybe surfing isn’t meant to be funny, after all the lineup often isn’t a barrel of laughs. But it also isn’t meant to be serious all the time. For those that are trying, and succeeding, they deserve some props. Not to mention our gratitude. 

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