I appreciate irony as much as the next guy. But I probably also misunderstand it as much as you do too, simply because I paid more attention to Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” than I did to my freshman English teacher. It’s a way to express something by saying or highlighting its exact opposite meaning, and the observation usually results in something funny. Alanis used it to write a Billboard 100 hit in the ’90s. Hipsters use it for annoyingly disingenuous humor.
I think surfers might be falling into that latter category when it comes to our infatuation with Wavestorms.
Yesterday, work ended early and I found myself paddling out expecting less-than-stellar conditions. It was just myself and one other surfer, limiting our interaction to a greeting and a brief back and forth about the waves. Later on, the lineup started to fill in and I found myself watching one stranger draw a beautiful shoulder high line on a Wavestorm. He cut back, sending an enviable amount of spray before cruising to a nice finish. It was a good show until he paddled back out and shot us both a smirk that I could only interpret as him pointing out the irony of his situation. From our perspective, it simply came off as smug. The guy ripped, and there was nothing ironic about his riding a Wavestorm. He was riding, not so much to surf, but as Jesus noted, to seek the “praises of men.”
If this guy were writing a follow-up to Alanis’ song, the lyrics might have sounded like this: “Isn’t it ironic that a guy who rips actually rides a substandard, inferior board, but can still ride it better than everyone else here? He/She must be super good at surfing in real life.” Not very melodic but you get the point. He was wearing it on his smug face, snubbing us with deep take offs, smooth bottom turns, and beautiful lines on junk equipment.
Yes, I’m jealous. But I’m jealous of the skills of John John and Kelly, too. And I don’t sense any smugness or irony in the way they surf. Sandbagging on a Wavestorm reeks of smugness. It’s like the smugness some of us have as we drive down the highways in our EV with our windows down, smiling as we let the smog run through our hair.
For full disclosure, I do own two Wavestorms. We keep them under the house and my sons and I take them out when the surf is small or when I go out with my daughters. Mine improves my wave count. My son surfs his for the irony (but he is only smug with me). He actually bought a long add-on single fin that was almost as expensive as the board itself (FYI: slight difference in drive, still a Wavestorm). I even have a Sam’s Club Wahoo – a 6’2” version of the Costco CBC Sushi apparently built for old dudes like me.
So what is the difference between my use of the Wavestorm and the ironic smugness on display in most lineups today? Well, I surf in a way that cannot be confused with smugness because I have nothing to be smug about. I use the Wavestorm to improve my surfing by increasing my wave count. No one in the lineup misunderstands what is going on. I also use the Wavestorm to assist my kids in surfing. The things are soft. They are safe.
So how can we use these wave riding vehicles without coming across as arrogant? I’m open to suggestions, but here are a few thoughts on who ought to be using soft tops:
1. Jamie O’Brien can ride a softie. There is nothing smug or ironic about JOB and the way he rides his softies. Let’s just remember that he is paid handily by Odysea for his antics. He’s genuinely working and promoting something, which is why watching him charge Pipe on one isn’t smug at all.
2.You are visiting someplace and you just want to enjoy a few waves for a few days at your convenience without having to hassle with renting. You plan on ditching the board or returning it to Costco at the end of the affair. Fair enough. Not ironic. Brutally (dis)honest, I suppose (if you return it).
3. You are going to ‘Ehukai sandbar on a big day and you have a death wish but don’t want to break your prize board. This is a decision of economics, not irony.
Sidenote: Don’t return the board to Costco once you break it. Wavestorms should be returned if they are actually defective. This surf hack isn’t environmentally friendly.
4. You are learning. This one should be obvious. Soft tops are an entry into learning what kind of surfing you truly aspire to do and the board you eventually should be surfing (and then restrain yourself by 10-15L and an honest 6”).
5. You are trying to teach someone else to surf. You can pretend you are one of the Beach Boys at Waikiki. Wear red board shorts and glasses and command the lineup to surf everywhere you are not. You will look like a better teacher if your student/child is on a softie. Be smug about their surfing.
Newsflash: Those of you who rip, actually rip harder on well-designed boards. We see you. We know who you are. You don’t need to spuriously rock a Wavestorm to underscore your prowess. In surfing, if it isn’t obvious, it isn’t there. We aspire to and emulate your surfing. Which is why I’d rather watch JJF playing at ‘Ehukai than some others. He seems lost in the fun of it. He seems to remember why he surfs without worrying about who he is impressing. And in the end, each ride is a miracle.
So mix it up. Cut it up. Test it. Rock a Wavestorm. Just remember smugness is an attitude. And by definition, irony cannot be intentional.