The Revolution

by Bruce Cowan on May 21, 2012 · 2 comments

As I was exiting the water yesterday, I was blissfully tired, my body flooded with endorphins, and I was thinking about why more people don’t ride surfmats.

That morning I’d had the same conversation as a hundred times before, “What is that you’re riding? It sure goes fast …” and a couple of kids even recognized that it was a surf mat, “Yeah I saw a guy riding one at Salt Creek the other day”.

So why am I the only one out riding the most advanced wave riding craft on the planet?

Why haven’t the masses caught on?

When Greenough changed everything about wave riding with his kneeboard Velo, the cutting edge board riders (McTavish, Young, etc.) were quick to cut their board’s length down and change the fins to something more organic and functional. Surfing maneuvers like nose riding and drop knee turns which had been cutting edge on a 9’6” 50/50 railed log were replaced by the more radical bottom turn, top turn combinations, and significantly more time was spent in the tube.

The best professional wave riders on the planet were hungry for “total involvement” and a style of surfing which was less about surfing the board and more about surfing the wave.

Today, the top pros for the most part, have fallen back into that same rigid surf contest based definition of what constitutes surfing once again. Just as noseriding (a sport within a sport) once ruled surf contests, aerials are now the ticket to winning your heat and assuring the continued corporate sponsorship all pro surfers rely upon.

Will there be a paradigm shift moving away from the current definition of contest surfing as the gold standard and back to a “The best surfer out is the one having the most fun” definition of a good day in the surf?

I think so.

Free surfers or pros that no longer let the “three turns to the beach” mentality control their approach are on the rise, and some are still retaining full corporate sponsorship.

Even more important is that everyday surfers are beginning to include alternative surf craft in their quivers. The recent Handplane Hoedown has drawn international attention. Paipo, alaias, and body surfing are all making a comeback.

Standing up on a alaia or a fish, lying down on a mat or a paipo or total immersed body surfing or using a handplane.

Surfers just want to have fun!

Remember the kids I mentioned as the beginning of the post? After I had shown them the mat I was riding, a Fourth Gear Flyer, one of them asked me what I did when I lost the mat in a wipeout. I replied that since I had fins on and was probably still in decent position in the lineup I would just bodysurf for a while then pick up my mat and continue surfing it. A wipeout wasn’t a failure it just required some shifting gears to continue the stoke.  The poor lad, raised on a steady diet of magazines and contest video had never considered that surfing could be anything more than the one dimensional exercise that he saw the pros do in the magazines.

Surfing can be and should be practiced as a multifaceted exercise with a variety of wave craft.

The revolution is in the works but it still hasn’t reached the  farthest or in some cases even the nearest corners of the surfing world – yet.

Article reprinted with permission from Bruce Cowan, “23Breaths.” Photo of George Greenough in 1985 by Dan Gross from the blog “Santa Barbara Surfer.” Mats sold by 4th Gear Flyer can be found here


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Carlos May 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

Very true indeed! this little article made a good reading. TNX


Bruce May 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Carlos, I’m stoked you liked it! Bruce


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