18 November 2007

Why Can't Surfing Be More Like Cycling?

Let's go back in time. No, not in surfing time. I'm talking about going back in time in the world of cycling. To the time when Lance was kicking ass and was all people could talk about. You know what was so cool about that time? People still didn't give a damn about cycling. Oh, everyone jumped on the bandwagon to marvel over his ability to beat cancer and become a better cyclist than he was before the illness. Still, the Lance hysteria didn't exactly flood the roads with bikes. Those of us who were hardcore roadies kept riding . . . and suffering for our sport. (You can't be a serious cyclist unless you admit that you welcome the pain. If you ride, you know what I mean. If you don't, I can't really explain it.) The new riders either gave up or used the bike sparingly for recreation. I liked being a cyclist because it was different. It wasn't a sport that appealed to the masses, therefore we hardcore cyclists, with our extremely insular communities, could just do our thing together. Don't get me wrong. Cyclists, especially those who race, are a conceited bunch. You're not welcomed with open arms on a training ride where you're not a regular. Your legs do the talking. If your ass gets dropped, you'd better know your way home. If you cause a crash and go down, it's possible no one will stop riding to see if you're alive. (I've been a witness to that one. On one training ride, I was one of only three people out of about 25 who stopped to see if this guy, a rider none of us knew, was alright.) Still, there was a feeling of solidarity among the cycling community.

I can't help but compare my cycling experiences to my surfing experiences. As much as I love surfing, there's something about it (i.e., all that is the world of surfing as of 2007) that isn't right. I think I'm bothered by people seeming to care too much about surfing. It's not so much that surfing's gotten too big. It's that people ascribe too much meaning to surfing and the fact that they're surfers. What does it mean to be a surfer? In my mind, nothing in particular. What did it mean to be a cyclist? Again, nothing in particular. But if you ask a lot of people in the lineup what it means to be a surfer, I think you'll hear answers that will piss you off. Next time you're in the parking lot at a surf spot, pay attention to those around you. Which ones surf for the pure joy of it and which ones are there with something to prove? This is not about skill level. I'm talking about attitude. This attitude can be found in vets as well as in the ranks of the newbies. I can't put my finger on it really. Is it that surfing is the new measure of cool? Ergo, I surf, therefore I'm cool. It's the people who buy into that who bother me. Surfing does not make you cool. Surfing doesn't make you anything. And really, who gives a damn? Surf for the love of surfing. Stop buying into the mass marketing of a manufactured surf culture. Let surfing be what it is: paddle, pop-up, ride, exit. It's as simple as that. Now, people romanticize what it means to be a surfer. Are they trying to play the role? Look the part? Walk the walk? Talk the talk? People, there is no "role". Stop assuming a surfer must be a certain way. Give respect and earn respect. It's not hard to do. And yet, too many surfers make it out to be more than that. This is why I ask: why can't surfing be more like cycling?

I don't know if this post will make any sense. I couldn't clearly articulate what I wanted to say. I just wanted to try and put my thoughts into words.


At 11/19/07, 8:18 AM, Blogger Alan_M said...

Isn't it getting more like cycling all the time?
I may be offending several people I know and respect here, but I can't stand cyclists.
As you mentioned, the ego is huge, even though the ability doesn't match. You don't see that in runners the way you do in cycling. The "hardcore" cyclists seem to think that they are so special and due entitlement to the whole road for being such bad asses.
I watched a 60 year old female cyclist almost run over a group of even older folks as they crossed the street because she didn't want to slow down (she was going down hill, so the pedaling effort was not a factor). She screamed, and I mean screamed, at them "get out of the road!" as though she has exclusive rights, and ignoring the fact that peds have the right of way, and these people were OLD.
Surfing is moving this way too. It's an "extreme" sport now, all tarted up as a purchaseable lifestyle. They think with a little practice and the right equipment they can be busting airs like Kelly Slater.
People watch it on tv and think that hey, Paris is surfing with Matthew, I can too!
And yes you can. But it's no longer something you try in Waikiki on a specifically bunny slope break. Now people can buy the necessary equipment at Costco, and off into the breaks they go with no clue how anything works. The years of knowledge and respect for the power of the ocean is getting lost, or more exactly sold on sites like surfline.
I see the cyclist freak out when some dude in his brand new neon spandex and 6K bike pulls some bonehead manuever and think how he's just another weekend warrior.
Surfing suffers much worse since we are at the mercy of the elements and there is far less beach front than there are paved roads.
I never begrudge someone being a novice surfer, but I sure do when they come with a 'tude, especially when they are clueless and f'ing up other peoples days. It's even funnier when they make fun of other novices when they are total retards themselves.
And you're right, real surfers come from every background and age, the person makes the surfer, the surfing doesn't make the person. And the clothes and gear sure as hell don't make you anything but a good little consumer. Just don't let the marketing firms at Quiksilver hear you say that....

At 11/19/07, 8:34 AM, Blogger Surfsister said...

I think cycling, like surfing, can be divided into categories. There are those racers who are soul cyclists; they ride because they love it and race because their skill level pushes them in that direction. Then there are the others; they're just straight up dicks (even the women). So, yeah, cycling and surfing are similar in that way. It's just that the world at large doesn't care about cycling. No big corporations are pushing cycling. So cycling stays relatively small and unpopular. No one cares if you ride a bike. Everyone seems interested if you surf. What's that about?

I love a good Alan M rant!!! Yeah, for the most part, bike racers are assholes. It's one of the reasons why I finally gave up on the sport. That and the performance-enhancing drugs (which even the amateurs were using) pretty much drove me away. I thought surfing would be more laid back. But now that it's so popular, people's attitudes are a real pain in the ass. Let's make a shirt: Just shut the fuck up and surf!

At 11/19/07, 10:18 AM, Blogger Whiffleboy said...

Surfsister, I love the shirt idea. Maybe I'll do a CafePress version.

My experiences with cyclists kind of align with Alan. THAT and an inherent giggle under my breath to go along with it. I'm sorry, I just find that whole niche kind of amusing. :-)

Anyway, it's easy enough to duck all the bullshit surrounding surfing. I do it for me and I don't care if/what/how people think of me surfing. The marketing machine is off my radar as well. It's not what got me in to surfing again. Funny enough, it was riding my BIKE down the bike path that got me in to it.

At 11/19/07, 12:30 PM, Blogger Alan_M said...

Another bit: this response to a donkey post. Well said!

Tomorrow there will be a Uber rant on my blog BTW.. enjoy!

At 11/19/07, 12:33 PM, Blogger Alan_M said...

see above; I meant the guy from SC who commented... entitlement complex and no common courtesy... sounds like here!

At 11/19/07, 7:41 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Surfing is a rather amazing thing to me. I like the comrades AND I enjoy solitude. I like the tech and I like the pure simplicity of the sport.
I like experts and I like the noobs.

I love the way surfing erases everything bad in a given day, in only about 2 minutes, evey time. Although Ive only been at it for 5 years I have been over 1000 times.
EVERYTIME Im cleansed. No matter what happens out there I really dont get upset.
I know there is always another wave, ALWAYS !
It takes all kinds and so what.

At this point Im more stoked on surfing than any other sport Ive practiced ever.

there's my take for what its worth..and for the sake of blogging.

surf on folks....just surf on

At 11/19/07, 8:24 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

Solitude while surfing? You won't get much of that here in L.A.

Surf on, Bill!

At 11/20/07, 7:36 AM, Blogger Kono said...

Bravo Alan M, he hit it on the head, like every subculture surfing has been commodified and fed to the masses, to be a surfer is ergo "cool", like being a skateboarder/snowboarder/x-treme rollerblader/ but that is the nature of the beast, if it can be marketed and sold it will be, yeah you'd like everyone to read the Tao of Pooh and learn to chill the fuck out, respect and respect will come back, but those aren't surfing rules those are life rules, but to get back to it the reach of consumerism is all encompassing and if the ad guru's can find it and sell it they will and no matter how hard you try you may find yourself wearing the "uniform" that they sold you, shit i actually have to go back to work or i'd expound on this more, later.

At 11/20/07, 8:15 AM, Blogger Surfsister said...

Well said, Kono!! You know, I've pretty much divorced myself from a certain group because they seem to think being surfers of color is the coolest thing in the world. A lot of talk and not much going on. I don't have time for that. Surfing doesn't make you, me or the next person cool. And it's not particularly interesting either (to be a surfer of color).

Come back and expound some more!

At 11/20/07, 12:48 PM, Blogger Jeffery said...

I surf because I hate surfers.

At 11/20/07, 6:54 PM, Blogger nm said...


I had a lot to say. Then I read the comments... 'nuff said.

Except....your description of cyclists reminds me of swimmers. ....bunch o' little prima donnas...that never got over the fastest-swimmer-in-the-pool syndrome.

When will the T's be available?

At 11/20/07, 7:05 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

NM, fastest-swimmer-in-the-pool syndrome is similar to fastest-person-on-the-training-ride syndrome. What's so stupid is the guy puffing out his chest on the training ride is the same one getting dropped in a race! Do not get me started on cycling!!!

At 11/21/07, 9:41 AM, Anonymous venicesurfergirl said...

I love this topic and yet find it difficult to be totally certain about how I feel. On the one hand, I do not want to be defined by something I do, and have more and more avoided identifying myself as a surfer even though I surf almost everyday-especially since selling my half the the surf shop I used to own. I want to come and go anonymously with nothing to prove and no one to impress. And yet, selectively (as in life), I love to share this passion with certain others who are of like mind. I love to paddle out with a couple of surf buddies and rotate waves and watch them get a good ride. I do not need to catch every wave that comes my way. I truly enjoy watching a buddy catch a wave as much as I like catching a wave.

I used to love swapping surf stories with other surfers (the best being the worst-near-death wipe out - usually at El Porto - story) but not so much anymore.

I do not want to identify as a surfer, and yet I do identify as a surfer because it's my passion, if that makes any sense.

Kind of like being gay (ooops, did I just out myself???). I do not want to identify as being gay, but I am gay. Whatever. I surf. Whatever.

At 11/21/07, 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cycling is for kooks. that's all it boils down to.

At 11/21/07, 11:58 AM, Blogger Surfsister said...

Anon, if you're going to cast aspersions at cycling, you need to learn the lexicon. There's no such thing as a kook in cycling. The term is "Fred". And no, I have no idea where that term came from.


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