Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reflections of an Old Kook

I saw an old friend, Roger Yates, at the Sacred Craft Surf Expo and he gave me a copy of his film, The Forgotten Island of Santosha. I hadn’t seen the movie in decades and it brought back a lot of good memories. And, it got me thinking about my life.

As surfers we are all part of some era, or evolution, in surfing. I started in the “new foam” age of long board surfing (1960), and went strong into the short board revolution. I basically quit surfing seriously in ’72. I’ve often reflected on why I chose to move on to other things.

Anyway, watching Santosha gave me some insight on what was probably going on in my mind sub-conscientiously. It was a time-- early ‘70s--when most, if not all, the upper-tier of surfers came out of the long board era. The movie featured great surfers of the day including Joey Cabell and Gerry Lopez ripping Pipeline, Sunset and the “Forgotten Isle of Santosha,” which was really Tamarin Bay in Mauritius.

The guys in the film were at the top of their game. They were riding the latest in equipment. They were surfing great, but something kept bugging me as I watched: “What’s wrong with this film?

And then it hit me.

Surfing, and the guys in the movie, had peaked out. This long-board generation of surfers had taken it as far as they could go. In the movie, every wave and every ride started looking the same. No surprises. No thrills. No “wow!”

I don’t want to be critical here. It was a definitive film of the time, but it was at a time when one era of surfing, and surfers, were coming to an end. I was part of that generation, and my realization after all these years is I went as far as I could go in surfing. I was never going to get any better!

It never occurred to me at the time, but now I realize that I had reached my personal limitation. This is a hard thing to grapple with, but it is a reality. There are individual limits, and you really don’t know you’ve reached them until after the fact.

Looking back, I think surfing itself sort of hit the wall in the early 1970s. It took a new generation of short boarders to kick it back up, and they certainly did. Thrusters and Fish boards came along. Leashes became prevalent and, much to my chagrin, pushed surfing into a new era of charging big barrels and un-ride able breaks. New guys took over and turned the world of surfing on its ear again.

Today, I am amazed at what they are doing in the water. Surfing continues to evolve and I can’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

The good news for me is it is all new again, and I personally feel a new chapter in my surfing life coming on. I’m a kook. I’m a gremmie. I’m a straight off Adolf! I’ll never be a “good” surfer again, but I don’t care.

I don’t even care if I was ever considered good.

That’s not what it’s all about. It is about the feeling of the ocean under your board, seeing the spark in the eyes of friends, talking about the movement of the sand, and the next swell. Surfing is good in-and-of-itself, and it’s good enough for me.

 -- posted by Herb Torrens

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