FINDING 'ME' IN THE MAGAZINE : BY LUKE KENNEDY
It's a criticism often levelled at surf magazines like this one that they run material that is too far removed from the experience of the average surfer. Take the front cover for example – Mark Mathews nonchalantly drifting through a gaping hole in the ocean at The Right that lets you see in one end and out the terrifying other. Just to rub it in and emphasise how comfortable he is in a ludicrously intense situation, he's doing the whole thing on a lime green foamie. For most of us 'The Right' is a contortion of ocean that's about as appealing as performing dentistry on a live Great White.
We're in awe of the wave and those who ride it because we don't have the skills or the appropriate psychological profile to take it on. However, that doesn't mean we can't draw a little inspiration from what is transpiring. Calculated risk, meticulous preparation, knowledge of the subject, commitment and teamwork are just some of the themes at play when the likes of Mark Mathews and Chris Ross take on waves like The Right. Top that off with a willingness to grab the moment by the cajones and you have a set of surfing and life skills that are pretty relevant to anyone. God forbid that the sum total of a surf mag cover might somehow be useful if looked at in the right way.
Inside this issue pro surfers like Dave Rastovich, Tai Graham and Mark Mathews might have won the monthly Battle Royale for surf mag glory but when it came to the recent Indian Ocean monster swell, stories abounded of regular Joes who jumped on planes and chased lumps to Indo – surfers who have organised their lives so that they can drop everything and chase waves when the purple blobs start appearing on the forecast maps. Given the technology available at our fingertips in the modern era this is an option available to all of us. We don't necessarily have to add passport stamps to score, but we're all capable of gazing into the cell phone crystal ball, scheduling a day trip down the coast, staying off the piss for a night and chasing hard. Such decisions give life to our best surfing memories and are what distinguish us from the other mortals who are content with footy and beer.
Aerials are another genre of contemporary surfing that some surfers feel are the domain of entirely different species. In this issue, fly-boy Filipe Toledo actually reveals that he truly is not of this world and that DNA tests showed traces of sugar gliders and eagles in his genetic profile – just kidding. However, I swear on MP's soul that I once saw him try to grab a low-flying seagull while surfing alongside him one day. Enchanted by the bird's capacity for flight he swung an arm up and attempted to pluck it right out of the the sky, almost as if such an act might somehow transfer its powers to him.
Toledo has certainly come closer than most to completing man's quest for unassisted flight. His surfing on the WSL this year has been nothing short of astonishing and if his trajectory continues, competitors might be inclined to call for a weighted handicap. However, if you strip back the specifics of his dizzying performances, his success is fundamentally a result of a burning desire for self-improvement. Somewhere between the end of last year and this year's first event Fil' went to another surfing stratosphere.
However, such leaps of faith are not the exclusive domain of the elite. One of the best things about surfing is that whatever age or stage of development you are at, it offers considerable scope for self-improvement. Just dedicate a little time and focus and you can take you can reinvent your act. As Kirk Owers puts it in his introduction to his interview with Wade Goodall, "On a personal level progression just means surfing better than you did yesterday. Harder, faster, deeper, stronger, higher – who doesn't want a slice of that?" One of the best things about surfing is that whatever age or stage of development you are at, it offers considerable scope for self-improvement.
Apologies if all this is starting to sound a little bit preachy, but I guess the moral of the story here is that if you are finding it difficult to relate to some of the moments in this magazine try looking below the surface.
There's a message there for everyone.