Tracks - - Intro -

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.

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