Ed­i­tor’s Note

Surfer - - Editor’s Note - TODD PRODANOVICH, Ed­i­tor

What is a wave re­ally worth? This ques­tion was at the front of my mind as Grant El­lis (SURFER photo ed­i­tor) and I were driv­ing past sprawl­ing cow pas­tures on our way home from a ses­sion at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Le­moore, Cal­i­for­nia. Just a few hours ear­lier, we’d been trad­ing in­com­pre­hen­si­bly good waves, gen­er­ated by the most state-of-the-art wave-mak­ing tech in the world, and our brains were able to do lit­tle more than re­play ev­ery ride in our heads and scru­ti­nize ev­ery as­pect of our per­for­mance: could we have been deeper in the bar­rel? Did we surf too con­ser­va­tively? Should we have even both­ered with turns? Now that we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a math­e­mat­i­cally-per­fect wave, is it all down­hill from here?

Armed with the clar­ity of hind­sight, we were sud­denly ex­perts on Slater’s wave with full com­pre­hen­sion of the nu­ances of how it should be rid­den. Now, all we could think about was when we’d ac­tu­ally get a chance to put that knowl­edge to use at the wave again. We started to talk cost: what would we pay to go back for one day? One ses­sion? One wave?

It wasn’t a novel ques­tion. Ev­ery surfer has emerged from a ses­sion af­ter a stel­lar wave that they made or blew and thought, “What would I give for an­other shot?” The big­gest dif­fer­ence, of course, is that in the ocean it’s purely hy­po­thet­i­cal; even if you were pre­pared to fork over some se­ri­ous coin, the ex­act same wave will never break again. In the case of Slater’s wave, how­ever, you can ride the ex­act same wave a hun­dred times over (if Slater was cool with you hog­ging the peak, that is).

Whether we ac­knowl­edge it or not, whether it’s cre­ated by a storm a thou­sand miles away or a team of en­gi­neers in an of­fice some­where, there is a price for ev­ery wave we ride. Some­times that cost is slight, like when I dawn pa­trol it be­fore work and it takes me twice as long for my surf-cooked brain to come up with a de­cent intro. Other times, the cost of waves can be much more sig­nif­i­cant.

In this is­sue, writer Jon Coen ex­am­ines the cost of surf on the East Coast and in the Car­ib­bean, where per­fect waves and dev­as­ta­tion ar­rived hand-in-hand amid one of the most ac­tive hur­ri­cane sea­sons ever recorded (“Dark Hori­zons,” pg. 40). Man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Ashtyn Dou­glas spoke with Chilean charger Ramón Navarro and friends af­ter they dis­cov­ered one of the best left-hand points ever surfed in the re­gion, only to watch it van­ish as quickly as it came (“Ob­ject Im­per­ma­nence,” pg. 60). And staff pho­tog­ra­pher Todd Glaser takes us on a visual jour­ney with cer­ti­fied-goat Kelly Slater and mega-fa­mous mu­si­cian Jack John­son as they em­bark on the kind of ex­clu­sive surf ad­ven­ture most of us would be forced to empty our bank ac­counts many times over to af­ford (“Bar­rel Envy,” pg. 82).

Even when Slater is mak­ing per­fect waves of his own, he still wants to go hunt down bar­rels the old fash­ioned way, and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the cul­tural push-and-pull of nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial surf un­folds in the fu­ture. If you be­lieve se­nior writer Sean Do­herty, you’d be hard-pressed to over­es­ti­mate just how much of an im­pact Slater’s wave will have on surf­ing, from the way it af­fects com­pe­ti­tion to the way the surf­ing life­style is mar­keted to the masses (for more on that, turn to “God from the Ma­chine” on pg. 70).

There’s no doubt that Slater’s tech is rev­o­lu­tion­ary. For the first time in his­tory, with a push of a but­ton, a surfer can ex­pe­ri­ence an hon­est-to-god per­fect wave. So what is that worth, ex­actly? $10 per wave? $100? $1,000? Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the wave first­hand, all I can say is that for my own fi­nan­cial well­be­ing, I’m very glad that at least for now, book­ing a re­turn trip isn’t an op­tion.

Photo by GLASER

The Surf Ranch.

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