Edi­tor’s Note

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

Cul­tural move­ments are slip­pery things. It can be hard to pin down the ex­act mo­ment when a be­lief held by a hand­ful of ec­centrics makes its way into the cur­rent of main­stream thought. What may feel like an overnight change is more of­ten a cul­mi­na­tion of years of con­ver­sa­tions, in­di­vid­ual acts and pub­lic events that add up to a larger trans­for­ma­tion. Some­times a move­ment goes from fringe to main­stream so grad­u­ally that it’s only af­ter a mo­ment of re­flect­ing on the past that you re­al­ize you’ve en­tered the fu­ture.

I had one such re­al­iza­tion at Blacks Beach in San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia dur­ing a re­cent run of hol­low, head­high surf. Pad­dling out af­ter catch­ing a nice, long South Peak peeler, I watched as a teenage rip­per got to his feet on a twin-keel fish, arched his back through a speedy high-line and then banked a gor­geous, full­wrap grab-rail cut­back. On the very next wave, a man in his 20s stood up on a resin-tinted, roughly 7-foot egg with a pulled-in tail, drew a lengthy bot­tom turn and shuf­fled to­ward the front third of the board, tick­ling the roof of a thin-lipped tube while locked in trim.

San Diego line­ups have al­ways fea­tured a sub­set of al­ter­na­tive sur­fcraft, but typ­i­cally fish, eggs, mi­dlengths, bonz­ers and other de­vi­a­tions from the “stan­dard” short­board were re­served for off days when the swell, tide or wind didn’t lend them­selves to high-per­for­mance surf­ing. But what I saw that day at Blacks, and what I’ve seen else­where in Cal­i­for­nia and be­yond, are high-cal­iber surfers rid­ing left-field de­signs in the kind of qual­ity con­di­tions that were re­served for nor­mal thrusters just a few years ago.

But what the hell does “nor­mal” mean in surf­ing, any­way? Is there such a thing as a “nor­mal” wave? Have you ever de­scribed your fa­vorite surfer’s ap­proach to a sec­tion as “nor­mal?” Of course not. Ev­ery sin­gle wave pro­duced in the ocean is unique, and ev­ery sin­gle surfer draws their own in­di­vid­ual lines. The only thing that we’ve ever used as a con­trol in this grand aquatic ex­per­i­ment is the stan­dard short­board, and that seems to have out­lived its name­sake in 2018. When you take that con­cept out of the equa­tion, what’s left is a sea of in­di­vid­u­als rid­ing what­ever suits their fancy, in what­ever con­di­tions they see fit— and it’s thor­oughly awe­some.

This is­sue is about the un­rav­el­ing of con­ven­tion and the surfers glee­fully tug­ging at the thread. I trav­eled to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia to con­nect with film­maker, artist and cul­ture-shaker Thomas Camp­bell, who raised a freak flag in surf­ing in the late ‘90s and 2000s with his eclec­tic films “The Seedling,” “Sprout” and “The Present,” and his new project may be his most am­bi­tious yet (“Re­turn to Freeform,” pg. 34). SURFER photo edi­tor Grant Ellis sailed through In­done­sia with the cast of Camp­bell’s new film, cap­tur­ing im­ages of the best ex­per­i­men­tal surfers in the world in surf­ing’s ul­ti­mate nat­u­ral lab­o­ra­tory, and man­ag­ing edi­tor Ashtyn Dou­glas got in­sights into their unique ap­proaches to shap­ing and wave rid­ing (“Adrift with the Van­guard,” pg. 42). Surf­boards are at the cen­ter of this cul­tural move­ment, which is why fea­tures edi­tor Justin Hous­man spoke with the world’s big­gest board man­u­fac­tur­ers, as well as the most spe­cial­ized hand­shapers to find out what the new world or­der looks like in shap­ing bays around the globe and on the racks of our fa­vorite surf shops (“Re­defin­ing Nor­mal,” pg. 76).

Sit­ting at a café in Santa Cruz with Thomas Camp­bell, whose films heav­ily in­flu­enced this cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion, I asked him what this mo­ment in time means for ev­ery­day surfers. “I think peo­ple are prob­a­bly hav­ing ex­po­nen­tially more fun now, ac­cess­ing new sen­sa­tions through try­ing out all these dif­fer­ent boards,” he said. “So I’d say that it’s com­pletely pos­i­tive. I mean, do you want peo­ple to en­joy them­selves or do you not want peo­ple to en­joy them­selves? It’s that sim­ple.”

So there you have it. For­get nor­mal. Try a fish, an egg, a mid-length, a bonzer or an asym­met­ri­cal. Or pick up a planer your­self and try to make what­ever weird lit­tle craft you’ve got bounc­ing around in your head. Be­cause in surf­ing’s mod­ern era, if it floats, it can’t be wrong.


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