Jump to the :33 mark to catch Miki, although the "death-defying El Switcho" shown before is worth glimpsing on its own.
Miki Dora’s Concept For A Surf Contest
It's, “The last chance to retrieve the soul of surfing.” You down?
Next week, the world’s best gritty hungry sharp warrior surfers will come together at Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. They will speed, power and flow their way into a $579,000 purse, of which the winner will take home $100,000 or possibly get torpedoed by a Great White shark. The event will be organised by a League.
One of the most iconic figures in the history of surfing, Miki Dora, also had an idea for a surf contest at J-Bay. Fair to say it was somewhat dissimilar.
I read about it on the Surfer’s Journal site. I go there whenever I crave a timeless long-form surf story and/or feel like it’s been too long since I last shared an aeroplane ride with a kind and educated Caucasian male who asks you many questions about yourself and seems genuinely curious but also has eyes that twinkle condescendence. That’s what it feels like to me, at least.
Penned by Dora, the article was originally published in 2003, a year after his death. It was a concept he’d considered on for a while, continuously tweaking it, and this is the last published version. You can read the whole article here, which provides more detail on the inspiration behind the event. It delves into subjects such as Polynesian culture, Climate Holocaust, and "how fabricated surfing has degenerated into such a mockery of hypocrisy that it is almost impossible to recognise anything of merit." Well worth the investment of your time.
For now, though, let’s simply examine his contest idea.
This is a down-the-line speed test and going for distance. There will be no counter-productive judges (whatsoever). The purpose of aim will be to get from point A to B. In other words, the one individual, like a bat out of hell, who at top speed covers the longest distance, wins the esteem of the day.
No judges! There will only be a few official referee-estimators. Similar to a broad jump. Flagging the sand at the end of the ride. The furthest flag down-the-line wins the esteem of the day. Clear cut, no disputes, one victor. The entire progression will methodically take place on a minimum size of 8'. There will be no tents, food stalls, rock music, T-shirts, judging stands, bullhorns, fat hanger’s on, groupies, pretenders, or any other commercial rip-offs.
All equipment must be ozone friendly and biodegradable. Absolutely no petrochemical products may be used in any of the construction. No fluorocarbons or other harmful chemical processes. Nothing that might affect the physical condition and growth and development of natural organisms.
The only restriction on board design is that the maximum length cannot exceed 9'6". The tail must square off at 10". Single fin only. No logos on the board, whatsoever. No endorsements. No artificial devices to help keep the rider from slipping. Wax only. No colours. A clean stick is essential. Otherwise, anything goes, anything is possible.
Only natural fibres can be worn—cotton or wool. No labels can be visible, no wetsuits, boots, gloves, etcetera. And to keep everybody honest and upright, no leg ropes.
And One Quick Condition
All serious devotees who plan to launch into this engagement must place a Reliability Bond of $200 to prove competence, good faith, and to help verify that they’re not biting off more than they can chew. This bond is refundable after the conclusion of the exercise, that’s if the entrant engages throughout the whole test and actually rides a wave more than 200 yards. All entry monies will be matched by myself and used for the aesthetic beautification of the area chosen by replanting indigenous vegetation including planting trees in probable ground-soil erosion areas.
In effect, according to Dora, this achievement is the last chance to retrieve the lost soul of surfing. So, what do you think? Are you sprinting in your loincloth to go mow some balsa?
Not because I don’t think it’s a good idea — it sounds lovely. Maybe Rhythm will pick it up. In the full text, Miki talks about the need for an environmentally sound surfboard, which couldn’t be more spot-on. But then there’s the bit about the soul of surfing nearing a point of unrecognisable decay…
In Dora’s generation, as well as ours, the soul has existed solely in the space between an individual and a wave. "Individual" is the important word there. What does commercialisation have to do with a true individual? If you want to ride a tree while wearing some wool, you go out there and fucking do it. And if you allow any of the external shit to effect how you feel when you’re on a wave, if you allow it to somehow disrupt that connection, then that’s on you.
Things change. They always have and they always will. Lineups will get more crowded, wave pools will be built, brands will do stupid shit, the WSL will do stupider shit, toxic boards will be sculpted by ugly machines and finished off by sweaty Chinese hands, The Inertia will continue to exist.
But you, and only you, can threaten the soul of surfing.