Stab Magazine | The Complex World Of Novelty Surfing

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The Complex World Of Novelty Surfing

Genuine pleasure or the pursuit of mild fame? Probably both.

style // Jul 1, 2017
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Here’s a list of videos the WSL has posted on Instagram in the past month:

-A man flicking a fidget spinner while riding a wave.
-The 2016 JETSURF WORLD SUB-CHAMPION (verbatim) tandem wake surfing with a friend. 

-A group of individuals riding a wave on an oversized SUP. 
-Courtney Conlogue wake surfing on an Alaia. 
-A fully grown man in a dinosaur costume trying and failing to ride a small wave. They created this one. And unironically refer to the grown man as Shredosauraus Rex.

Quick reminder: the WSL is the governing body of surfing and the organisation meant to propel our sport forward. This wasn’t exactly the future I had envisioned. Except for maybe the JETSURF girl — sup? What kind of fuel do you use?

However, all of those posts were highly viewed and received thousands of comments. I get what the WSL is trying to do here — build a broader audience with a little bait and switch. The old come for the fidget spinner, stay for Stu Kennedy trick. A real classic. I just don’t think it actually works.

Koa Smith went ahead and one up’d Mr Gravy with his Fidget Spinner at Skeleton Bay.

In reality, the WSL treats Instagram like an elaborate video game in which the sole purpose is to collect likes and followers while the Stu Crew gains no new members. Yet the novelty train keeps on thundering down that track.

I didn’t want to be on that train at first. I wanted to throw rocks at it and listen to the sounds they made as they sunk into its dinosaur costume. But — this may come as a surprise to some — you can’t just go through life throwing rocks at trains. So I spoke with an old friend, Ben Gravy, who happens to be the fidget flicking maestro himself. He is very much on the novelty train. I asked him to describe life onboard.

Surfing needs fun, surfing needs diversity and most of all, surfing needs positivity. I’m very happy to provide that for people who want to be part of my journey. I don’t think surfing with a fidget spinner was that cool, but I figured a lot of people would watch it so why not? In our great big world of followers, subscribers, likes, loves, “friends” and heavy comment threads, sometimes stuff has to be done for the views.

I shoot a daily VLOG and it’s an interesting and challenging thing do to do. I’m usually just going off the moment and filming stuff right as I think of it. Sometimes the waves will be pumping, sometimes I’m going to have to do stuff like surf with a fidget spinner, but I’m always going to enjoy myself because for me that’s what it’s all about.”

Fun! It’s all about fun (and views)! It reminded me of a conversation I had with Jamie O’Brien, whose life is essentially a well-documented parade. He was the fearless captain of the aforementioned SUPSquatch.

“People might have a hard time relating to high-performance surfing — even I do, sometimes,” said Jamie. “I’ve watched John John do a crazy air into the flats and felt like I couldn’t even relate to it. But when it comes to having fun, anybody can do it. I think there’s still a kid in all of us that does what they want and doesn’t worry about what people might think. You can either reminisce about those days you had as a kid or keep the ball rolling.”

Still, something tells me Jamie’s inner child wouldn’t set himself on fire at Teahupo’o if nobody was around to film it.

It’s nearly impossible to decipher between genuine pleasure and the pursuit of mild fame — for both the viewer and the person actually doing it. Do you know how many decaying vans have their own Instagram accounts these days? A fucking lot. If not for social media, most of them would still be used for carpentry services, pedophilia and various forms of estranged unclehood. Instead, they’re bohemian vehicles of love, simplicity and narcissism.

But…is that wrong? Sure, it’s all an illusion but what isn’t? Because if you’re having fun for the sake of views, you’re still having fun. And at the core of it all, fame probably ain’t more dangerous than any other deity.


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