Want To Be A Better Surfer?
A not-exactly how-to guide.
Ed note: the following is the third installment of our new weekly email chain called the Stab Fwd. If you’re into it, subscribe here.
This is not a “good news only” newsletter.
It’s a newsletter about surfing. Most weeks, it might feel like good news only. Because, most weeks, what’s the worst thing that could happen in surfing? Someone you dislike wins J-Bay or another luxury fashion brand produces a $6000 surfboard? Even when surfing is illegal, which has been en vogue of late, it’s still hard to feel a heaviness in this room.
This is not like most weeks.
Since we last talked, five surfers drowned in a freak seafoam accident in the Netherlands and a 26-year-old shaper was fatally attacked by a shark near Santa Cruz. Our hearts are with their families and friends. Thoughts, prayers, cosmic energy. Whatever you believe in, send it their way.
Words are hard to find. Maybe because thoughts and feelings are hard to comprehend. Devastation comes anytime a member of the surf community loses their life. But things seem magnified when it happens like this — in the lineup, in those sacred little spaces that make us feel our best.
If there’s a lesson in all of this, maybe it’s to respect those places more. When you respect something, you get a more realistic idea of it and you don’t take it for granted. You’re likely to enjoy it more and spend more time thinking about it. Respect will make you a better surfer in a way that goes beyond pushing a board through water.
I’m going to mix up the format of today’s Fwd to focus on that. As always, I’ll start by sharing Stab’s greatest hits from the past week. After that, we’ll talk to a friend for some advice on becoming a better surfer. Which, of course, still includes some thoughts on pushing a board through water.
Psychedelic drugs have long been heralded for their ability to change an individual’s mind. A lot of research, if you will, seems to have been dedicated to altering the perception of horrible jam bands (note: the Grateful Dead is formally excluded from this comment), but recent studies have taken a broader approach and analyzed their effects on one’s longterm perspective in life. In a way, this interview is like a psychedelic dose of Medina. Buy the ticket, take the ride, let Mick Fanning be your shaman.
If our comment section is any indication, a number of you may elect not to click that first article solely so that you can maintain your disinterest in Medina and make a regurgitated joke about his stepfather when the WSL returns with Elo’s magical man-on-man super challenge when social distancing is over in 2024. If so, maybe this story about surfing in Texas will shift the perspective for you instead.
How do you think the 2010s will be remembered in surfing? Women’s equality? The rapid progression of big wave surfing? Brazil’s first world title(s)? Probably a bit of all of these. However, I hope history looks past the last decade’s pursuit of the one board quiver. All boards are beautiful, especially when they tell a story like this.
I’ve always thought of Taylor as the textbook surfer to study. You don’t become Mick’s favorite for nothing. He recently dropped an edit at the ripe age of 48 and it is just superb. So, I called him and asked for advice. For me. For you. For all of us.
I wanted to hear his thoughts on two specific topics.
“I’ve always loved the feeling of getting better at surfing. Growing up, I looked up to guys like Tom Carroll and Tom Curren and it’s funny because they’re still ripping, so I’m still looking up to them. That said, it’s important to look around and try to find new sources of inspiration over the years. I think I have more fun surfing now than ever before. The more you get your ego out of it, the more fun it is. It’s just you, your body and your capabilities. How can you work together with those things to progress or feel something new?”
“A really good carve happens when your hips, shoulders and arms are working in synchrony. You don’t want any of those things fighting each other. If your upper body is turning and your body lower isn’t, you’re fighting yourself. And think about your back arm — it weighs a lot. You don’t want that weight working against the rest of your body when you’re turning. It all has to be smooth and fluid, working together. But I’m still figuring it out.” [laughs]
One last thing:
Based on my observations, surfing is always legal if you go before sunrise and the cops don’t catch you.
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