The Surfer’s Path was a great magazine, it had grown-up ideas and published grown-up surf stories for grown-ups, but it sadly folded (no pun intended) because people starting taking their smartphones into the bog, not magazines, and that was that (it was actually something to do with advertising revenue, but that’s doesn’t lend itself to such a visual metaphor).
In the 100th edition, the editor Alex Dick-Read was clearly in a reflective mood and considering whether he had spent his life in the pursuit of something meaningful. (That, as I’ve pointed out previously, is the kind of thing that happens when you get older and there’s more of your life in the past than there will be in the future.)
He asked a bunch of surfers (proper surfers, people who have made a living from, or dedicated their lives to surfing) whether surfing was “profound, or just a monumental waste of time, just something really fun. I often wonder if we’re like kids in a playground, just obsessed with climbing to the top of the ladder and sliding down the slide, then doing it again and again for our whole lives, making the slide the most important thing in our world”.
“I often wonder if we’re like kids in a playground, just obsessed with climbing to the top of the ladder and sliding down the slide, then doing it again and again for our whole lives”
For some, surfing was a sugary exercise in harnessing bubbling endorphins on lumpy bits of water. The great Kelly Slater (for whom surfing is, I think I am safe to say, a BIG DEAL) even compared riding waves to a dog repeatedly chasing a ball.
My favourite quote, and what most closely sums up my feelings about snowboarding (and surfing for that matter) came from Steve Hunt from Raglan, New Zealand: “it’s a massive waste of time and that is the best thing about surfing, it is a pointless unquantifiable pursuit… but it keeps us happy.”
For others, it was profound, a spiritual re-set button which connected them to the planet, the environment and the people around them. Vive la difference, as they say in Spain.
Surfing is (I believe I can say, having both snowboarded and surfed for the last 27 years) a more unencumbered and natural experience than snowboarding. No lift tickets, no queues, no chair lifts, no snow-cannon, no need to re-fuel the snowmobile or heli, no people next to you on phones (for now at least), no people in yellow coats telling you to slow down. Yet for a significant proportion of those who surf (at least according to The Surfers Path’s straw poll) it is essentially, to use my provocative words, just “dicking about”.
The logical inference is that snowboarding would be even more skewed towards “dicking about” because it is fundamentally more cluttered, less zen (although anyone who has ever surfed at Huntingdon beach would struggle to consider that a remotely zen experience), and wasn’t invented thousands of years ago by Hawaiian royalty wanting to pay homage to their gods – rather someone who wanted to make a fun stand-up version of a sledge.
“Turning up to the park in the wrong colour dungarees is a massive fucking error that could lead to dozens of people never speaking to you again. That’s heavy.”
Now, there are plenty of good reasons to take snowboarding seriously. Hiking in the back country requires meticulous preparation, to know your shit, to know how to save lives. Hitting big kickers can literally be a life or death situation. Getting your invert bent out of shape on a 60 foot jump has serious vertebrae-related consequences. Turning up to the park in the wrong colour dungarees is a massive fucking error that could lead to dozens of people never speaking to you again. That’s heavy.