An Inconvenient Spicoli

Jeff Spicoli, our most controversial ambassador, from the motion picture Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

“She likes it, but she really misses the culture.”

To be polite, I just nodded. This wasn’t the first time I had heard about a Manhattan transplant who loved California weather but now sorely missed New York “culture.”

I didn’t say anything to the lady, but in my mind I was calling B.S. on this whole thing.

An explanation:

My contention is that when most people talk about experiencing culture, what they really refer to is the act of wearing uncomfortable clothes and sitting on one’s ass. Maybe watching some stage play with actors in spandex. Or some crazy-haired symphony conductor waving a baton around like some crazy crack-head with Tourette’s.

Passive exposure to antiquated and obsolete themes.

And even those who attend more cutting edge art shows aren’t usually there for enlightenment, they’re there to swill liquor and feign social superiority.

For appearances.

My reasoning—my conclusion—is that when most people say that they miss culture, what they really mean is that they miss pretension.

The unexpected truth of the matter is if you want cultural enlightenment, if you want to set your passion on fire, if you want to expose yourself to the highest art of all…go surfing. Not only does the act of riding waves and its associated lifestyle qualify as culture, it satisfies multiple definitions:

Anthropological—We’ve got our own tools (Skil planers, wax combs), rituals (fanatical forecast checking, board sacrifices), language (“sick pits,” “pigdog”), mannerisms (shaka-shaking, overhanging hedge phantom-tube ducking), and nomadic routes (Mex trips, going on Tour).

Artistic—We’ve got our own art (Petroglyphs, Wolfgang Bloch), music (Jack Johnson, Jake Shimbakuro), and literature (Drew Kampion, William Finnegan).

And in a self-fulfilling touch, our muse is also participatory. Hardcore surfing demands its own cultural immersion. We all are performance artists. True, dedicated surfers are, by nature, permanently jazzed.

Despite societal and Hollywood stereotypes to the contrary, surfers are actually the ones that are awake, the ones who live in the Now.

So given the universally accepted definition of “enlightened exposure to the high arts,” Spicoli is actually the cultured one.